A Pennsylvania certificate of birth, sometimes referred to as a vital record, is usually the first legal document state residents receive after being born. Birth certificates are needed to show proof of identity on a number of applications, making it important to hold onto the document for life. A birth certificate usually serves as an individual’s primary identification when applying for other forms of ID and for government programs. In the event a resident’s original birth certificate is lost or damaged, it is important to obtain a copy as soon as possible. A duplicate birth certificate document can be obtained from the Division of Vital Records (DVR) of the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Pennsylvania birth record documents are indexed from the year 1906 through the present. Learn about obtaining certified birth certificate documents, including how to order birth certificate copies when original papers have been misplaced or damaged, by reading the sections below.
Why You Need a Pennsylvania Birth Certificate
Since Pennsylvania birth certificates are official documents that contain your legal name and birth date, your birth certificate is usually needed on any application that requires you to prove your identity. Vital records such as birth certificates are the preferred form of primary identification in certain situations, such as when applying for a first drivers license. Note that many applications will only accept a certified birth certificate rather than an unofficial copy. You may need to show a certified PA birth certificate when completing the following procedures:
- Applying for a PA drivers license
- Applying for a marriage license
- Performing a legal name change with the Social Security Administration
- Obtaining a passport
- Signing up for school, sports or the military
Who can order birth certificate copies in Pennsylvania?
Birth records in Pennsylvania become a matter of public record after a certain period of time has passed. However, a birth certificate copy can only be obtained by certain people until that time has passed. Applicants may obtain birth certificate documentation before it becomes public record if they are immediate family members or legal representatives of the named registrant. In Pennsylvania, applicants can obtain a private birth record if they are:
- The person named on the record.
- An attorney, other legal representative or have power of attorney.
- A sibling or half sibling.
- A parent, child, grandparent, great grandparent, grandchild or great grandchild.
- A stepparent, stepsibling or stepchild.
How to Apply for a Birth Certificate in Pennsylvania
You may apply for a PA birth certificate by mail, over the phone, in person or online. No matter which birth certificate ordering method you use, you will need to provide certain identifying information about yourself and the birth record in question. If the person on the birth certificate is deceased, then a death certificate must be presented. Similarly, if the person you are requesting birth records for is related to you through marriage, then marriage documents must be presented to show your legal relationship to the person.
Regardless of your relationship to the person named on the PA birth certificate, you will need to provide:
- Your name, address and contact information.
- The date and location where the birth took place.
- The mother’s and father’s names.
- Your photo ID or driver’s license card number.
- An application fee.
To apply for birth certificates by phone, you can call the Pennsylvania DVR and be prepared to provide the information listed above. However, requesting a vital record over the phone can prove problematic if you are hard of hearing or have language barriers. To submit a birth certificate form by mail, you can send the completed document to the Division of Vital Records address. Sending a birth record application by mail though can take several weeks to process and return, making the mail-in option an inconvenient method if you need records in a timely manner. You may also submit birth certificate requests in person at a Pennsylvania DVR location. Birth certificates are available at DVR public offices in the cities of Erie, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Scranton and Philadelphia. At the office, you may fill out a birth certificate form that you must submit along with a payment. If you choose to apply for birth records in person though, you should know you may only have certain business days and hours available to do so.
You cannot get a PA birth certificate online directly from the DVR.
How to Obtain Pennsylvania Birth Certificates Under Other Circumstances
Pennsylvania birth certificates may be available under a number of special circumstances. First, PA vital records may also be accessed for genealogical information by people who are not immediate family members. However, birth certificates needed for genealogy information can only be obtained after the records become public record. It is also important to note that the DVR does not maintain records prior to the year 1906. Birth records from earlier years must be obtained from a Pennsylvania County Courthouse where the event took place. Second, if applicants do not have all the information needed on the birth certificate form, then they may request a multi-year search. The DVR can perform a search when applicants do not know the birth year, exact spellings for the names on the certificate or the location where the birth took place.