A birth certificate is a vital record that documents the birth of a child. The term "birth certificate" can refer to either the original document certifying the circumstances of the birth or to a certified copy of or representation of the ensuing registration of that birth. Depending on the jurisdiction, a record of birth might or might not contain verification of the event by such as a midwife or doctor. The actual record of birth is stored with a government agency. That agency will issue certified copies or representations of the original birth record upon request, which can be used to apply for government benefits, such as passports. The certification is signed and/or sealed by the registrar or other custodian of birth records, who is commissioned by the government.
There are two types of birth certificates issued:
In the U.S., the issuance of birth certificates is a function of the Vital Records Office of the states, capital district, territories and former territories. Birth in the U.S. establishes automatic eligibility for American citizenship, so a birth certificate from a local authority is commonly provided to the federal government to obtain a US passport. However, the U.S. State Department does issue a Consular Report of Birth Abroad for children born to U.S. citizens (who are also eligible for citizenship), including births on military bases in foreign territory
Most hospitals in the U.S. issue a souvenir birth certificate, which may include the footprints of the newborn. However, these birth certificates are not legally accepted as proof of age or citizenship, and are frequently rejected by the Bureau of Consular Affairs during passport applications. Many Americans believe the souvenir records to be their official birth certificates, when in reality they hold little legal value. In most cases only certified copies can be used for apostille or embassy legalization.
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