A birth certificate is a vital record that documents the birth of a child. The term "birth certificate" can refer to either the original document certifying the circumstances of the birth or to a certified copy of or representation of the ensuing registration of that birth. Depending on the jurisdiction, a record of birth might or might not contain verification of the event by such as a midwife or doctor.
History and contemporary times
The documentation of births is a practice widely held throughout human civilization, especially in China, Egypt, Greece, Rome, and Persia. The original purpose of vital statistics was for tax purposes and for the determination of available military manpower. In England, births were initially registered with churches, who maintained registers of births. This practice continued into the 19th century. The compulsory registration of births with the United Kingdom government is a practice that originated at least as far back as 1853. The entire United States did not get a standardized system until 1902.
Most countries have statutes and laws that regulate the registration of births. In all countries, it is the responsibility of the mother's physician, midwife, hospital administrator, or the parent(s) of the child to see that the birth is properly registered with the appropriate government agency.
The actual record of birth is stored with a government agency. That agency will issue certified copies or representations of the original birth record upon request, which can be used to apply for government benefits, such as passports. The certification is signed and/or sealed by the registrar or other custodian of birth records, who is commissioned by the government.
The right of every child to a name and nationality, and the responsibility of national governments to achieve this are contained in Articles 7 and 8 in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child: "The child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality..." (CRC Article 7) and "States Parties undertake to respect the right of the child to preserve his or her identity, including nationality, name and family relations..." (CRC Article 8).
...it's a small paper but it actually establishes who you are and gives access to the rights and the privileges, and the obligations, of citizenship.— Archbishop Desmond Tutu, February 2005
Despite 191 countries ratifying the Convention, the births of millions of children worldwide go unregistered. By their very nature, data concerning unregistered children are approximate. About 29% of countries don't have available or sufficient data to assess global progress towards the SDG goal of universal coverage. However, from the data that is available, UNICEF estimates that more than a quarter of children under 5 worldwide are unregistered. The lowest levels of birth registration are found in sub-Saharan Africa (43 percent). This phenomenon disproportionately impacts poor households and indigenous populations. Even in many developed countries, it contributes to difficulties in fully accessing civic rights.
Birth registration opens the door to rights to children and adults which many other human beings take for granted: to prove their age; to prove their nationality; to receive healthcare; to go to school; to take exams; to be adopted; to protection from under-age military service or conscription; to marry; to open a bank account; to hold a driving licence; to obtain a passport; to inherit money or property; and to vote or stand for elected office.
There are many reasons why births go unregistered, including social and cultural beliefs and attitudes; alternative documents and naming ceremonies; remote areas, poor infrastructure; economic barriers; lack of office staff, equipment and training; legal and political restrictions; fear of discrimination and persecution; war, conflict and unrest or simply the fact that there is no system in place.
Retrospective registration may be necessary where there is a backlog of children whose births have gone unregistered. In Senegal, the government is facilitating retrospective registration through free local court hearings and the number of unregistered children has fallen considerably as a result. In Sierra Leone, the government gave the National Office of Births and Deaths special permission to issue birth certificates to children over seven. In Bolivia, there was a successful three-year amnesty for the free registration of young people aged between 12 and 18.
Statelessness, or the lack of effective nationality, impacts the daily lives of some 11–12 million people around the world. Perhaps those who suffer most are stateless infants, children, and youth. Although born and raised in their parents' country of habitual residence, they lack formal recognition of their existence.
States and territories of Australia are responsible for the issuance of birth certificates, through agencies generally titled "Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages" or similar.
Initially registering a birth is done by a hospital through a "Birth Registration Statement" or similar, signed by appropriately licensed and authorized health professionals, and provided to the state or territory registry. Home births are permitted, but a statement is required from a registered midwife, doctor or 2 other witnesses other than the parent(s). Unplanned births require in some states that the baby be taken to a hospital within 24 hours. Once registered, a separate application (sometimes it can be done along with the Birth Registration Statement) can be made for a birth certificate, generally at a cost. The person(s) named or the parent(s) can apply for a certificate at any time. Generally, there is no restriction on re-applying for a certificate at a later date, so it could be possible to legally hold multiple original copies.
The Federal government requires that births be also registered through a "Proof of Birth Declaration" similarly signed as above by a doctor or midwife. This ensures the appropriate benefits can be paid, and the child is enrolled for Medicare.
The state or territory issued birth certificate is a secure A4 paper document, generally listing: Full name at birth, sex at birth, parent(s) and occupation(s), older sibling(s), address(es), date and place of birth, name of the registrar, date of registration, date of issue of certificate, a registration number, with the signature of the registrar and seal of the registry printed and or embossed. Most states allow for stillbirths to be issued a birth certificate. Some states issue early pregnancy loss certificates (without legal significance if before 20 weeks). Depending on the state or territory, amendment on the certificate are allowed to correct an entry, add ascendant, recognize same-sex relationship, changing the sex of the holder is also permitted in some state or territory.
The full birth certificate in Australia is an officially recognized identity document generally in the highest category. The birth certificate assists in establishing citizenship. Shorter and/or commemorative birth certificates are available; however, they are not generally acceptable for identification purposes.
Birth certificates in Australia can be verified online by approved agencies through the Attorney-General's Department Document Verification Service and can be used to validate identity digitally, e.g. online.
- Alberta - Department of Vital Statistics (Service Alberta)
- British Columbia - Vital Statistics Agency (Ministry of Health)
- Manitoba - Vital Statistics Agency (Ministry of Healthy Living, Seniors, and Consumer Affairs/Consumer and Corporate Affairs)
- New Brunswick - Vital Statistics (Service New Brunswick)
- Newfoundland and Labrador - Vital Statistics Government Services (Service NL)
- Northwest Territories - Vital Statistics (Department of Health and Social Services - Health Services Administration Division)
- Nova Scotia - Registrar General Division of Vital Statistics (Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations)
- Nunavut - Registrar General of Vital Statistics (Nunavut Health and Social Services)
- Ontario - Office of Registrar General-Service Ontario (Ministry of Government Services)
- Prince Edward Island - Vital Statistics (Health and Social Services)
- Quebec - Director of Civil State (Minister of Justice)
- Saskatchewan - Vital Statistics-Information Service Corporation (Department of Health)
- Yukon - Vital Statistics (Ministry of Health and Social Services - Health Services)
Forms of certified copies issued
There are three forms of birth certificates issued:
- Copy of an act - contains all information available on the birth of a person.
- Long-form - legal size or two-page form with details of the person, the parent(s), place of birth, certification by the parent(s), signature, and stamp of the issuing agency or department.
- Short form or card - provides name, birth date, place of birth, date of registration, date of issue, registration number, certificate number, and signature of registrar general
Residents of Quebec born elsewhere can have their non-Quebec birth record inserted into Quebec's birth register. Quebec birth certificates issued with regard to a birth, civil union, marriage or death that occurred outside of Quebec are referred to as "semi-authentic" under paragraph 137 of the Civil Code of Québec unless their validity is recognized by a Quebec court. Inserting one's birth record into the Quebec register is a prerequisite for anyone born outside of Quebec to apply for a legal name change in the province. Semi-authentic birth certificates are issued in the long-form only.
Depending on the province, certificates are in English, French or both languages. Birth certificates from Canadian territories are in English and French, as well as Inuktitut in Nunavut (though individual data is in the Roman alphabet only, not in Inuktitut syllabics).
The People's Republic of China issued its first birth certificate on January 1, 1996. The birth certificate used currently is the fifth edition, which was adopted since January 1, 2014. Still, China, the world's most populous country, is among those with no globally comparable data, presenting challenges to researchers who wish to assess global and regional progress towards universal birth registration.
The Czech Republic maintains a registry of vital records, including births, of people, regardless of nationality, or birthplace. Every citizen of the Czech Republic will need to register their birth if born abroad, effectively granting a foreign born person two birth certificates. The Czech Republic will also register foreigners in some cases. The office that registers births is colloquially called 'matrika'.
England and Wales
Civil registration of births, marriages and deaths in England and Wales started on 1 July 1837. Registration was not compulsory until 1875, following the Registration of Births and Deaths Act 1874, which made registration of a birth the responsibility of those present at the birth.
When a birth is registered, the details are entered into the register book at the local register office for the district in which the birth took place and is retained permanently in the local register office. A copy of each entry in the birth register is sent to the General Register Office (GRO).
Pre-1837 birth and baptism records
Before the government's registration system was created, evidence of births and/or baptisms (and also marriages and death or burials) was dependent on the events being recorded in the records of the Church of England or in those of other various churches – not all of which maintained such records or all types of those records. Copies of such records are not issued by the General Register Office; but can be obtained from these churches, or from the local or national archive, which usually now keeps the records in original or copy form.
Types of certified copies issued in England and Wales
There are two types of birth certificates:
A full certificate, titled 'CERTIFIED COPY OF AN ENTRY' is a copy of the original entry in the birth register, giving all the recorded details. Information includes; name, sex, date, and place of birth of the child, father's name, place of birth and occupation, mother's name, place of birth, maiden name, and occupation. Certificates for births before 1911 do not show the mother's maiden name, before 1969 do not show the detail(s) of the parent(s), place of birth and registration, and before 1984 do not show mother's occupation.
The short certificate, titled 'CERTIFICATE OF BIRTH', shows the child's full name, sex, date, and place of birth. It does not give any detail(s) of the parent(s); therefore it is not proof of parentage. A short birth certificate is issued, free of charge, at the time of registration.
Both versions of a certificate can be used in the verification of identity by acting as a support to other information or documentation provided. Where proof of parentage is required only a full certificate will be accepted.
The original registrations are required by law to be issued in the form of certified copies to any person who identifies an index entry and pays the prescribed fee. They can be ordered by registered users from the General Register Office Certificate Ordering Service or by postal or telephone ordering from the General Register Office or by post or in person from local registrars. If the birth was registered within the past 50 years detailed information is required before a certificate will be issued.
Civil records in France have been compulsory since the 1539 ordinance of Villers-Cotterêts, in which the King Francis I ordered the parishes to record baptisms, marriages and sepultures. Then in 1667 the parishes were asked to issue two registers in two different places in order to avoid the loss of data. Jews and Protestants were allowed to have their own records by Louis XVI in 1787. In 1792, the registers were fully secularized (birth, civil marriage and death replaced baptism, religious marriage and sepulture, plus an official kept the records instead of a priest), and the Code civil did create the compulsory birth certificate in 1804 (in its articles 34, 38, 39 et 57). This document should be completed at one's marriage since 1897, at one's divorce since 1939, at one's death since 1945 and at one's civil union since 2006. A note is added on the certificate for all these events.
In Hong Kong the system is similar to England and Wales, which the government keeps a birth register book, and the birth certificate is actually a certified copy of the birth register book entry . Currently Immigration Department is the official birth registrar. All parents need to register their children's birth within 42 days.
For official purposes, other proofs are accepted in India in lieu of the birth certificate, such as matriculation certificates. Facilities are available to produce a birth certificate from a passport.
By law since 1969, registration of births is compulsory as per provisions of Registration of Births & Deaths Act. Birth certificates are issued by the Government of India or the municipality concerned. Specific rules vary by state, region and municipality.
In Delhi, for example, births must be registered within 21 days by the hospital or institution, or by a family member if the birth has taken place at home. After registration, a birth certificate can be obtained by applying to the relevant authority. Certificates can also be issued under special provisions to adopted children, and undocumented orphans. Overseas births can also be registered.
Some municipalities, such as the Greater Chennai Corporation allow for fully digital birth certificates to be applied for, printed, and verified online.
The Department of Internal Affairs is responsible for issuing birth certificates in New Zealand. Certain historical records including historical birth certificates are available online in a searchable format on the Birth, Death and Marriage Historical Records website. The available records are for births recorded at least one hundred years ago.
Earlier testimony was a small book format-bound, now it's just a page format A4, provided with watermarks and QR-code. The certificate has a series and number.
The blank insert is made in Russian. In the case of being issued in one of the country's republics, its national language form liner can be made in Russian and in the official language of the Republic on the model, approved by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation.
A birth certificate can be filled with a handwritten way and with the use of technical equipment (typewriters, computers). When filling in the form is carried handwritten way, all records are made legibly in ink or paste blue or black. If you are using a computer or typewriter dye must be black. The quality of paste, ink, dye, used in completing the documents should ensure the preservation of text documents for a set retention period. When filling out the birth certificate is not allowed to have it in patches, blots, and erasures, cuts.
A birth certificate is signed by the head of the registrar or other public authority issuing the certificate (e.g., the consulate). Signature of the registrar should have a transcript (initials and surname) and sealed with the official seal.
Currently, information about the nationality of the parent(s) is mentioned in the certificate on request. By default, this column is empty
When making a citizenship, a special insert is issued to the birth certificate. In testimony to Stamp.
February 6, 2007 ear of citizenship were canceled, on the reverse side of the Certificate began to put a stamp on the child's citizenship. This rule applies to newborns or those who change or restores documents.
Old shells are valid for achieving a child 14 years old and to change them is not necessary.
The procedure for obtaining
The birth certificate of the child's parent(s) can get (not deprived of parental rights), itself a child of full age, guardian(s) or caregiver(s). Issuance of the document is made in the offices of the registrar, ZAGS (Russian: ЗАГС).
With the loss of the certificate, a new document is issued by the registry office (ZAGS) in the place of the original receipt on the basis of a written application.
Birth certificates are no longer issued by the Swedish government, and the only available option is to ask the Swedish Tax Authority for an extract (personbevis) from the Swedish Population Register, which will specify birthplace, date of birth, and parents, among other information, such as marriage status and current registered address. When a child is born in Sweden, the nurse is obligated to report that to the Swedish Tax Authority, which in turn will issue a Personal identity number (personnummer) for the child. This number can then later be used to request the extract.
In the U.S., the issuance of birth certificates is a function of the Vital Records Office of the states, capital district, territories and former territories. Birth in the U.S. establishes automatic eligibility for American citizenship, so a birth certificate from a local authority is commonly provided to the federal government to obtain a U.S. passport. However, the U.S. State Department does issue a Consular Report of Birth Abroad for children born to U.S. citizens (who are also eligible for citizenship), including births on military bases in foreign territory.
The federal and state governments have traditionally cooperated to some extent to improve vital statistics. From 1900 to 1946 the U.S. Census Bureau designed standard birth certificates, collected vital statistics on a national basis, and generally sought to improve the accuracy of vital statistics. In 1946 that responsibility was passed to the U.S. Public Health Service. Unlike the British system of recording all births in "registers", the states file an individual document for each and every birth.
The U.S. National Center for Health Statistics creates standard forms that are recommended for use by the individual states to document births. However, states are free to create their own forms. As a result, neither the appearance nor the information content of birth certificate forms is uniform across states. These forms are completed by the attendant at birth or a hospital administrator, which are then forwarded to a local or state registrar, who stores the record and issues certified copies upon request.
Types of certified copies issued
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, as of 2000 there were more than 6,000 entities issuing birth certificates. The Inspector General report states that according to the staff at the Immigration and Naturalization Service's Forensics Document Laboratory the number of legitimate birth certificate versions in use exceeded 14,000.
Acceptance of short forms
In the case of applying for a U.S. passport, not all legitimate government-issued birth certificates are acceptable:
A certified birth certificate has a registrar's raised, embossed, impressed or multicolored seal, registrar's signature, and the date the certificate was filed with the registrar's office, which must be within 1 year of your birth. Please note, some short (abstract) versions of birth certificates may not be acceptable for passport purposes.
The U.S. State Department has paid close attention to abstract certificates from both Texas and California. There have been reports of a high incidence of midwife registration fraud along the border region between Texas and Mexico, and the Texas abstract certificate form does not list the name or occupation of the attendant. The California Abstract of Birth did not include an embossed seal, was no longer considered a secure document, and have not been issued in California since 2001.
Most hospitals in the U.S. issue a souvenir birth certificate which may include the footprints of the newborn. However, these birth certificates are not legally accepted as proof of age or citizenship, and are frequently rejected by the Bureau of Consular Affairs during passport applications. Many Americans believe the souvenir records to be their official birth certificates when in reality they hold little legal value.
Birth certificates in cases of adoptions
In the United States, when an adoption is finalized, the government seals the original birth certificate and will issue a replacement birth certificate substituting the individual's birth name with the name selected by the adoptive parent(s), and replacing the birth parent(s) name with the adoptive parent(s). In those cases, adopted individuals are not granted access to their own original birth certificate upon request. Laws vary depending on the state where the birth was originally registered and the adoption was finalized. Some states allow adopted people unrestricted access to their own original birth certificate, while in others the certificate is available only if the biological parent(s) have given their permission or a petition has been granted by the court of jurisdiction. Other jurisdictions do not allow adopted people access to their own original birth certificate under any circumstances.
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