I Lost My Birth Certificate, What Can I Do?

A birth certificate is an important document proving your identity and American citizenship. Find information on what you can do if you have lost a birth certificate and how to get a replacement.

What do I do if I lost my birth certificate?

If your birth certificate got lost, misplaced, or damaged, you should apply for a new certified copy of your birth certificate. You should do so as soon as you learn that your certificate has been lost.

A certified copy of a birth certificate presents the embossed, impressed, multi-colored, or raised seal and signature of the issuing authority. It also shows the citizen’s full name at birth as well as the full names of both parents, the date and place of birth and the registration number. The certified copy is the only format that holds legal value.

A birth certificate is a critical vital record. This official document can be used to legally prove your identity and citizenship, obtain or renew identification documents, enroll in school, apply for government benefits, and more.

How to replace a lost birth certificate?

To replace a lost birth certificate, you need to request a certified copy of the birth certificate from the State Department of Health, Office of Vital Records. You can only request the certificate from the state that issued it in the first place — the state where the birth occurred and was recorded.

You will need to provide documentation that confirms your eligibility to request the birth certificate (usually, proof of ID) and fill out an application form. Replacing a birth certificate usually carries a cost to cover the retrieving fees.

Specific requirements vary depending on the state. Usually, you can only request a copy of your own original birth certificate and those of close family members. Rules may be different for adopted children.

Where to replace a lost birth certificate?

You may file an application with the central office of the relevant state’s vital records department or with a branch office (if applicable.)

You can also register your request at the relevant local county — this is often faster due to the lower volume of applications received by counties.

Many Americans decide to apply online instead so that they do not have to leave the house nor wait for an appointment. This is often the quickest and easiest way to get your certificate replacement.

How much does it cost to replace a birth certificate?

Each state has different fees that must be paid to replace birth certificates. These go to cover the cost of finding, retrieving, and printing the birth certificate on special paper that includes security features to prevent forgery. Some states also offer rush service for an extra fee.

If you have the certificate delivered to your home, the total price of your birth certificate replacement will also include shipping fees, which may vary depending on the mail service of your choice.

What to do if your birth certificate is destroyed in a natural disaster

If your birth certificate got lost or destroyed in a disaster such as a fire or a hurricane, you can easily obtain a certified copy.

The most convenient way to replace a destroyed or damaged birth certificate after a catastrophe is to order a certified copy of a birth certificate online, just like you would do if your certificate had been lost.

Alternatively, you can decide to make an appointment with the local county or central vital records office.

Once you have your new copy of the certificate, make sure to store it safely to avoid having to apply again in the future.

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Why do I need a copy of my lost birth certificate?

Your birth certificate is a crucial ID document that you will need on several occasions throughout your life. For example, you may be asked to provide your birth certificate to:

  • Access social security benefits
  • Request your American passport
  • Enroll in school
  • Sign up for the military
  • Open an account with certain banks
  • Sign an employment agreement with a US entity

That is why it is paramount that you keep a certified copy of your birth certificate safe and ready for use.