Your birth certificate is your primary proof of citizenship if you were born in the United States. Under US law, if you were born on US soil — or in US waters, or even in an airplane flying in US air space! — you are automatically a US citizen. This makes your birth certificate a very important document. When you apply for your first US passport, you’ll need to prove your citizenship by submitting the birth certificate that shows you were born in the United States.
Birth Certificate Requirements for US Passports
You’ll need to make sure that the birth certificate you submit with your passport application meets all the following criteria:
- Issued by a US state, city, or territory. You must submit a government-issued birth certificate. Hospital-issued birth certificates or other commemorative certificates won’t work.
- Original document with a raised seal. When we say “original,” we don’t necessarily mean the very first copy that your parents got when you were a baby! You need to submit a certificate issued by the government agency, with a raised seal. Photocopies, scans, or photographs are not accepted.
- “Long Form” certificate showing your parents’ names. Some states have an option for a “short form” or card-sized birth certificate. These aren’t accepted for passport applications. You need to have a “long form” certificate that shows your parents’ names. (Don’t have a father listed? That’s OK. As long as the certificate has a space for the father’s name, it’s fine if that space has been left blank.)
- Shows birth in a US state, federal district, or territory. Yes, if you were born in Puerto Rico or the US Virgin Islands, you can use your birth certificate to get a US passport!
When you go to the Passport Acceptance Facility, the Passport Acceptance Agent will be checking your birth certificate to ensure it meets all these requirements.
How to Get Your Birth Certificate
It’s an important document… but that doesn’t mean it won’t get lost! Many passport applicants have trouble locating their original birth certificate. Luckily, there are a few simple ways to get an official copy.
- Visit the Vital Statistics Office in your state of birth. If you are still in your state of birth, you can go in person to the Vital Statistics Office. For a small fee, they will print out original copies of your birth certificate for you. You’ll need to have proof of identity, such as your driver’s license. While you’re at it, you might as well get two copies of your birth certificate — most places give a discount if you get two copies, and both will be completely official original documents.
- Write to the Vital Statistics Office. Most locales allow you to order your birth certificate by mail. Processing may take a while, so this is not the best option if you’re in a hurry to apply for your new passport! Make sure to check the ordering instructions closely. You may need to pay via money order, or submit a photocopy of your valid ID.
- Order your birth certificate online. You can order your birth certificate right now, without even leaving your chair! VitalChek.com is a reputable website that works with US government agencies to get you your official birth certificate quickly and easily.
What If Your Name Has Changed?
Your birth certificate was issued when you were a newborn baby. You’re applying for your first passport as an adult. It’s quite likely that your legal name has changed! If your name has legally changed through marriage, divorce, or court order, you’ll need to submit an original copy of the marriage certificate, divorce degree, or court order to prove your new legal name.