Birth Certificates: Long-form vs Short-form

Everyone's got a birth certificate, but not everyone knows about the different types. This brief guide should help you to understand the differences between short-form and long-form birth certificates.

What’s one thing we all have in common? We were all born. Hopefully, anyway. And when we’re born, we’re given a birth certificate for our parents to keep and cherish. They’re a cute memento of the happiest day of your parent’s lives.

But did you know there are two different types of birth certificate? There are short-form certificates and long-form (also known as full, or A4) certificates. If you ever need your birth certificate for documentation purposes, you might need to know the difference. Luckily for you, you’ve found this article.

Short-form Birth Certificates

You might also hear a short-form certificate referred to as an ‘abridged’ certificate. The one your mum’s got will probably be short-form. They were traditionally given out for free to parents after a birth, and are lovely little keepsakes. Unfortunately, though, from a legal point of view, that’s where the benefits end. When I asked Debi, the office certificates’ expert, about short-form certificates I was told in no uncertain terms that ‘they aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.’ So that’s that.

A short-form certificate generally only shows:

  • Name and surname
  • Sex
  • Date of birth
  • Place of birth

Which is fine for your parent’s keepsake. But legally, if you ever need your birth certificate as documentation, they won’t do. In fact, in an effort to combat illegal immigration, they’re being phased out. Instead, you’ll need a full birth certificate – a long-form one.

Long-form (full) Birth Certificates

A long-form birth certificate is a certificate of many names. You might hear it referred to as a long-form certificate, a full certificate, or an A4 certificate. They all mean the same thing, though, and they’re really useful from a legal point of view. They contain the same information as short-form certificates, but with some essential additions.

A long-form birth certificate shows:

  • Name and surname
  • Sex
  • Date of birth
  • Place of birth
  • Mother’s details
  • Father (or second parent’s) details
  • Address of the person registering the birth

If the father (or second parent) isn’t known or identified at the time of birth, then only the mother will be named. You can re-register the birth certificate later to add the father’s name.

Since full birth certificates include your parent’s details, they can be used to prove your nationality, so you can use them to apply for ancestral visas. They’re also valid for passport applications, and can be helpful for employment purposes. Basically, if you need a birth certificate for any official purposes or documentation, you’ll need a long-form one. If you don’t have one, you can get one here.

An easy way to think of the difference is to imagine you want to know what happens in a book. If you go on Wikipedia and read a plot summary (shame on you), that’s like a short-form certificate. It’ll tell you the basics, but it’ll miss out a lot of exciting parts. If you read the whole book, it’s like a long-form certificate. It’ll tell you everything you need to know, and you’re a lot more qualified to talk about it.

  • You get a choice now! I’d obviously recommend choosing the long-form one. Unfortunately, you have to pay. It costs £11 either way.

  • Don’t panic – they’re easy enough to replace. We offer an efficient, time-saving service that can get you a replacement birth certificate – check it out here.

  • No, they don’t tend to. In multiple births, such as twins or triplets, then the time may be included. If not, but you really want to know, ask your mum! I’m sure she’ll remember.

  • There isn’t one. They might be referred to by a number of names – A4, long-form, full or unabridged. They’re all the same thing, though!

  • Short-form certificates were traditionally given following a birth. If you need one, you can get a full birth certificate here.

  • I wouldn’t go that far! They’re nice to have. But legally, yeah, they’re pretty useless.

If you have any more questions about birth certificates, you can get in touch with us through live chat, text us on WhatsApp at +44 (0)7561 031947 or you can ring us on +44 (0)330 088 1142! Our dedicated team is always willing to do what we can to help you.

Declan Ramsden
Declan Ramsden

Declan is a Content Creator at Vital Consular. He studied English Literature for 4 years before joining the company. Outside of work, he enjoys listening to retro music and reading classic novels – particularly Charles Dickens!

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