Do You Need a Birth Certificate to Get a Passport?

To apply for a passport, you typically need to provide proof of citizenship like a birth certificate or other documents.
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Written by Ramsey Qubein

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Applying for a U.S. passport can be stressful. It takes time to gather documents, complete the paperwork and wait for the passport book to arrive. The processing times are longer than ever, so you will want to start early or use the services of a passport expeditor agency.

When you apply for a passport, you'll need an original, state-issued birth certificate with a raised seal (certified copies will include this) or a naturalization document. If you already have a valid passport and just need to renew it, you will need that, too.

But, what if you cannot locate a birth certificate? You're not completely out of luck, but you will need to do a little digging to find more information to supply with your application. The U.S. government will want to confirm proof of citizenship, but there are alternative documents beyond a birth certificate that you can use during the application process that will suffice.

What do you need to prove U.S. citizenship?

There are several ways to prove American citizenship when trying to apply for a passport. If you have any of the below, they can be submitted with a passport application.

  • ​​Current U.S. passport (not an expired passport).

  • Consular Report of Birth Abroad (if born overseas).

  • Certificate of Naturalization.

  • Certificate of Citizenship.

What if you do not have any of these, either? It turns out that there are “alternatives to the alternatives” you can use when applying for a passport book.

Can you get a passport without a birth certificate?

Yes, but you’ll need additional secondary evidence of citizenship documents to prove that you are indeed a U.S. citizen. There is specific paperwork that you need. Remember you cannot use a Social Security Card, driver’s license or voter registration card. Instead, there are other public records that you will need to collect, and this may require some time and research on your part, so don't wait until the last minute.

What can I use instead of a birth certificate for passport applications?

Before you start looking for alternative documents, see if your birth state is one that offers the option of getting a certified copy of your birth certificate for a fee. If you can get one, it will be much easier than searching for the secondary proof of citizenship paperwork.

It may be wise to contact the hospital where you were born or your state's vital records office to locate vital documents. Many states offer online options to request such information. A certified copy of your birth certificate is valid for a passport application.

If you do not have your original birth certificate or a certified copy, there are several documents that can help prove your identity during the passport application process. These are typically public record documents that prove where someone lives or has lived. They include:

  • Baptismal certificate.

  • Hospital birth certificate (even without a raised seal).

  • Delayed birth certificate (filed more than one year after birth).

  • Census record.

  • Early school record.

  • Family Bible record.

  • Doctor’s record of postnatal care.

All of these documents must accompany one of the below documents and cannot be used on their own when applying for a new passport.

You will also need one of the following:

  • State-issued Letter of No Record (name, birthday, years spent searching for birth certificate and confirmation that it was not found).

  • Notarized Form DS-10: Birth Affidavit (completed by an older blood relative, physician or someone with personal knowledge of applicant’s U.S. birth and submitted unsigned and in person to a passport agent, acceptance facility or Notary Public).

Do I need my birth certificate to get a passport if born overseas to American parents?

For U.S. citizens who are overseas when their child is born, there are different documents required to apply for a passport. Ideally, you would have the Consular Report of Birth Abroad or birth certificate. If you cannot locate that document, you can request a file search for a fee of $150 to see if it can be found. If not, you will need to supply all of these documents:

  • Foreign birth certificate listing the parent and translated into English.

  • Evidence of parent’s U.S. citizenship.

  • Marriage certificate of parents (if applicable).

  • Detailed statement from a U.S. citizen parent with times and places of residence both at home and abroad before birth.

Bottom line

Yes, you can get a passport without a birth certificate, but you will need to follow detailed steps to gather the right documentation. Before you do that, try to get the birth certificate from the hospital or the vital records department for your state. It takes long enough to apply for a passport as it is. Saving time, especially if you need a passport for upcoming travel, will help the application to be processed as fast as possible so you can be on your way with a U.S. passport in hand.

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