Certified copy of birth certificate definition

A certified copy of a birth certificate is a document that has an official state registrar’s raised, embossed, impressed or multicolored seal, the registrar’s signature as well as the date the certificate was filed with the registrar’s office, which has to be within one year of the person's birth.

Along with U.S. Passports, Certificates of Citizenship and Certificates of Naturalization, certified copies of birth certificates are one of the most common documents used to prove citizenship and one of the four main vital records in a person's life (together with death, marriage and divorce records).

At a point in time it is likely that you will need a certified copy of the birth certificate as a form of identification, like obtaining a US passport or applying for Social Security benefits. Copies of a birth certificate can be obtained through the office where the document was originally filed or issued.

How to get a certified copy of a birth certificate?

The U.S. federal government does not give copies of a birth certificate or copies of any other vital records. If a U.S. citizen is in need of a copy of their birth certificate, they can generally request them at their Vital Records office, which is where most birth certificates are originally filed.

Most states provide a centralized source from which U.S. citizens can order certified copies of their birth certificate or other vital records. Each State determines their set of rules and fees for ordering birth certificates as well as other vital records.

Certified vs informational copy

An informational copy of a birth certificate has the same information as a certified copy however, it will have a legend on the document that states “informational, not a valid document to establish identity”. Also, both versions are actually authorized copies.

It is also possible that some items may be redacted from the informational copy. Informational copies cannot be used to obtain a passport, register for school or get married. A certified copy will have an official stamp, which the informational copy does not have. All copies must be obtained directly from the agency that issued the original document (hence the seal), so a photocopy is not a valid copy.

Read more: Birth certificate long form and short form

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