Long Form vs. Short Form Birth Certificates

Woman asking about long forms vs short form birth certificates

If you are born a U.S. citizen, then you should have received a birth certificate when you were born. Birth certificates are essential documents that prove identity and citizenship when applying for other official documents and services. If you have lost your birth certificate, or it has been stolen or damaged, then it’s important to apply for a replacement birth certificate as soon as possible.

The process to apply for a certified copy of your birth certificate depends on where you were born. You will have to apply with the state you were born in and all states do charge a fee that you will have to pay. Some states also require your application to be notarized. In this case, you will have to sign your application in front of a notary to verify your identity.

When filling out the birth certificate application, most states will ask you to select either the long-form or the short-form format of your birth certificate. So, you’ll need to determine which type you need. Both the long and short forms are suitable to use as proof of identity and citizenship, and they will both have basic information about your birth and your parents.

In addition, every state has their own birth certificate format since there is no national standard. So, if your birth certificate is from out of state, you’ll need to make sure it has the same information as birth certificates in the state you need it in.

Short-Form Birth Certificates

As the name implies, a short-form birth certificate is a condensed version of the long-form. It still has the most commonly needed important information, like your name at birth, your birth date and location, and your parents’ full names. However, unlike the long-form, it will not have information about the specific facility you were born in or detailed information about your parents.

Short-form birth certificate formats are commonly called ‘abstracts,’ since they do not include as much information as the long-forms. However, since every state’s regulations are different, some short-form birth certificates have much more information and are considered ‘standard size.’

Long-Form Birth Certificates

A long-form birth certificate (also called an official or full-sized), is an exact copy of the original birth certificate. It typically has much more information than the short-form, including a file number, details on the parents’ nationalities and birth dates, and the filing date, as well as a signature from the attending doctor or midwife.

Do I need a short or long form birth certificate?

Whether you need the short form or long form depends, not only on why you need it, but also where. Both versions can be used as proof of identity and citizenship. So, you can use either one to get a driver’s license, passport, ID card, or Social Security card.

However, a short-form is not valid for many situations. For example, if you are adopting a child, you will need a long-form birth certificate which includes detailed information about the birth and the parents’ full names and any maiden names, birth dates, and places of birth.

For genealogical purposes, genealogy experts recommend using the long-form, since it gives many more details about the parents.

While both long and short-form versions are considered official and valid, keep in mind that it often takes longer to get a long-form copy. If you need a copy of your birth certificate for a reason that we didn’t cover, you can reach out to your local government to get more information and determine which type you need.

Certificate of Live Birth

Parents will be given a Certificate of Live Birth after their child is born. The name is a bit confusing, since the Certificate of Live Birth is actually just the document parents fill out and submit to the Vital Records Office to apply for a birth certificate. It can not be used like a birth certificate in any official capacity.

The Certificate of Live Birth will ask for information like the:

  • Baby’s full name
  • Parents’ names
  • Doctors’ names
  • Hospital or facility the baby was born at
  • Baby’s race and sex
  • Baby’s date and time of birth
  • Name of person compiling the record

After it is used to create the hospital record, the Certificate of Live Birth should be submitted to the Vital Records Office. They will use it to create an original birth certificate, a copy of which will be mailed to the parents. Contrary to common belief, the birth certificate you received shortly after you were born is not your original birth certificate. In fact, you will never be able to access your original birth certificate. Originals are always kept on file under lock and key at the Vital Records Office where they were created. They are only accessed when a copy is requested. However, certified long-form copies are an exact duplicate of the original. So, there is no additional information on your original birth certificate that is excluded from a long-form copy.

In short, a Certificate of Live Birth simply establishes that the child was born medically alive and is then used to create the birth certificate. The birth certificate proves identity and is an official document that can be used when you need to show proof of ID or citizenship.

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