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Obtaining Birth Certificates for Green Card Application: The Missing Manual
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Obtaining Birth Certificates for Green Card Application: The Missing Manual

Who must provide a birth certificate?

In order to obtain a green card, or Lawful Permanent Residency, the birth certificates of the applicant, sponsor, and any children must all be provided.

Obtaining birth certificates can range from trivial to nearly-impossible, and almost always takes a significant amount of time. Many 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.

Does a US citizen sponsor need to provide a birth certificate?

If the sponsor is a US citizen, he/she does not need to provide a birth certificate at the time of filing. The I-130 asks for the sponsor’s proof of citizenship, which can be a passport, certificate of naturalization, or a birth certificate. However, the USCIS asks that the sponsor brings his/her birth certificate to the interview. The interview notice may not give enough time to retrieve the sponsor’s certificate before the interview, so plan ahead.

Do I need really need to get birth certificates for all my children?

The birth certificates of any children do not need to be provided at the time of filing. However,The USCIS says that a child’s birth certificate showing the sponsor and applicant as the parents can be used as proof of a bona fide marriage. Also, the USCIS asks for the children’s certificates to be brought to the interview, regardless of whether the children are the ones applying for a green card.

What if my birth certificate isn’t available or doesn’t exist?

Your birth certificate may be unavailable or non-existent for various reasons. For example, a natural disaster may have destroyed the government office which held your records. It’s also possible that your parents did not officially register your birth for whatever reason.

If this is the case, you are to submit a ‘Certificate of Unavailability,’ which states that the document is indeed unavailable, as well as ‘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

Secondary Evidence if the applicant’s birth certificate is unavailable:

The definition of secondary evidence for applicants is country-specific. Please see the section “How do I get my Birth Certificate?” below.

Note: There are no standard for what serves as applicant’s Secondary Evidence for all countries. Any site listing a set of “acceptable Secondary Evidence,” without referring to a specific country, is spreading inaccurate and dangerous advice. Many sites, for example, assert that a baptismal certificate from a church is enough. However, there is nothing in the USCIS regulations backing up this assertion is accurate.

Secondary Evidence if the sponsor’s birth certificate is unavailable:

The standards of what constitutes Secondary Evidence for the sponsor are less stringent than for the applicant. Page 8-9 of the I-130 instructions states the following may serve as acceptable secondary evidence:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. DNA tests from an accredited testing lab (for parent-child relationships only).

If the sponsor cannot provide secondary evidence, a sworn statement from two or more individuals with knowledge of your birth place and date would suffice. (I-130 instructions page 9.

How do I get my birth certificate?

The procedures for obtaining a birth certificate varies widely, not just by country but also by the region or province. Details for the most common countries (in terms of the number of green card applicants) are listed below. If your country is not listed below, please take a look at the Visa Reciprocity and Civil Documents Guide for your country of birth.

China

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 US 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 US State Department

India

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 US 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 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 US State Department

Mexico

Starting in 2015, Mexican born individuals in the US 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.

Source:

Dominican Republic

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 US State Department

Philippines

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.

See this extremely informative article for more.

Source: Philippines Document Guide from the US State Department

Vietnam

Vietnamese-born individuals need to obtain their birth certificate from the provincial Ministry of Justice. Check out this well written article chronicling the process.

Source:

Jamaica

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

El Salvador

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

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