UK Birth Certificates vs US Birth Certificates

You never really give your birth certificate much thought until you actually need to use it. Don't get caught off guard - learn everything you need to know about US and UK birth certificates here!

Roll up, roll up, we’re about to witness the bout out of the century. In the blue corner we have UK birth certificates, in the red we have US birth certificates. Which is better? There’s only one way to find out… FIGHT!

No, I’m joking. Birth certificates can’t fight, don’t be silly. If they did, UK would win, but that’s by the by. This is just a comparison. It’s something that we’ve been asked about quite often, so I thought I’d outline the differences in a nice article. You’re welcome!

UK Birth Certificates

I’ve actually already written a post about UK birth certificates – you can read it here. I love shameless self-promotion. If you can’t be bothered reading that (wow, ok) I’ll just give you a quick overview now. There’s two types of UK birth certificate – short-form and long-form, each containing different information.

Short-form

  • Name of child
  • Sex
  • Date of birth
  • Place of birth

Long-form

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

Most people tend to have short-form certificates because they were the ones hospitals used to give out. They’re nice little keepsakes for your parents, but legally they’re a bit useless. If you need your birth certificate for anything official, like a passport, you’ll need a long-form one. If you do need a certificate for legal reasons, we can sort that out stress-free for you – visit our site today. Since long-form certificates contain information about the parents, they’re also useful for applying for ancestral visas. In short, long-form is best, and if you ever need a birth certificate for legal reasons, it’ll have to be long-form.

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Long-form certificates have a number of names. You might hear them called long-form certificates, full certificates or A4 certificates, but they’re all the same thing.

US Birth Certificates

US birth certificates are pretty similar to UK birth certificates, actually. You’ve got two types again, but in the US these are called informational and certified birth certificates (sometimes a certified certificate might be referred to as an authorized certificate, too). Every different state, county and sometimes even city in America has a different style of birth certificate, but they all contain more or less the same information and serve the same purpose.

Informational

  • Name of child
  • Sex
  • Date (and time) of birth
  • City, county, or state of birth
  • Parent’s names

Certified

  • Name of child
  • Sex
  • Date (and time) of birth
  • City, county, or state of birth
  • Parent’s full name and birthdays
  • Parent’s birth locations
  • If the birth was single/twins/multiple
  • City, county or state seal

Each US birth certificate also comes with a free bald eagle and monster truck (this may not be 100% true). Informational US birth certificates are basically just the same as UK short-form ones. They’re cute mementos from the hospital, but you can’t use them for legal reasons. They can, however, be used for genealogical research so they’re alright for looking into your family tree. It’s worth noting that pretty much anyone can apply for an informational copy of your birth certificate. They’re on public record, so anyone who knows the specifics of your birth can apply for a copy. Don’t worry though – as they’re pretty much useless legally and there’s nothing nefarious anyone can do with it.

The certified certificate contains more information and can be used in a legal capacity. For example, if you want to apply for a driving licence or passport you’ll need your certified certificate. When you’re enrolling your child at school you’ll need to provide theirs. If you need a birth certificate in any official capacity, you’ll need a certified one, basically. The key thing that makes a birth certificate certified is the seal. It might be raised, embossed, multi-coloured – don’t know. It differs for every state, county or city. But it will be noticeable, and if there’s no seal, it’s not certified, and you won’t be able to use it for legal stuff.

Because you can use them legally, only certain people can apply for them:

  • The person on the certificate
  • An immediate family member or guardian
  • A legal representative of the certificate holder
  • A government employee on official business

So you don’t have to worry about anyone robbing your identity. Phew. Nice try, Mr Ripley.

Oh, and just to confuse you, in the US they’ve also got a ‘Certificate of Live Birth’ that’s different from a birth certificate, so try not to get them mixed up – even though they sound like the same thing. And they both have ‘birth’ and ‘certificate’ in the name. And you’re given them following a birth. You know what, I’m just going to explain how they’re different.

UK birth certificate being filled in
*Not an accurate representation of a woman who’s just been through labour filling in the Certificate of Live Birth. Probably.*

Certificate of Live Birth

Not to be confused with a birth certificate, despite being a certificate issued at a birth, in the US there’s also a ‘Certificate of Live Birth’. They’re normally filled in by the father or attending nurses immediately following the birth. They’re basically the first draft of a birth certificate, but with a lot more medical information for the hospital’s records. I’m not joking when I say there’s a lot more information, and some of it seems quite personal. Would you want to ask a woman who’s just gone through labour how much she weighs? Cos I certainly wouldn’t. Have a nosy at a form here if you want – I was pretty shocked by how intrusive it is.

My offended sensibilities aside, a Certificate of Live Birth is filled in following a birth and then submitted to the hospital’s records. Once that’s been submitted, they’ll then issue a ‘regular’ birth certificate – either an informational or certified one (check for the seal if you aren’t sure which). You’ll be given both a copy of the Certificate of Live Birth and a birth certificate – but for official purposes, you’ll only need a certified birth certificate.

Quick Recap

I think that’s more or less everything. UK birth certificates and US birth certificates are actually really similar, although I suppose you’ve got to ask yourself how different one birth certificate can be from another. There’s two types of each, one longer and more useful, one shorter and not so useful. The Americans like to confuse us by having different styles of certificates in different states and counties, but essentially they’re all the same thing. A Certificate of Live Birth is different from a birth certificate – it’s used for the hospital’s data entry, whereas a certified birth certificate is used for legal reasons. An informational birth certificate can be used for genealogical research.

Remember – if you’re from the UK and need a copy of your birth certificate, we can sort it for you here at Vital Certificates – just visit our website for more information! If there’s anything else we can help you with, you can get in touch with us through live chat, text us on WhatsApp at +44 (0)7561 031947 or ring us on +44 (0)330 088 1142. We’re a dedicated, friendly bunch and we’ll do what we can to help!

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Declan Ramsden

Declan is an Apprentice Content Creator at Vital Consular, which means he’s learning the ins and outs of blog writing! 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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