Is a Birth Certificate Photocopy Legal?

Woman asking if it is legal to make a photocopy of a birth certificate

If you are applying for a new driver’s license or passport, or even enrolling yourself or your child in school, you may be required to show an official birth certificate copy, in order to prove your identity.

You will have to present a legitimate copy that is legally valid. The easiest way to get an official copy is to order a certified copy of your birth certificate online. You will receive your certified birth certificate copy directly from the Vital Records Office, and it will be acceptable proof of your identity and citizenship.

All you have to do to order a certified copy of your birth certificate is complete a simple online application with your basic information and indicate why you need a copy. Since you can order a long-form or short-form birth certificate, this will help ensure that you get the right one. If you need to order a birth certificate for someone else, most states require that you be an immediate family member.

Can I just make a photocopy of my birth certificate?

While it’s not illegal to make a copy of your birth certificate for personal use, you will not be able to use a photocopy in any official capacity, as it is not legally valid. While it may seem that being able to photocopy your birth certificate for official use would be convenient, fraud and identity theft would also increase.

Photocopies of birth certificates are not legally valid because they have not been officially certified. When you request an official copy of your birth certificate, you must apply with the office that has the original on file. They will access the original, which is securely stored under lock and key, and make an exact duplicate of it. Then, they will mark it with the registrar’s signature and state seal, verifying that it has been checked for accuracy and that it is identical to the original certificate. Only birth certificate copies bearing the signature and seal are considered to be official, legally valid certificates.

It is, however, illegal to make a copy of another individual’s vital record, unless you have their consent to do so. For example, an employer may need to make a copy of your birth certificate, after getting your permission, to keep on file as proof of citizenship and your legal ability to work in the U.S.

Many businesses will also ask to make copies of your passport, driver’s license, or other IDs, in order to perform a background check or have proof of your identity. This is also legal, as long as you consent to it.

If you do make copies of yours and your child’s birth certificate for personal use, you should treat them like certified copies and store the copies in a safe and secure location.

Have a copy but you’re not sure if it’s certified? We have more information on how to determine whether a birth certificate is official.

Can I use a notarized photocopy of a birth certificate?

Since notaries are responsible for authenticating documents, it is reasonable to assume that they can simply notarize a photocopy of birth certificate, so you can use it for official purposes. In many states, for example, Colorado, notaries are allowed to create a certified copies of original documents.

However, the issue is that notaries are not allowed to create certified copies from other copies, as this elevates the risk of fraud or tampering.

You may be under the impression that you have an original birth certificate. However, we’re going to show you why that is not true and what an original birth record actually is.

After a child is born, the hospital or parents submit a birth certificate application to the Vital Records Office. They use this information to create an original birth certificate, which they keep locked away. So, the document that the parents receive a few weeks later in the mail, is just a certified birth certificate copy, not the original.

In addition, the certificate new parents receive at the hospital after the birth of their baby is just a keepsake certificate, not an actual birth certificate.

Once the Vital Records Office has created the original birth certificate, it’s easy to apply for an official or certified copy online. Certified copies issued by the Vital Records Office will feature a raised, embossed, multicolored seal. Since they are already certified, they do not need to be notarized.

Check out more information on notarizing birth certificates.

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