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California Birth Certificate Search

When a live birth occurs in the State of California, the government, through specific agencies, records the event and issues a birth certificate and other California birth records, as authorized under Chapter 3 of the Cal. Health & Safety Code (HSC).

A California birth certificate is one of the first official documents a person may encounter in their lifetime. It proves a person's identity, age, and citizenship status. It offers evidence that a person was born in a particular place, owns a specific name, and is of a certain age. As a result, it is one primary identity document required in various formal settings, including when obtaining a driver's license, applying for a passport, enrolling in school, getting married, traveling to another country, getting a social security number, receiving government benefits, and so on.

Certain local and state government agencies in California maintain and issue birth certificates in line with Sections 102100 through 103800 of the Cal. Health & Safety Code. The government agency that disseminates these documents statewide is the California Department of Public Health - Vital Records (CDPH-VR), which is also responsible for the death certificate issuance and the management of other vital records. Regionally, it is a county clerk/recorder's office or local county health department that is responsible for maintaining and disseminating birth and death certificates.

Statistics from the California Department of Public Health's MCAH Data Dashboards reveal that of the 3,664,292 births registered in the United States in 2021, 420,754 (approximately 11.5%) were births occurring in California.

What is a Birth Certificate?

A birth certificate is the legal documentation of a citizen's birth. It contains essential information about a birth, including an individual's full name, sex, date of birth, parents' names, place of birth, and time and date of birth. Birth certificates in California also contain medical and social information about a registrant (the child named on a certificate). For example, a child's birth weight, the birth mother's residential address, the mother's pregnancy history, and more. HSC § 102425 sets out the specific contents of a California birth certificate.

Are Birth Certificates Public Record in California?

Yes. California birth certificates are public records under the California Public Records Act (CPRA). This means that anyone (including a non-resident or citizen) can request copies of birth certificates from official government custodians. Like California death certificates, only informational copies of California birth certificates are available to members of the public. Authorized copies, the other kind of California birth certificate available, are released only to persons specified in HSC § 103525(c).

How to Get a Birth Certificate in California?

In California, individuals can obtain a copy of a birth certificate from the Department of Public Health - Vital Records (CDPH-VR). The document can also be obtained from the local health department or clerk/recorder's office in the county where the birth took place. These three government agencies (the vital records or statistics offices) provide different options for interested persons to request California birth certificates - typically online, in person, and by mail. However, some county offices may accept phone or fax requests.

Specifically, the CDPH Vital Records has birth certificates from July 1905 to the present date. County clerk/recorder's offices preserve all birth certificates for their respective counties (including earlier certificates of births recorded before statewide birth registration began in 1905). Meanwhile, the county health departments maintain birth certificates for the current year and a year prior

Note: A person whose adoption was finalized in California may obtain a copy of their original birth certificate by filing a petition with the superior court where they reside or where the adoption was concluded. The original birth certificate of an adoptee is sealed under HSC § 102705. However, an adoptee showing a "good and compelling cause" may obtain an unsealing order to get a copy from the state vital records office. More details are provided on the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) website and CDPH's adoption pamphlet.

How to Order Birth Certificate Online in California

The vital record offices in California do not directly accept online orders for birth certificates from the public. Instead, these agencies work with independent, third-party vendors who process birth and death certificate requests. However, divorce and marriage certificate queries may be made to the office of the county clerk or clerk of courts in the concerned jurisdiction.

Persons who want to order California birth certificates online can access the web-based ordering system provided by the authorized vendor(s) and follow the prompts to place their orders. Subsequently, the vendor will electronically forward the application to the selected vital records office and return a certified copy to the applicant once the office issues it. As expected, this service has a processing fee (in addition to the applicable fees). The price varies by vendor.

Guidelines for placing online orders, and the only authorized vendor(s), can usually be found on an official birth record custodian's website. For example, the CDPH Vital Records, Los Angeles County Clerk's Office, and San Diego County Department of Health detail how to order a copy of a birth record online on their official websites.

Where Can I Get My Birth Certificate in Person in California

A registrant can obtain their California birth certificate at a local vital records office (a county health department or clerk's office). This office must be located in the registrant's county of birth. Overall, the in-person birth certificate request process varies from office to office (see a vital records office's website for specific procedures), but below are the typical steps:

  • Stop by a custodian's office during working hours. However, some offices, like the San Bernardino and Los Angeles county clerk's offices, do not provide walk-in services and ask requesters to schedule an appointment online.
  • Complete a birth certificate application, which typically asks for the registrant's name (as it is on the birth certificate), birthplace, date of birth, and the mother's full maiden name. This application may be completed online if the vital records office allows it.
  • Provide a valid government-issued ID (only for persons requesting an authorized copy). Vital statistics offices also require applicants to sign a sworn statement, under penalty of perjury, to confirm their eligibility.
  • Pay the certified copy fee. The fee is non-refundable, even if the office does not find the record. Registrants with verifiable homeless status may be exempted from paying the charge.
  • Allow some time for processing. In several cases, the birth certificate can be obtained on the same day.

Note that the California Department of Public Health - Vital Records does not accept in-person orders for birth certificates. The CDPH VR only accepts mail-in requests.

How Do I Get My Original Birth Certificate in California

California law requires every birth occurring in the state to be reported to a local health department (the local registrar) within 21 days of the event. The duty of registering a live birth falls to individuals specified in HSC §§ 102400 through 102415.

Birth registration in California serves to inform the government of a birth event and file an original certificate of birth with a local registrar's office. Subsequently, this certificate is maintained permanently by the Office of the State Registrar (the CDPH-VR); only certified copies of it are issued to a registrant or another party upon request.

Individuals can request certified copies of their original birth certificates from the CDPH-VR or local vital records offices. For additional inquiries, one may contact the CDPH-VR's Customer Service Unit at (916) 445-2684, Monday through Friday, or the respective county office within the agency's open hours.

How to Order a Replacement Birth Certificate in California

Individuals who lost or misplaced their California birth certificate can order another certified copy from a vital records office. Those who amended a California birth certificate because of a mistake or to add new information may request the amended copy at the time of application, or they may wait until the CDPH-VR issues the amended version to request a certified replacement.

Per the law, the Office of the State Registrar does not charge registrants who request a copy of their amended birth certificate during the application process, except if an applicant requests an additional copy or if one year has not elapsed since the birth event occurred. Individuals who request a certified copy after the amendment must pay the related copy fee.

What are the Documents Required to Get a Birth Certificate in California

The following documents are required to obtain a birth certificate from a California birth records custodian:

  • An Application for the Certified Copy of a Birth Certificate. There is no standard birth certificate request form in California. Hence, requesters should obtain this form from the relevant custodian. Typically, the application form can be downloaded from the custodian's website. (See the CDPH-VR's birth certificate application form.)
  • A valid government-issued ID (usually required when applying in person at a local vital statistics office to receive an authorized/regular copy of a birth certificate)
  • A notarized sworn statement (required to receive an authorized copy of a birth certificate). If requesting multiple records, only one sworn statement is required. Law enforcement or local/state government agencies are exempt from the notary requirement. Note that the sworn statement is often attached to the birth certificate application form, but it may be provided separately.

Besides the application form, no other documentation is required to obtain the informational copy of a California birth certificate. However, some vendors require inquirers to include a self-addressed and stamped envelope with their mailing address indicated.

What Do I Need to Get My Child's Birth Certificate

As stated earlier, all births in California must be registered with a local registrar's office, which will then issue a birth certificate. The time frame until the birth certificate becomes available varies by county; no law imposes a strict deadline for issuance. For instance, most birth certificates are available 10 days after registration in the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. Thus, any parent wanting to know if their child's birth certificate has been issued should contact the local registrar. If about two months have lapsed from the event date, one may find the record at the county clerk/recorder's office.

The ordering process for parents who wish to get their child's birth certificate in California is the same one used to obtain any birth certificate copy from a vital records office. That is, a requester must submit an application, fee, and sworn statement (if applicable) to a vital records office. One may also order through a third-party vendor.

Parents who want to obtain their child's birth certificate through the CDPH Vital Records should note that the agency recommends that applications made the first three months after a birth event be submitted in the county of birth. This is because the office only receives a birth record after the county clerk/recorder's office records it.

How Do I Find My Birth Certificate Number in California

A birth certificate number is a special ID number assigned to a birth certificate to distinguish it from other certificates filed in a state. Since 1948, birth certificate numbers assigned by U.S. State registrars are usually 11-digit numbers in a uniform XXX-XX-XXXXXX format.

The first set of three digits is the birth area code, which represents the state of birth. For example, 104 for California. The next series of two digits is the year of registration (typically the registrant's birth year). Meanwhile, the last set of six digits is a number assigned sequentially upon each birth registration in the state. In California, a birth certificate number may start with the second two-digit series.

Birth certificate numbers in California are usually displayed in the upper left-hand corner. Thus, anyone who has a certified copy of a birth certificate can easily determine the number. Individuals who do not possess a copy can request one from a vital records office.

Note that the birth certificate numbers of California birth certificates filed before 1948 may look different.

How Much Does It Cost to Apply for a Birth Certificate in California?

Applying for a birth certificate through the California Department of Public Health's Vital Records Office costs $29 per copy. County vital records offices, on the other hand, charge varying copy fees.

A person will usually pay a $32 fee to submit a birth certificate application to a county office. However, some offices charge slightly less or higher than this amount. For example, the Contra Costa Clerk's Office requires a $36 fee per copy, while the Nevada and Humboldt County recorder's offices charge $29 for each certified copy of a birth certificate. This payment can be made in check or money order for mail requests and in cash or credit card payment for online or phone orders.

Further, individuals who make credit/debit card payments at a vital records office or through an authorized third-party online vendor are subject to additional fees. The credit/debit card convenience fee charged at a vital records office is usually $2 or $2.50.

What is the Fastest Way to Get a Birth Certificate in California

California's state and local registrars do not provide expedited services to persons ordering birth certificates. The estimated processing time for a birth certificate request through the CDPH Vital Records Office is 10 to 12 weeks. However, persons who wish to obtain a California birth certificate sooner (such as within a week) should request the record at the county level. Notably, faster processing may also be available through an approved vendor for more money.

What is a Long-Form Birth Certificate

Broadly speaking, a "long-form" birth certificate refers to the authentic/certified copy of an original birth certificate. It has all the information ordinarily contained on a birth certificate, including the attending physician or midwife's signature, the parents' names and nationalities, a file number, and all amendments to a birth certificate. Sometimes, it is referred to as a "full-size" birth certificate.

In California, however, the vital records offices only release two types of birth certificate copies: authorized and informational. Both are certified copies of the original birth certificate but have access restrictions discussed below.

Notwithstanding, the state vital records office disseminates a "full body" certified copy under conditions outlined in HSC § 102430. A full-body birth certificate in California contains the non-confidential and confidential sections of a birth record. Per the law, only the following persons can request a full-body certified copy from the CDPH-VR's office:

  • The individual named on a California birth certificate.
  • The parent whose signature appears on the birth certificate or the mother if no parent signed the certificate.
  • Any person who petitioned to adopt the registrant named on the birth certificate, subject to HSC § 102705 and the California Family Code, Sections 9200 and 9203.
  • Certain health department staff.
  • Scientific staff upon the state registrar's approval.
  • These may also be available to persons who can prove their marital relationship to the record holder by presenting a marriage certificate or persons bearing the death certificate of the subject.

Long Form vs. Short Form Birth Certificate

The standard definition of a "short form" birth certificate is an abstract (an abridged version) of the original birth certificate, which only contains information that verifies a person's birth - a child's name, date of birth, and birthplace.

No vital records office in California issues a short form birth certificate, however. All copies issued by these offices are either authorized or informational certified copies.

According to HSC § 103526, anyone can obtain an informational certified copy of a California birth certificate (also called an "unrestricted" copy). However, only eligible persons can access an authorized certified copy (a "regular" or "restricted" copy).

The difference between an informational and an authorized certified copy is that the former bears the inscription "Informational, Not a Valid Document to Establish Identity". Unlike the authorized copy, it cannot be used to prove a person's identity. Further, although informational copies typically bear the exact details as regular copies, certain information on an informational copy (signatures and Social Security numbers) may be redacted.