Your U.S. Birth Certificate is useful for proving your identity and citizenship within the country. However, if you need to use your birth certificate for official purposes outside of the U.S., then you may need an authenticated copy.
After it is created, your original U.S. birth certificate is kept on file at the Vital Records Office in the location where you were born. It is securely stored at county or state Vital Records Office, and it is only accessed when you need a birth certificate copy. They will use the original to generate a certified copy. A certified copy of a birth certificate will include:
- A raised, embossed, impressed or multicolored state seal
- A registrar’s signature
- The date the certificate was filed with the registrar’s office
A certified birth certificate copy is valid everywhere in the U.S., but in order to use it abroad, for example, to get married in another country, you will need some additional documents attached verifying its authenticity.
We’ll help you determine whether or not you need to get your U.S. birth certificate authenticated, and show you how to do it.
Authentication or an apostille?
First, if you need your birth certificate to be legally valid outside the country, you’ll need to determine whether you need your birth certificate authenticated or you need an Apostille Certificate. It all depends on where you need to use your birth certificate.
Many countries around the world are a part of something called the Hague Apostille Convention. This is an international treaty that established a simpler method for accepting official documents. Previously, you had to get a document certified twice to use it outside of the country where it was created, once in the original country and again in the new country. Now, countries that are a part of the Hague Apostille Convention only require a single certification, called an apostille, from the original country. With an apostille, your document will be considered legally valid for use in any country that is a part of the agreement.
If your birth certificate will be used in a country that is not in the Hague Apostille Convention, then you will need an Authentication Certificate. To use your birth certificate in a country that is a part of the Hague Apostille Convention, you must include an Apostille Certificate.
Non-Hague Convention Countries
To use your birth certificate in one of the following countries, it must be authenticated by the U.S. Department of State:
- Burkina Faso
- Congo Democratic
- Congo Republic
- Côte d’Ivoire
- Saudi Arabia
- Sierra Leone
- South Sudan
Hague Convention Countries
To use your birth certificate in one of the following countries, you must get an Apostille Certificate from the U.S. Department of State:
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Burkina Faso
- Costa Rica
- Czech Republic
- Dominican Republic
- El Salvador
- Hong Kong (China)
- Macau (China)
- Republic of Moldova
- New Zealand
- Republic of Korea
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
- San Marino
- South Africa
- Sri Lanka
- The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM)
- Trinidad and Tobago
- United Kingdom
- United States of America
How to get your birth certificate authenticated
If you’ve determined that your birth certificate needs to be valid in a country that is not in the Hague Convention, then you will need to:
- Visit U.S. State Department website’s section on Requesting Authentication Services
- Fill out the DS-4194 form and indicate which country you need it for
- Submit the form, along with a certified birth certificate copy.
You can submit your birth certificate authentication request:
Your application package must contain:
- Payment for the authentication fees
- A prepaid, self-addressed envelope
- Your completed DS-4194 form
- A certified copy of your birth certificate
U.S. Department of State
Office of Authentications
44132 Mercure Cir.
P.O. Box 1206
Sterling, VA 20166-1206
You can expect to receive your authentication certificate by mail in around 12 days.
In the event of an emergency or urgent need, you can contact the Office of Authentications and set up an in-person appointment to expedite your request for a birth certificate authentication. In order to claim a legitimate emergency, you will need evidence of a serious injury or illness, or proof that you will be traveling within 24-48 hours.
If it is a non-emergency situation, but you will need your birth certificate authenticated within the next 3 days, you can drop off your application package in-person at the Office of Authentications between only from 8-9 AM, Monday through Friday. They will provide you with a scheduled time to pick your documents, sometime in the following three days.
You must show a photo ID in order to pay for any applicable fees using a credit card.
Now that you know to ensure that your birth certificate is valid outside the country, you can start the process by applying for a certified copy of your birth certificate online. Ordering online will save you time and hassle, and help ensure that you have everything you need to use your birth certificate abroad.