What is a US Birth Certificate and what does it look like?

Last updated May 27th, 2021

With thousands of different birth certificate formats issued in the United States alone, it is no surprise that many Americans wonder what a birth certificate is, what it looks like and what purposes it serves.

Read on to find out everything you need to know about US Birth Certificates, including:

What is a Birth Certificate?

A US birth certificate is a government-issued document that officially registers the birth of a child in the United States of America for the following purposes:

  • Census
  • Military
  • Tax
  • Vital statistics

A birth certificate is usually one of the first legal documents individual has issued in their life.

What Do I Do if I Lost My Birth Certificate?

If you havelost your birth certificate, or if it was stolen, you can easily requesta legally valid replacement of your US Birth Certificate online in just a few clicks.

If you are looking for a misplaced US birth certificate, you must now be wondering how to recognize the document** and what it looks like.

What Does a US Birth Certificate Look Like?

Knowing what an official government-issued birth certificate looks like is not as straightforward in the United States as it may be in other countries.

This is due to the fact that, although the US has a standard form that must be filled out when a child is born —and this same exact form is used across the whole nation— there is no national or federal birth registry.

Therefore, each state, county or municipality is free to produce birth certificate documents for its citizens (with varying formats) as long as they follow federal guidelines on the information printed on its birth certificates.

This is likely why —according to the National Center for Health Statistics— there are 14,000 different types of birth certificates currently circulating in the United States.

Here is an example of what a typical state-issued US birth certificate document might look like:


Read more: What information is on a Birth Certificate?

What is a Certificate of Live Birth?

The standard form used across the entire country to register babies born in the United States is called the US Standard Certificate of Live Birth.

This form must be submitted via paper or electronically to the state, county, or municipality by either of the following:

  • The newborn’s parents
  • Doctors or midwives attending the child’s birth
  • The hospital or maternity center where the child was born

After the form has been submitted, a US birth certificate for the baby will be issued by the state, county, or municipality where the birth occurred.

What is the difference between a Birth Certificate and a Certificate of Live Birth?

The Certificate of Live Birth states that a baby was medically alive at the time of their birth. It is the standard form we spoke of above that is filled out and submitted to the state for it to then issue a birth certificate.

On the other hand, ** a Birth Certificate** verifies a citizen’s identity, age, citizenship, place and date of birth, as well as their parent’s name.

The Certificate of Live Birth is filled out when a baby is born in the United States and contains the following information:

  • The date of birth
  • The baby’s name
  • The parents’ names
  • The attending doctors’ names
  • The hospital where the baby was born
  • The name of the person completing the birth record
  • The baby’s gender, race, weight, and other health conditions

It is advisable to carefully go over the information entered on the form before it is submitted into the hospital database and to the state, county or municipality. Any errors should be corrected at this point —before the official birth certificate is issued.

Once the Certificate of Live Birth is presented to the corresponding authorities, the birth will be officially recorded. The document that certifies a live birth in the United States is what is known as the_Original_US Birth Certificate, and must always remain on file at the local vital records office where the birth occurred.

What Information Does a Birth Certificate Contain?

While some states only issue Long Form Birth Certificates, others also issue Short Form Birth Certificates or Heirloom Birth Certificates. ** The information printed on each of these US birth certificates may differ.**

Long Form Birth Certificates are also known as Official Birth Certificates since they contain all the legal information necessary to establish legal proof of identity and citizenship.

Short Form Birth Certificates have no legal validity and are sometimes called an “abstract” since they only contain a fraction of the holder’s information.

You can read about the differences between long form birth certificates and short form birth certificates for more detailed information.

What does a Birth Certificate prove?

In the United States, an official government-issued birth certificate serves as legal proof of the following:

  • A citizen’s age
  • An individual’s citizenship status
  • An American citizen’s identity

US citizens may need a certified copy of their birth certificate for different purposes.

Proving their age, status or identity by presenting a Certified Copy of a US Birth Certificate is often required to have other identification documents issued , such as obtaining:

How do I order a Birth Certificate that is officially valid for legal purposes?

When a citizen is asked to provide their birth certificate —whether to enroll in school, the military, or obtain social benefits— the document they need to present is a Certified Copy of their US Birth Certificate.

This certified copy is a reproduction of the original that remains on file, under lock at the county or state vital records office.

If you have a birth certificate at home and are unsure whether it is legally valid, you will find our article on how to determine whether your US birth certificate is official particularly useful.

You can obtain a certified copy of your Birth Certificate by filling out a simple online form and mailing it to your vital records office. The document will then be sent to your home address.

Order your Birth Certificate