What Happens If You Don’t Register a Birth in the United States?

Last updated December 3rd, 2021

When it comes to giving birth, most families will typically opt for a hospital or a stand-alone birthing center. Approximately 98% of births happen in these types of locations.

The most common reasons for choosing a medical facility are safety and convenience. This also ensures that there will be someone present who is experienced with filling out baby birth certificate forms (either a nurse or midwife).

However, more and more parents are opting to give birth outside of the hospital, either because they want to carry out a home birth or due to an emergency. According to a recent study, around one in every 60 births within the United States occurs outside of a hospital.

Although the process is usually carried out automatically, there are some instances in which the parents will need to register their newborn baby themselves. In that case, what happens if you don’t register a birth?

How Is a Birth Registered?

Before diving deeper into the repercussions of not registering a birth, it’s important to establish how a birth is registered.

The process is different around the world, with some countries (such as the Netherlands), requiring the birth of a baby to be manually registered with the municipality.

In the United States, birth registration is relatively streamlined and convenient. After giving birth in the hospital, a medical staff member will assist the parents in filling out a Certificate of Live Birth. This document includes important details about the newborn and the parents.

After verifying that everything is correct, the application form will then be registered in the hospital’s database and sent to the local clerk or recording office. From there, the clerk will issue the official birth certificate and have a physical copy sent to the parents.

The entire process can take up to 30 days for a baby to be fully registered.

Registering an At-Home Birth

Parents who opt to have an at-home birth will need to register the birth as well. This is usually done by the midwife or any medical professional who is supervising the homebirth. In case there is no medical professional present, the parents must do the registration process themselves.

To manually register a birth, the parents will need to gather some paperwork which usually includes:

  • Proof of pregnancy
  • Evidence of live birth
  • Proof of residence (either a document or sworn statement)
  • Identification of the parents (such as a driver’s license or passport).

After all the documents are collected, the parents should go to the local county or state recorder’s office to finalize the process and get an official birth certificate.

What Happens If You Don’t Register a Birth?

By law, newborns must be registered within 10 days of their birth.

In terms of legality, not registering the birth of a child is a violation of the law and a punishable crime. Depending on the state, the parents may be fined, charged with imprisonment, or have to face other legal consequences.

If parents don’t register the birth of their child, there will be no permanent legal record of the child. This will greatly hinder the child’s ability to get a job, file taxes, or even obtain medical treatment.

Overall, registering is an essential responsibility that will ensure a child can live a normal life.

Registering a Birth After The Deadline

Parents who don’t register their newborn on time may still do so later on. This is called a Delayed Birth Certificate and can be issued anytime after the child turns one (i.e., 1 year or more after birth).

Different states have varying rules on how to apply for a Delayed Certificate of Birth, so it is best to double-check with the local recorder’s office.

Why Do You Need to Register a Birth?

A birth certificate is one of the most valuable documents a person has and, as such, can only be obtained after registering a birth.

There are many reasons why a birth certificate is important, including the establishment of an identity, proof of citizenship, and evidence of one’s age (date of birth).

A birth certificate allows newborn infants to instantly access local and national services, such as getting a social security card, passport, and insurance coverage.

Within a few years, parents can use their child’s birth certificate to enroll him or her in school. This document is also beneficial for parents who wish to claim their child on their taxes as a dependent.

If the family plans to travel overseas, the child will need to prove their identity and citizenship evidence with a birth certificate before they can be issued a US passport. During the child’s teenage years, their birth certificate will also be of use when getting a driver’s license.

Finally, there are a host of important benefits to having a birth certificate, from getting married to receiving medical treatment, voting in elections, applying for a loan, having a credit score, collecting retirement benefits, and much more.

All of these reasons combined make it a crucial document to obtain for any person.