What Happens if I Have No Birth Certificate?

A birth certificate is an extremely important form of identification for U.S. nationals. With your birth certificate, you can prove your identity as well as your citizenship and you can get access to (among others):

  • Government benefits
  • U.S. schools
  • U.S. military
  • U.S. passport application

As you can see, a birth certificate can be used as important evidence during bureaucratic procedures. It should be kept in a safe store place and if it goes lost or damaged, should be replaced as soon as possible.

However, what happens if you do not have a birth certificate in the first place? What are the consequences of never having been issued a birth certificate in the U.S. and how to apply for a birth certificate for the first time? Keep reading to learn more about this important issue.

Consequences of Not Having a Birth Certificate in the U.S.

Living without a birth certificate in the U.S. can be challenging and at times frustrating. The birth certificate is a preferred form of identification, for example, to obtain:

  • An American passport
  • Social security benefits from the SSA
  • A driver’s license

Some banks also ask for the birth certificate in order to open an account, and public housing is often unavailable to individuals who cannot provide a birth certificate. Moreover, in order to sign a contract of employment, you must submit proof of identity and citizenship.

A birth certificate essentially proves your existence, identity, and nationality and it is normal that a range of identification documents are required of applicants.

As adult citizens without a birth certificate in the U.S. find out, in order to apply for your first birth certificate you may be asked to provide one or more of the aforementioned documents (passport, driver’s license, etc.) This can feel like a bureaucratic loop and can become frustrating for the applicant.

Obtaining a Delayed Birth Certificate in the U.S.

Normally, the state Vital Records office issues a baby’s birth certificate within weeks from the birth. Paperwork is filled out at the hospital and the birth certificate is sent directly to the parents’ home via mail.

Parents can use this document to enroll the minor in school, for example. Once the child grows up, they can use their own birth certificate as an adult for the legal purposes explained above.

However, not all babies are born in a hospital or medical facility. Home births are becoming more popular in America and in this case, parents must actively register the birth and apply for their child’s birth certificate at the local county registrar or at the state’s Vital Records office.

If this does not happen, the child is left without a birth certificate, which may expose them to the consequences highlighted before.

In this case, they can obtain a delayed birth certificate themselves or the parents can apply for one if the individual is still a minor (over 1 year of age.)

What to Do if You Have No Birth Certificate

If you realize that you do not have a birth certificate, you should take steps to obtain one.

The specific application process may vary by state so it is important that you check the requirements of the state where you were born.

In general, these will involve proving your identity and that of your parents and gathering as much information and evidence of the time and place of your birth as possible.

There are several secondary evidence documents that you can use to prove your identity and citizenship, both to apply for a birth certificate and to obtain other ID documents without onee.

Find a few example below:

  • A signed statement from the doctor/midwife who assisted during your birth
  • Baptismal records
  • Original family record
  • Passport
  • School records
  • Census records
  • Employment record
  • Your child’s birth certificate
  • Immigration or naturalization record
  • Military discharge records
  • Residence history
  • Siblings’ birth records

Please note: the above list is non-exhaustive. Moreover, it is likely that you will be asked for more than one secondary evidence document. Please check the exact requirements that apply to your state.