As long as a person was born before 1905, it is not difficult to get a replacement of a California birth certificate. The California Department of Public Health Vital Records keeps a record of every birth that has occurred in the state of California since July 1905. If an individual loses their birth certificate, they can order a replacement from Vital Records for a small fee.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
An individual can replace a lost or destroyed California birth certificate by ordering a copy from the California Department of Public Health Vital Records. This can be done online, in person or by mail.
Replacing a California Birth Certificate
Anyone willing to travel to the County Recorder's Office in the county in which they were born can order a certified copy of their birth certificate in person. That might be a quicker way to get a copy than by mail. The processing time is between seven and 10 weeks, which begins when Vital Records receives the request.
The mail-in application process might be easier for those individuals far from the county of their birth. To do this, they must submit an application for a certified copy of a birth certificate, as well as a notarized, sworn statement declaring under penalty of perjury that they are a person authorized by law to receive the certified copy.
Since a certified copy can be used to establish the identity of the person named on the certificate, it is available only to the person named in the certificate, their parents and certain other individuals. Those not eligible to receive a certified copy can order a certified informational copy. This is the same certificate but stamped with the legend, “Informational, Not a Valid Document to Establish Identity."
The fee for a certified copy is $25. The application, fee, and other documents should be mailed to: California Department of Public Health/Vital Records – MS 5103, P.O. Box 997410, Sacramento, CA 95899-7410.
Ordering a Replacement Certificate Online
Many people may prefer to order a replacement California birth certificate online. That means no trip to the agency, no envelope, no stamps or having to go to the post office for regular mail. The Office of Vital Records does not take online orders, but they have an authorized independent, third-party company, VitalChek, to accept and process online requests for certified copies of vital records.
Convenient as this may be, it is important to know that VitalChek charges a processing fee for online orders. That fee is $25, in addition to the $25 fee to the state for the certified copy of the document. Note that these are the fee amounts as of the date of publication but they may change over time.
Those Born Outside of California
Vital statistic documents are recorded and stored on a state-by-state basis, not on a federal or national basis. That means that an individual will not be able to order a birth certificate from Vital Statistics in California if they were born in Iowa or Texas.
A person who lives in California, but who was born in another state must check with the Vital Statistics agency for that state to learn how to order a copy of their birth certificate. Each state has different rules about who can order a certified birth certificate and has different procedures for obtaining the document. Some states have public birth records and allow anyone to obtain an official copy. Other states, like California, restrict access to the certificate holder and immediate family members.
While the procedures for ordering a birth certificate from another state vary from one state to another, with the birth state making the rules, there are certain common denominators. The applicant will usually be required to provide certain information about the birth. This may include:
- Name and gender of the person named in the certificate.
- Date and place of birth.
- Mother’s name and maiden name.
- Name of the child's father.
- Parents' marital status at the time of birth (in some jurisdictions).
Some states with closed records will ask for additional documents to prove the applicant is qualified to obtain a certified birth certificate. These usually include a government-issued photo identification like a passport, a driver license or a state-issued identification card.
Those Born Outside the Country
There is a procedure for registering the birth of an American baby born abroad. The parents of the child register the birth with the local consulate or embassy, using a procedure called a Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA), or Form FS-240. A CRBA means that the baby was born in another country or at a U.S. military base outside the United States. The CRBA establishes that the child is an American citizen and can be used to obtain an American passport for the child. Many times, parents seek the CRBA registration, a Social Security number and an American passport at the same time.
If an individual was born abroad, registered with the consulate and given a CRBA, it is a very important legal document. If the CRBA is lost, damaged, misplaced or stolen, the person will need to obtain a copy of the Consular Report of Birth Abroad form (FS-240). The California Department of Public Health does not maintain copies of registered births abroad. Rather, these are kept by the U.S. State Department.
Requesting a CBRA
To replace a lost CRBA, an individual must submit a notarized request to the U.S. State Department. They must include details such as the individual's name at birth, the date and place of birth, passport information, and the full names of the individual's parents. Ideally, the person should also provide the serial number of the FS-240.
The person should also provide their contact information and a copy of a valid government-issued photo ID. A fee of $50 is also required. The application form and fee should be sent to U.S. Department of State Passport Vital Records, Section 44132 Mercure Circle, PO Box 1213, Sterling, VA 20166-1213.
- California Department of Public Health: Obtaining Certified Copies of Birth Certificates
- California Department of Public Health: How to Obtain a Certified Copy of a Birth Record
- California Department of Public Health: Request a Copy of a Vital Record Online
- VitalChek: Order Your Official Vital Records Online
- US Birth Certificates: How to Get a Birth Certificate From Another State
- US Birth Certificates: How Do I Get a Copy of My Birth Certificate if Born Abroad?
- State Department: How to Replace or Amend a Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA)
- The California Department of Public Health website indicates that it normally takes about 14 weeks to receive a copy of a birth certificate in California. If you need your replacement birth certificate sooner, contact the County Recorder’s office in the county in which you were born (see Resources). They might be able to expedite your request.
Teo Spengler earned a JD from U.C. Berkeley Law School. 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 MA and an MFA in English/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.