Obtaining your own birth certificate is fairly straightforward. It is also fairly easy to obtain a birth certificate for immediate relatives. It can be difficult and in some cases impossible to obtain birth certificates for others. Although each state has its own rules, certain procedures apply to every state. This article provides information on how to obtain birth certificates and how procedures differ among the states.

Issuance of a birth certificate is almost certain as long as you are requesting your own birth certificate or the birth certificate of a minor child, and as long as you are at least 18 years old and can present a government-issued photo ID. Many states will issue birth certificates to non-relatives for purposes such as historical or genealogical research. Some states will issue official birth certificates only to the person whose birth was registered and their immediate relatives, and issue “informational copies” to other applicants (an informational copy is identical except that it is not considered a legal document and thus cannot be used as identification).

Birth certificates can usually be downloaded from the website of the Department of Vital Records of the state of birth. You will not be able to submit your application online due to concerns about identity fraud – you will have to fill out the application, sign it, and mail it to the appropriate address (listed on the website). Some states will require you to compose your own request letter instead of an application form. There are many online resources that will help you to apply for a birth certificate from any state (remember to request from the state of the person’s birth, not his current residence).

The application will require you to list your full name, the full name (at the time of birth) of the person whose birth certificate you are requesting, and your mailing address. You will also need a photocopy of your photo ID. You will also be asked for the county and date of birth for the person whose birth certificate you are requesting, along with the full names of both parents. In many cases a birth certificate can be issued even if some of this information is missing. You will have to sign a sworn statement that all of the information you provided on the application is true to the best of your knowledge and belief.

If you are requesting a birth certificate for someone other than yourself, you will need to compose a statement explaining your purpose for requesting the birth certificate and provide personal details about yourself such as your phone number and your actual residential address (if different from your mailing address). If you are requesting a birth certificate for a relative, you may be asked to provide copies of documentary evidence of your relationship (a marriage certificate, for example).

The fee for obtaining a birth certificate will not exceed twenty dollars in most cases, with lesser fees added for each additional copy that you request. You may pay by any means except cash or a personal check (even cash may be acceptable if you visit the office in person, although some offices will not accept cash due to concerns about employee corruption). Some states will not allow you to pay by credit card over the Internet. Normally, the birth certificate will be mailed to you within three business days. You will be issued either a certified copy or an informational copy, depending on the content of your application. A certified copy features a raised seal, which renders it a legal document that can be used for identification under limited circumstances.

Keep the birth certificate in a secure location, because it is an important legal document that is used as the basis for all other forms of ID, including passports and social security cards. The creation of fictional identities for the sake of money laundering and other illegitimate purposes usually begins with the procurement or forgery of a birth certificate.