How to Get an Emergency Copy of Your Birth Certificate

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To obtain a passport, enroll in school, get a driver’s license, apply for benefits or simply prove the age of a child, it’s often necessary to produce a birth certificate. There are several options for obtaining a copy if the original is lost or missing. For those who live near their local vital statistics office, picking up a copy in person could yield a replacement certificate within minutes. For everyone else, the best place to start is online.

Where to Go?

Birth records are managed by the vital statistics office in the birth state. To find the local office, one must go to the National Center for Health Statistics website, run by the Centers for Disease Control, and click on the link for their birth state. This will pull up the address and telephone number of the state’s office. There will also be a link to the state's website, which contains state-specific instructions such as application forms, office hours and fees information.

Who Can Apply?

Adults aged 18 years and over can apply for a copy of their own birth certificates. For children, a parent named on the birth certificate or a legal guardian must apply. It may be possible in some states for a close family member to obtain a birth certificate on someone else’s behalf, but a sworn affidavit is usually required. This is not an appropriate option in emergency situations.

What Information Is Needed?

Regardless of how the application is organized or how it has to be filled out, the applicant will need to produce certain documents and information, which include:

  • Name and date of birth. 
  • Place of birth.
  • Mother and father’s name. 
  • Personal details (address and telephone number).
  • A photo ID.
  • A completed application.

Replacement fees range from around $12 to $30, depending on the state. Applicants can call the vital statistics office to verify current fees.

In-Person or Online Application?

For applicants who live within traveling distance of the local vital statistics office, this quickest option is to pick up a replacement certificate in person during usual business hours. Requests are usually processed the same day and the processing could be as little as 30 minutes; however, in some states, applicants might have to deal with long lines and longer wait times.

The second option is to apply online through VitalChek. The website is available 24/7 and offers a convenient, and often faster, way to request replacements if the applicant no longer lives in the state where he was born. The process of placing an order takes around 10 minutes. Processing time varies by state but is usually about two to five business days.

VitalChek has an option for express shipping for an additional fee if time is of the essence. All it takes is the selection of the appropriate box when filling out the online application.

What Type of Birth Certificate Is Required?

Birth certificates come in two formats known as short form and long form. Both contain essential birth details including the applicant's name, date and place of birth. A short-form certificate may not have the parent’s information, however, or other details like the name of the registrant or the parent’s signatures.

A short-form certificate may be acceptable to enroll a child in school, for example, but a long-form certificate is preferred for obtaining a passport, starting the adoption process or proving citizenship. It’s essential to check what type of certificate is needed to ensure that time is not wasted in applying for the wrong one.

Read More: How to Read a Birth Certificate

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