The past nine months have been long and hard. Finally, your new baby has come into the world! Congratulations! Now the fun really begins. The first thing to worry about is getting a birth certificate. New parents in particular might find the process confusing. Sometimes they lie awake at night, their minds overflowing with questions: “What is a birth certificate? Why do you need one, and what is it used for? How do you get it translated, if necessary?” There are so many things to learn and seemingly few resources. This article will serve as a comprehensive and informative guide on domestic and international birth certificates, and also on what to do if a certificate needs to be translated into English.
“What is a birth certificate, and why do I or my child need one?”
A birth certificate is a document that, in the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, “…establishes who you are and gives access to the rights and the privileges, and the obligations, of citizenship.” It tells the world who you are, where you were born, when you were born, your parents, your nationality/ethnicity, your blood type, and so much other vital information. New parents must obtain a birth certificate within three months of a child’s birth.
The document is absolutely vital for enrolling one’s children into a new school and getting documents such as a driver’s license, a Social Security card, and a passport, all of which are needed to live in the world today. It is not needed to obtain a marriage license, but it is needed if the newlyweds want to–or have to–adopt children at some point in their lives.
“I have to get a birth certificate. What do I have to do?”
The process of obtaining a birth certificate in the United States varies from state to state; in the world, it varies from country to country. Usually, though, one can get the certificate by mail or in person from the State Department of Health. The Center for Disease Control has a helpful state-by-state guide on obtaining vital documents within the United States here: There is often a processing fee, and a postage fee if by mail; again, this requirement differs from state to state.
If moving to another state or country, one must obtain copies of birth certificates and documents. The original document stays within the state or country of origin. The U.S. State Department’s website at www.state.gov has some information about obtaining an international birth certificate within the United States. The U.S. State Travel Department at www.travel.state.gov also has a wealth of information, not only about birth certificates, but also about passport requirements.
“My child’s birth certificate needs translating. What do I do, and what should I look for in a translator?”
A third party who is neither petitioner nor beneficiary must translate it. The birth certificate’s translation must be word-for-word accurate and free of errors, and it is therefore advisable, but not necessary, to hire a professional translator. Errors, mistranslations, and inaccuracies will render the document invalid.
The translator must sign at the end a certification signifying that the translation is 100% accurate, and it must also carry the date of translation, translator’s printed name, and address.
Many new parents have fretted over the labyrinthine task of obtaining a birth certificate. This article was written for them as a light to shine a path through the complicated maze of information, paperwork, and translation issues.
David Dunne is a freelance blogger from Dublin, Ireland. He writes on a wide variety of topics including parenting, lifestyle, business and marketing.