Being born is an important event in every life. In fact, many person's rights depend on their being able to prove where they were born, when they were born, and the names of their parents. The birth registration document that proves these details of birth is termed a birth certificate and is identified in the United States by a birth certificate number that itself provides information about the birth.
Anyone with a birth certificate on hand can read the number from the certificate. Anyone who does not have a birth certificate will need to obtain one to get the birth certificate number.
Informational Birth Certificate
A birth certificate is a short, official document setting out where and when someone was born. While each state designs and issues certificates for births in that state, most U.S. birth certificates contain the same standard information. Foreign birth certificates usually contain the same data and details, as well
The information included on U.S. birth certificates contains few surprises. The names of the parents are listed, as well as the time and place of birth. The weight of the child at birth is often included. In this country, parents are able to obtain two types of birth certificates: an informational birth certificate and a certified birth certificate.
The former cannot be used for official purposes like verifying nationality. These are often printed on a design background and are used for sentimental purposes, like a baby book. They include the child's name and the parents' names, the time and place of birth and, often, the handprints and/or footprints of the child. Certified birth certificates from a government agency are required when it is necessary to prove the truth of the birth record details contained. These are also termed official birth certificates.
Certified Birth Certificate
When might it be necessary to prove the details on a birth certificate? Anyone obtaining a U.S. passport is asked to prove their identity and nationality, and a certified birth certificate is the most common way of doing this. Certified birth certificates are also used to show the year in which someone was born for official records as well as the individual's relationship to their parents for inheritance and other matters.
A certified birth certificate is not issued by the hospital in most states, but by the local records office. It is a legal document that can be, and often is, used as a primary form of identification to get a driver’s license, a U.S. passport, a Social Security card and number. It may also be required to get married. Only the individual or their close relatives are entitled to a certified authorized copy.
Detailed information about a person's birth must be included on an authorized birth certificate. The vital statistics information to be included varies by state, but may include the following information:
- First, middle and last names.
- City, country and state of birth.
- Date and, often, the time of birth.
- Sex/gender at birth.
- Information about whether the individual was a single birth, or one of twins or triplets.
- Full name, birth date and birth place of the father.
- Full name, birth date and birth location of the mother, as well as her maiden name.
- City, country and state of residence of the birth parents.
Parents must register their child for an official birth certificate during the first year of the child's life. Once registered, a certified copy of a child's birth certificate is available whenever a valid request is made.
Authorized or Informational Copies
States have different rules about who can get a copy of a birth certificate and what type they can get. In California, only the person named in the birth certificate, their parents or others permitted by law can get full, authorized copies. Others who want a copy can get only informational copies. This is to protect the individual from identity theft.
Informational birth certificates issued by the state are also considered certified copies and contain a raised seal of the city, county or state issuing it. However, they cannot be used as identification.
Birth Certificate Number
Every certified birth certificate issued in the United States contains a number that identifies the document. This is known as the birth certificate number and is usually found in the upper right corner of the document. (Note that in some states it is located in the upper left corner.) Look for a series of 11 digits in an xxx xx xxxxxx format, with the first three and the next two digits separated by spaces. Sometimes a birth certificate number begins with two letters.
What do the numbers indicate? The first three-digit series of numbers identifies the state. For example, if a birth certificate number starts with 104, it indicates that the birth occurred in California. A 101 at the beginning indicates that the birth took place in Alabama, while a 150 means that the person was born in Alaska.
The second series of two digits gives the year the birth was registered. This is almost always the year of birth. The final six digits represent a serial registration number. These are assigned to babies sequentially as births are registered in that state.
Obtaining a Birth Certificate Number
Birth certificate numbers are assigned when a birth is registered. They are listed on the official birth certificate, so anyone in possession of their own birth certificate can read the number on that document. A person who does not have their own birth certificate may be able to discover the first three numbers of the birth certificate number if they know where they were born, and they can come up with the next two numbers if they know the year of their birth. However, the six-digit serial registration number can only be found by obtaining a copy of the certificate.
Obtaining a Birth Certificate
Fortunately, obtaining a copy of the certificate is not difficult. Every state has its own procedures, but many states provide authorized or informational certified returns through a service called VitalChek. A person seeking a certificate will have to have information including the name, place and date of birth. In order to get an authorized certificate, the person must establish that they are either the person named in the certificate, a parent of that person or someone otherwise entitled to get the authorized certificate under law and pay the applicable processing fee.
It may be less expensive to go through a state's own vital records office, but many states use only VitalChek. For example, in Pennsylvania, an individual can order birth or death certificates online (24 hours/day, 7 days/week) from Pennsylvania's only authorized vendor at mycertificates.health.pa.gov, which is actually VitalChek. In Pennsylvania, a copy of a standard birth certificate costs $20 to which a $10 additional fee for processing is added, payable by credit card.
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.