What Does A Birth Certificate Look Like?

Last Updated on May 11, 2022 by Fair Punishment Team

hether you are a new parent, applying for a driver’s license or enrolling in school, you are likely to need the most important document in your life: your birth certificate.

We explore what a birth certificate looks like and how to get one.

Uses For Birth Certificates

Before we find out what a birth certificate should include, we take a brief look at some of the times when you need a birth certificate to prove your identity. These include:

  • Joining the military
  • Claiming pension benefits or insurance
  • Enrolling in school
  • Getting your driver’s license
  • Applying for a passport
  • Getting a replacement social security card
  • Applying for government benefits

What Is A Birth Certificate?

In the United States, a birth certificate is an official document issued by the government to register the birth of a child. 

Together with the times when you need to prove your identity, your birth certificate is also used for official purposes, such as the census, military and tax purposes, as well as other important state statistics.

Generally, your birth certificate is one of the very first legal documents you are issued in your life. 

Types Of Birth Certificates

There are a couple of different types of birth certificates accepted in the United States although their legal status varies. 

Some states only issue long form birth certificates, while others also provide short form birth certificates (or also called heirloom birth certificates).

Long Form Birth Certificates

Long Form Birth Certificates, also known as Official Birth Certificates, are the standard form of accepted birth certificate. 

This document contains all the legal information to establish proof of your citizenship and identity.

Short Form Birth Certificates

Short Form Birth Certificates are issued only by some states across the US. They generally have no legal validity, and that’s why they are sometimes called an “abstract” as they only contain some of the certificate holder’s information.

Certificate Of Live Birth Vs Birth Certificate

In addition to the different amount of information provided to apply for a birth certificate, there are two main government-issued documents that new parents need.

Certificate Of Live Birth

The Certificate of Live Birth registers that the baby was medically alive at the time of their birth. 

This is the standard form that is filled out when a baby is born in the United States. The document is then submitted to the state in order to receive a birth certificate.

The Certificate of Live Birth contains information including:

  • The date of birth
  • The baby’s name
  • The parents’ names
  • The attending doctors’ names
  • The hospital where the baby was born
  • The name of the person completing the birth record
  • The baby’s gender, race, weight, and other health conditions

It’s important that new parents check this information carefully before it’s submitted to the state and the hospital database. 

You will need to correct any errors before the official birth certificate is issued. 

What Does A Birth Certificate Look Like?

Birth Certificate

On the Certificate of Live Birth has been presented to the authorities, the birth of the baby will be officially recorded, and a birth certificate issued.

The official US birth certificate verifies the citizen’s identity, citizenship, age, place and date of birth, as well as their parent’s name.

The information for every citizen must remain on file at the local vital records office where the birth occurred. 

What Does A US Birth Certificate Look Like?

Understanding what an official birth certificate issued by the government looks like isn’t as easy in the United States as it is in some other countries.

This is mainly due to the fact that, while the US does have a standard application form which needs to be filled out when a child is born, there is no federal or national birth registry.

This means that as long as each state, county and municipality follows federal guidelines on the information printed on its birth certificates, they are free to create their own birth certificate documents for their citizen.

Over the years, this has led to many varying formats. According to the National Center for Health Statistic, there are as many as 14,000 different types of birth certificates currently in the USA.

How To Get A Baby Birth Certificate?

For new parents, the hospital will provide the forms for a birth certificate before you are discharged. Usually a nurse or midwife will help you fill everything out.

If you give birth in a birthing center or at home, your midwife will also have the forms on hand. 

As parents, you need to provide details, such as social security numbers, full name, maiden name, as well as proof of identification and a mailing address. 

You will have to pay a small fee for the birth certificate, which is usually between $15 and $30.

If you don’t file for a birth certificate in hospital, you can find out the exact costs, address and instructions on how to obtain a birth certificate in your state on the National Center for Health Statistics website.

For parents who haven’t agreed on a name for their baby yet, the child’s last name doesn’t have to be the same as the mother or father.

The child’s full name can be changed within the first six months of filling for the birth certificate without providing a reason. This can be especially useful when you are not sure if your child should have a double-barrel last name.

How Long Does It Take To Get a Birth Certificate?

As mentioned already, while there is a standard form for the birth certificate application, what your birth certificate will look like depends entirely on where you live. This can also impact how long it takes to receive your birth certificate.

Usually, once you filled out all the paperwork for the birth certificate and sent the form off, you should receive the birth certificate in the mail within a few weeks. 

How To Make Changes In A Birth Certificate?

Although the state, county and municipality where your child’s birth certificate was originally issued has the ability to make changes per request, each vital records office also has its own protocols to make these changes possible.

Therefore, the regulations on what can be changed on a birth certificate and for what reasons vary widely.

Commonly, if a birth certificate contains an error, it can be as easy as ringing up your state vital records office to a small correction.

However, changes to gender and names can be much more difficult. Most states already have laws in place that allow for name corrections, but not every state has a law which allows you to change gender.

It’s best to ring your issuing vital records office to ask any questions and find out whether you can make changes to your birth certificate, and how long this would take.


The birth certificate is probably the most important government-issued document in our lifetime. 

Whether we want to apply to a university, join the military or apply for a social security card replacement, we need our birth certificate throughout our life to prove our identity, citizenship and other essential information.