Washington Vital Records Law 2021 Update

The Vital Records Modernization Act, a new vital records law for the state of Washington, will come into effect starting January 1st, 2021.

The new law will have important effects on the way the public accesses vital records such as death and birth certificates, including the fees involved in requesting these documents.

The Vital Records Modernization Act was designed with several beneficial results in mind, including for example:

  • Protecting personal information and privacy
  • Preventing fraudulent use
  • Creating more inclusive certificates
  • Streamlining the application process and making documents that do not disclose personal information more accessible

Secretary of Health John Wiesman said:

“These changes will help protect privacy and prevent identity theft, while ensuring the public’s access to these important documents is maintained. The laws, rules, and regulations governing vital records in Washington had gone untouched for decades, and these updates are much needed to modernize this critical area of our work.”

Keep reading to find out the changes confirmed by officials at the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) and how these may affect you and your vital records requests.

General Changes in the New Vital Records Law

The Vital Records Modernization Act includes a great number of new rules. Changes may cover the following:

  • Who can access vital record certificates
  • How to access them
  • The type of records available to the public
  • Fees that apply to a vital record certificate request

Only qualified persons can apply

According to the new vital records law for Washington, only qualified applicants will be able to request certificates or certified copies of birth certificates, death, or fetal death records.

A qualified person would be the subject of the record or someone who has a qualifying relationship with the subject of the record. Qualified petitioners must provide proof of identification.

Here are examples of qualified applicants who are not the subject of the record:

  • Spouse or domestic partner
  • Parent, step-parent, or legal guardian
  • Child or stepchild
  • Sibling
  • Grandparent or great grandparent
  • Grandchild
  • Legal representative
  • Authorized representative
  • Government agency or the courts if the birth certificate is used to conduct official duties

Acceptable proofs of identification for qualified applicants

Acceptable ID includes:

  • An identification document issued by the government that is valid or has not expired earlier than 60 days prior
  • A minimum of 2 documents from the alternative list

To prove a qualifying relationship, applicants must provide, for example, copies of the following:

  • Birth or marriage certificates from Washington or another state relevant for the application
  • Certified court orders relevant for the application (e.g. legal guardianship or foster parent court orders)
  • Document or letter from a government agency or court stating the certificate will be used for official duties (for government agency or court only)
  • Document or letter from title insurer or title insurance agent handling a transaction on behalf of the decedent (for short form death certificates only)

Creation of short form death certificates

The new Washington vital records law sees the creation of a new short form death certificate that does not contain the cause or manner of death. This is to protect sensitive medical information.

Short form death certificates and non-certified, informational birth certificates will be available to the public. Non-certified informational certificates cannot be used for legal purposes.

Increase in certificate fees

Certificate fees are going to be increased for the first time since 2007. Certified and non-certified informational copies will both cost $25 per certificate.

Additional fees may apply depending on the method you decide to use to order.

The new law also includes the waiving of birth certificate fees and other fees for some subjects and in certain circumstances such as:

  • A vital record for use in connection with a claim for compensation or pension pending before the Veteran’s Administration
  • The death of a sex offender, for use by a law enforcement agency in maintaining a registered sex offender database
  • The death of any offender, requested by a county clerk or court in Washington state for purposes of extinguishing the offender’s legal financial obligation
  • A birth certificate for homeless persons living in Washington state (only the Department of Health)

New sex designation option

From the 1st of January 2021, there will be a new gender option on vital records like birth certificates.

When filling out the documents, it will be possible to choose a non-binary gender, an X sex option box. This is so that certificates will become more inclusive and cover genderqueer individuals.

Read more: Non-Binary Birth Certificates and State IDs: Full Guide

How to Submit a Request and See the New Changes Implemented

Those who see their vital record order fulfilled in 2020 and have the new changes implemented must:

  • Mail in requests to the Center for Health Statistics, post-marked by December 1, 2020
  • Order certificates online or by phone by noon on December 30, 2020
  • Submit a data file order post-marked by November 30, 2020

The vital record request forms that you can find on US Birth Certificates are up to date with the latest legislation of each state. They are the most efficient way to request your certificate while making sure to fill out the correct, current form.

Source: Washington State Department of Health