United States Nationals wondering how to obtain an authenticated copy of a US Birth Certificate are often looking to use the document for legal purposes abroad such as getting married overseas or have some other legal business in another country.
However, in order to learn how to get your birth certificate authenticated in the US, it is important to clear up a few essential concepts first.
When a child is born, the original document that certifies a live birth within the United States —that is, the original US birth certificate— must always remain on file at the local vital records agency office in the location where the birth occurred after it is submitted for recording by the hospital.
Therefore, this original —kept under lock at the county or state vital records office— is the one that will be reproduced when you request a birth certificate replacement.
The certified copy of a birth certificate is valid within US borders but needs an additional, accompanying document in order to be valid outside the nation.
Does My Birth Certificate Need Authentication or an Apostille?
Whenever a US citizen is asked to provide a birth certificate for legal purposes overseas, the first document they need to obtain is a Certified Copy of their Birth Certificate that bears:
- A raised, embossed, impressed or multicolored seal
- The registrar’s signature
- The date the certificate was filed with the registrar’s office
Next, depending on the country where the birth certificate needs to be provided, the US citizen will need to either have it authenticated or obtain an Apostille Certificate for the document:
- Authentication Certificate: For use in countries that are not parties to the Hague Apostille Convention
- Apostille Certificate: For use in countries that are parties to the Hague Apostille Convention
Non-Hague Convention Countries
If you require a birth certificate for use in a country that is listed below, you will need to have it authenticated by the U.S. Department of State:
- Burkina Faso
- Congo Democratic
- Congo Republic
- Cote d’Ivoire
- Saudi Arabia
- Sierra Leone
- South Sudan
Hague Convention Countries
If you require a birth certificate for use in one of the following countries, you will need to obtain an Apostille Certificate by the U.S. Department of State:
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Burkina Faso
- Costa Rica
- Czech Republic
- Dominican Republic
- El Salvador
- Hong Kong (China)
- Macau (China)
- Republic of Moldova
- New Zealand
- Republic of Korea (from 1 June 2015)
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
- San Marino
- South Africa
- Sri Lanka
- The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM)
- Trinidad and Tobago
- United Kingdom
- United States of America
Step By Step Birth Certificate Authentication in the USA
Once you have:
- Determined that the country where you will need to present the birth certificate is not included in the Hague Convention
- Obtained a Certified Copy of the US Birth Certificate
You will need to:
- Visit the website of the US State Department and navigate to the section on Requesting Authentication Services
- Fill out the DS-4194 form with your personal information and remember to specify the country it is going to be presented at
- Enclose the certified copy of the birth certificate with the raised or sealed stamp of the court or Department of Records that is also be certified by the Secretary of State
There are 3 ways to present your Birth Certificate Authentication request:
You should receive your authentication certificate within about 12 days.
Include the following in an envelope:
- Authentication fee
- Prepaid, self-addressed envelope
- DS-4194 form
- Certified copy of the birth certificate
Office of Authentications U.S. Department of State CA/PPT/S/TO/AUT 44132 Mercure Cir P.O. Box 1206 Sterling VA 20166-1206
If you are in an emergency or urgent situation due to any of the following, you may call the office to make an appointment to expedite your birth certificate authentication request:
- Serious illness
- Proof of travel within 24 to 48 hours
If you need your authenticated birth certificate within 2 to 3 days, you may drop your request at the local Office of Authentications between 8 and 9 AM Monday through Friday. The clerk will give you a scheduled pick up day within the next 3 days so you can get your documents.
Please bear in mind that you will need to produce a photo ID if you are paying the birth certificate authentication fees with a credit card.
Now that you understand how to obtain a birth certificate that is legally valid outside the US —for yourself or a relative— remember that your first step is to order a certified copy of your birth certificate online. Doing so will save you time and hassle, as well as a trip to the local vital records office.