In order to obtain a green card, or Lawful Permanent Residency, the applicant, the sponsor, and the applicant’s children all need to provide their birth certificates to the U.S. government.
Obtaining birth certificates can range from trivial to nearly-impossible, and almost always takes a significant amount of time. Some countries require you to physically travel to the province of your birth in order to obtain the document. Therefore, GreenCardHero recommend that you start as early as possible, as it is likely to be the trickiest document to obtain for everyone involved.
Below, we will explain in great detail how to obtain the right birth certificate for everyone. Let’s begin!
How to Get Birth Certificates for:
Green Card Sponsor:
What if a birth certificate is unavailable or does not exist?
USCIS Form I-485 (the adjustment of status form of a green card application) requires applicants to submit a photocopy of their birth certificate. USCIS will only accept a long-form birth certificate which lists at least one parent.
For each country, the U.S. government has specific guidelines on what types of birth certificates are acceptable. The requirements vary widely, not just by country but also by the region or province.
Below we will walk through how to get a birth certificate from eight common countries, and also how to get it from the rest of the world.
Chinese born individuals need to obtain a Notarized Certificate (Gōngzhèng shū, 公证书). This is distinct and completely separate from the “Birth certificate” (Chūshēng zhèngmíng shū, 出生证明书) or medical certificate of birth (Chūshēng yīxué zhèngmíng, 出生医学证明), which is not the officially recognized document recognized by the U.S. government.
In order to obtain the Notarized Certificate, you (or someone on your behalf) must go to the Local Notary Public Office (Gōngzhèng chù, 公证处) and present documents including:
- The Birth certificate or medical certificate of birth,
- Your family’s household registration book (Hùkǒu bù, 户口簿)
- Your National ID card
- A copy of your passport, if you are abroad
- Documentation of both parents’ identification. If deceased, death certificates are required.
If you elect to have a representative apply for your Notarized Certificate on your behalf, you may be asked to provide a picture of yourself holding your national ID card.
Source: China Document Guide from the U.S. State Department
Obtaining an Indian birth certificate requires that you or a family member physically apply at the correct local office. The office may be a municipal corporation (Nagar Nigam) in urban areas, the Tahsildar office in rural areas, or the Gram Panchayat office in villages. The procedures and time required to receive the certificate will vary.
Note that birth certificates offered by the Indian Embassy and Consulate Generals in the U.S. cannot be used to satisfy USCIS requirements. Specifically:
The Consulate does not attest any document issued by authorities in India. If any document issued by authorities in India (such as birth and death certificates…) are required to be presented to authorities in USA, these should be apostilled in India.
(Above quote is from the Consulate General in Chicago, but all other Consulates have similar notices. By the way, “attest” and “apostille” both means to certify as true.)
Also note that India did not issue birth certificates prior to January 1, 1970. If you were born before this date, you do not have to provide any proof-of-birth with your application.
If the birth certificate is unavailable, some acceptable Secondary Evidence include:
- School-leaving Certificate (document provided to students when they cease attending a particular school, be it public or private),
- Matriculation Certificate,
- Certificate of Recognized Boards from the school last attended by the applicant
Source: India Document Guide from the U.S. State Department
Starting in 2015, Mexican born individuals in the U.S. are able to obtain certified copies of their birth certificate from the Mexican Embassy in Washington D.C. or any Consulate General throughout the United States. The consulate charges $13 per copy. Please consult the website of your nearest consulate general for details.
Alternatively, certificates can be obtained from the Oficinas de Registro Civil of the state where you were born. Since records of birth are considered public information in Mexico, anyone (you, a family member, or a friend) who knows the basic information of your birth can go to the office and obtain the certificate.
- Mexico Document Guide from the U.S. State Department
- Issuance of certified copies of Mexican birth certificates at Consulates of Mexico
- How to get a birth certificate for Mexican nationals (PDF). This is from 2014, before Consulates started issuing birth certificates. However, its details on how to obtain a certificate locally is still accurate.
Dominican-born individuals obtain a certified birth certificate in person or by mail. If you are in the country, visit the Civil Registry Office of the region you were born. To have your certificate mailed to you, see the Directorate of Civil Registry Offices of the Republic (Dirección General de las Oficialías del Estado Civil de la República) website for directions.
Note: The Dominican Republic offers a long form and short form certificate. Obtain the long form, as it contains more information.
Source: Dominican Republic Document Guide from the U.S. State Department
Individuals born in the Philippines may obtain their birth certificate online from PSA Serbilis. It will cost roughly USD 20. If you are in the Philippines, the certificate will be delivered within 2 weeks. For other countries, it may take 6-8 weeks. Alternatively, you can visit a local Census Serbilis center and have your document same-day.
For more instructions, check out this detailed article.
Source: Philippines Document Guide from the U.S. State Department
Vietnamese-born individuals need to obtain their birth certificate from the provincial Ministry of Justice. Check out this detailed article chronicling the process.
Jamaican-born individuals can request a certified copy of their certificate from the Register General’s Department website. Alternatively, copies can be obtained in person at the Local District Registrar in the province of your birth.
Source: Jamaica Document Guide from the State Department
Salvadoran birth certificate must be obtained in-person, either by you or a representative, at the Family Registry (Registro del Estado Familiar) in your city of village of birth.
Source: El Salvador Document Guide from the State Department
You can find the requirements for an acceptable birth certificate from your country using the Department of State Document Finder tool. Select your country from the left-hand-side list in the tool, and then scroll down to the section called “Birth, Death, Burial Certificates”.
Does a green card sponsor need to provide a birth certificate?
The answer is yes. The sponsor’s birth certificate is optional at the time of filing the green card application, but is required at the green card interview later.
When filing the green card application,if the sponsor is a U.S. citizen, Form I-130 asks for the sponsor’s proof of citizenship, which can be either a passport, certificate of naturalization, or a birth certificate. So the birth certificate is optional. However, the USCIS asks that the sponsor brings his/her birth certificate to the interview. So the sponsor’s birth certificate is required at the interview.
We recommend that you obtain the sponsor’s birth certificate ahead of time. Don’t wait until the interview notice arrives before taking action, since there may not be enough time to obtain the certificate between when the interview notice arrives and the actual interview date.
How to obtain the sponsor’s birth certificate?
The procedure of the sponsor’s birth certificate differs depending on whether he/she was born inside or outside the U.S:
Born Inside the U.S.
You should have been issued a birth certificate by a civil registrar, vital statistics office, or other civil authority at the time of birth showing you were born in the United States. If you cannot find your birth certificate, learn how to obtain a replacement at usa.gov
Born Outside the U.S.
You can obtain your birth certificate the same way the applicants do. We explain it in detail in the applicant section.
For the Applicant’s Children
Do I really need to get birth certificates for all my children?
The answer is yes. The children’s birth certificates are optional at the time of filing the green card application, but are required at the green card interview later.
When filing the green card application, Form I-130 says a child’s birth certificate showing the sponsor and applicant as the parents can be used as proof of a bona fide marriage. So the child’s birth certificate is optional. However, the USCIS asks that the applicant to bring his/her children’s birth certificates to the interview, regardless of whether the children are the ones applying for a green card So the children’s birth certificates are required at the interview.
We recommend that you obtain the children’s birth certificates ahead of time. Don’t wait until the interview notice arrives before taking action, since there may not be enough time to obtain the certificates between when the interview notice arrives and the actual interview date.
How to obtain children’s birth certificates?
Children born in the U.S.
Your child should have been issued a birth certificate by a civil registrar, vital statistics office, or other civil authority at the time of birth showing the child was born in the United States. If you cannot find the birth certificate, learn how to obtain a replacement at usa.gov
Children born abroad
You can obtain the child’s birth certificate the same way applicants do. We explain it in detail in the applicant section.
What if a birth certificate isn’t available or doesn’t exist?
A birth certificate may be unavailable or non-existent for various reasons. For example, birth certificates may be known to be unavailable or nonexistent in your country, or a natural disaster may have destroyed the government office which held your records, or your parents did not officially register your birth for whatever reason.
If birth certificates are known to be unavailable or nonexistent in your country, you do not need to do anything to prove that your birth certificate is unavailable or nonexistent.
How can you find out? Look up your country of birth on the U.S. Department of State Document Finder. It will tell you whether birth certificates are known to be unavailable or nonexistent in your country.
If that’s not your case, you will need to submit two documents in place of a birth certificate:
First, a ‘Certificate of Unavailability,’ which states that the document is indeed unavailable or does not exist.
Second, an acceptable alternative evidence of birth (called a ‘Secondary Evidence’ of your birth records).
A Certificate of Unavailability is a document from a civil authority on official government letterhead which:
- Establishes the nonexistence or unavailability of the document;
- Indicates the reason the record does not exist; and
- Indicates whether similar records for the time and place are available.
Source: USCIS Policy Manual 7.a.4
The acceptable secondary evidence is different depending on your situation. We will explain it in detail next:
Secondary evidence if the applicant’s birth certificate is unavailable:
If the U.S. Department of State Document Finder tool does not show that birth certificates from your country of birth are generally unavailable or nonexistent, in addition to submitting a “Certificate of Unavailability”, you must submit other acceptable evidence relating to the facts of your birth, such as church or school records, hospital or medical records, personal affidavits, or similar evidence.
Source: USCIS Form I-485 Page 9
Secondary evidence if the sponsor’s birth certificate is unavailable:
The requirements differ based on the sponsor’s place of birth:
If the sponsor was born in the U.S:
In this situation, in addition to submitting a “Certificate of Unavailability”, you must also submit secondary evidence, which may include one or more of the following records listed below. Page 8-9 of the I-130 instructions states the following may serve as acceptable secondary evidence:
- Religious record: A copy of a document bearing the seal of the religious organization showing that the baptism, dedication, or comparable rite occurred within two months after birth, and showing the date and place of the child’s birth, date of the religious ceremony, and the names of the child’s parents.
- School record: A letter from the authority (preferably the first school attended) showing the date of admission to the school, the child’s date of birth or age at that time, place of birth, and the names of the parents.
- Census record: State or Federal census records showing the names, place of birth, date of birth, or the age of the person listed.
- DNA tests from an accredited testing lab (for parent-child relationships only).
If records like those described above are not available, then you may submit two or more written statements from individuals who were living at the time and who have personal knowledge of the event you are trying to prove, such as the date and place of birth, marriage, or death. The individuals making the written statements do not have to be U.S. citizens. Each written statement must contain the following information regarding the individual making the written statement: his or her full name, address, date and place of birth, full information concerning the event, and complete details explaining how the individual acquired personal knowledge of the event. Finally, each individual’s written statement must include the following declaration, “I declare (or certify, verify, or state) under penalty of perjury under the laws of the United States of America that the foregoing is true and correct. Executed on [date], [signature].”
(I-130 instructions page 9.)
If the sponsor was born outside the U.S:
The USCIS does not specify requirements for this case. You may consider reference the USCIS requirements for applicants.
If a child’s birth certificate is unavailable or does not exist:
The USCIS does not specify requirements for this case. You may consider reference the USCIS requirements for applicants if the child was born abroad, or reference the requirements for sponsors if the child was born in the U.S.
Translate foreign document
If you submit a document with information in a foreign language, you must also submit a full English translation. The translator must sign a certification that the English language translation is complete and accurate, and that he or she is competent to translate from the foreign language into English. The certification must include the translator’s signature. USCIS recommends the certification contain the translator’s printed name and the date and the translator’s contact information.
If you apply with GreenCardHero, make sure to check out our template for the translation certification.
You do not need to pay for a professional translation service to translate the birth certification. For example, a friend who is competent to translate can satisfy the requirement.