How to Obtain a Birth Certificate in Los Angeles County

By Teo Spengler - Updated October 15, 2018
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You know you were born in Los Angeles County, you have more than a few peaks and valleys behind you to prove it, and your mom is happy to testify to it. So why do you need a paper confirming it? A birth certificate is just that, a legal document that serves as proof of your birth and includes all the "who, what, when and where" of any good story. Over the course of a lifetime, you will require it more times than you can imagine, and it's easier to port around than mom anyway. So how to obtain a birth certificate in Los Angeles County? Let me count the ways.

Why Do You Need a Copy of Your Birth Certificate?

Your parents were the first people to obtain a copy of your birth certificate. In fact, they had to fill out the form listing your name and their names to create the birth certificate. But even if they still know where that document is today, they aren't likely to want to give it up. So, if you want a copy of your own birth certificate, you'll have to get another certified copy.

But do you want one? Or more pertinent, will you need one? The chances are you will, and sooner rather than later. Your birth certificate is an important legal document, one that identifies you and proves you were born in Los Angeles County, California. It is a primary identification document, one that is helpful and sometimes essential in getting secondary identification documents like a driver's license or a California identification card. Even though the California DMV will give you a license or ID card without the birth certificate (and even without proof of citizenship), the federal government requires a birth certificate or similar proof of identity and citizenship for you to obtain a "Real ID" license or identification card that will get you on a domestic flight, into a federal building and into different federal facilities around the nation.

But that's not all, folks. You'll need a birth certificate when you try to get a passport or a Social Security number, for school registration, for many types of employment and for marriage in some states. You can use a birth certificate for primary identification when you open a bank account or take out a loan. Since your California birth certificate proves you were born in the U.S., it establishes citizenship as well as proving your age and your family relationships when necessary.

You may think that as long as you safeguard your birth certificate, you'll never have to go to the trouble of getting another, but this isn't necessarily true. Although a birth certificate doesn't have an expiration date like a driver's license, you may need an update from time to time. Many agencies and institutions accept certificates obtained only within a year or so of the time you use them to prove identity, age or citizenship.

Where to Get a Birth Certificate in Los Angeles County

If you were born in Los Angeles County, you aren't alone. In fact, Los Angeles County has the most people of any county in the entire nation, with over 10 million inhabitants. So it may not surprise you to learn that there are many different county offices in which you can order birth records. Pick the one that is most convenient for you. You can go to any one of three locations in the city of Los Angeles: the LAX courthouse, the Florence/Firestone Registrar-Recorder or the East Los Angeles Registrar-Recorder. You can also go to the Registrar-Recorder in Lancaster, Norwalk or Van Nuys. Most of these offices are open Monday through Friday from 8:30 to 4:30, but the Norwalk office is open until 7:00 p.m. the third Thursday of the month.

You can walk right in and sit right down (or, more likely, get in line) during business hours. Be sure to bring a government-issued picture identification like a driver's license or passport and a means of paying the fee, currently under $30. While you are there, you'll need to fill out the application form for the birth certificate. Make things a little easier by downloading it before you go in from the L.A.Department of Public Health website. It asks for your full name, your mother's maiden name, and the date and place of birth.

If you are asking for the birth certificate of someone other than yourself, you'll have to sign a sworn statement, under penalty of perjury, that you are an "authorized person" under state laws, meaning one of the people who is entitled to get a copy of the record. This list includes the individual whose birth was recorded, a parent or legal guardian of the person whose birth was recorded, someone who a court order authorizes to get a copy of the certificate, someone in law enforcement or a governmental agency entitled to get the record as part of its official business, or a child, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse, or domestic partner of the person whose birth is recorded. Attorneys representing the person or the estate of the person can also get copies. You can download the sworn-statement form from the website of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. It must be signed before a notary. And, don't forget the fee.

Paying the fee is quite easy since almost any type of payment is accepted. You can pay the birth certificate fee in cash, by check (even an out-of-state check) or by money order. Checks and money orders must be payable to the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk. You can also pay with a debit or credit card (Visa, MasterCard, Discover or American Express) as long as you accept the small fee for this service.

If you aren't in a hurry, save yourself the bus fare and apply for the birth certificate by mail. You can download the application and sworn statement and mail them, together with a self-addressed stamped envelope plus a check for the fee to: Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk, Birth, Death and Marriage Records Section, P.O. Box 489, Norwalk, CA 90651-0.

Can You Get a Birth Certificate the Same Day?

You may have lost your birth certificate years ago and lived perfectly happily without it. Until the day you need it – then, suddenly, you want it yesterday. Can you get a birth certificate the same day as you apply in Los Angeles? Maybe.

If you were born between 1964 and the present, or you are seeking the birth certificate of someone born during that period, you can get same-day service, with only a few exceptions. Unfortunately, if you are requesting a birth certificate from the years 1972 to 1977, you will have to wait up to 20 days and the certificate will be mailed to you. The records for these years must be requested from the State of California, because the Social Security numbers were listed on the birth records and must be redacted. Likewise, certificates for births before 1964 will be mailed to you within 20 days.

That means that if you walk into an office of the registrar-recorder in Los Angeles County with the required identification and papers as well as the fee, you can walk out of the office certificate in hand if you were born in 1964 through 1971, or 1978 to the present.

Where Do I Get my Child's Birth Certificate?

As a parent, you are one of the people authorized to get a certificate for any of your children. The procedure is exactly the same. You go to any one of the offices in Los Angeles County with an identification. Fill out an application and the sworn statement attesting that you are one of the authorized persons and pay the fee.

Note that there are two types of birth certificates available from the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk of Los Angeles County. One is an informational birth certificate and the other is a certified certificate. You will almost always want the certified copy for yourself or your children, since it is the type that you need for passports, driver's licenses and to provide identification and proof of citizenship. However, if you don't intend to use it for those purposes, you can get an informational certified copy even without a sworn statement that you are an authorized person. These copies are imprinted with large lettering saying: INFORMATIONAL, NOT A VALID DOCUMENT TO ESTABLISH IDENTITY across the face of the documents.

How Can I Get My Birth Certificate for Free?

If you are a veteran and need a birth certificate to apply for a veteran's pension or other benefits from the Veterans Administration, you are in luck: You can get an authorized, certified copy free. If that is your case, head right over to the website of the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk of Los Angeles County and there you will find an affidavit for veterans that will help you determine if you qualify. It is on the back of the birth certificate application.

The affidavit states: "I hereby apply for a free certified copy of the record as shown on the reverse side and declare under penalty of perjury that the free copy is to be furnished to [the name of a state or federal agency] in a claim for [[the type of benefit.]"

You must sign it and put your address. The birth certificate issued will bear this statement on it: "This certified copy has been issued free of charge on the declaration under penalty of perjury that it is to be used in a claim to the Federal Government or the State of California for veteran’s benefits."

Send this in to the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk; Birth, Death and Marriage Records Section, P.O. Box 489, Norwalk, CA 90651-0. Be sure to fill out the application side as well.

How Can I Get my Birth Certificate Online for Free?

You can get a copy of your Los Angeles County birth certificate online. But Google away for a night and a day, but the only time you'll find your birth certificate online for free is in your dreams.

The Office of the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk of Los Angeles County isn't able to take online orders since it can't accept credit cards. However, it has partnered with VitalChek Network, Inc. to make online ordering available. You can go to the VitalChek website and order a birth certificate. You have to complete the online authentication to prove who you are, or else send in the notarized Certificate of Identity.

The fee is the same as when you walk in the door, but an extra "special handling" fee is charged for credit card orders. VitalChek accepts MasterCard, Visa, American Express or Discover. The fee is not refundable, so it's a writeoff if no records are found in the name provided. Expect to receive the birth certificate within 20 days by U.S. mail unless you request UPS service. There is (you guessed it) an extra fee charged for UPS delivery.

About the Author

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.

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