Birth Certificate for an American Baby: My Top Tips

Birth Certificate, my story.

I am by no means an expert, but I have been through the process of obtaining a birth certificate twice now, and in my sleep-deprived state, I will attempt to give you a few of the tips I’ve learned.

Before the baby...

Before the baby…

My boys, born two years apart, were also born in different counties. The youngest born this year in San Francisco City/County, and the eldest in 2013 in San Mateo county. As an expectant mom, this was one of the things I had researched somewhere in my second trimester, around the same time I was meticulously packing my hospital bag with all sorts of unnecessary items…(the hospital gives you a lot of what you’ll need in those first few days).  As it turns out, getting the birth certificate for your little one is pretty simple. The hospital admin staff know that you have other things on your mind after the baby is born, so they hound you with paperwork until you complete it. Among these forms is one that they pass on to the county, to register your baby’s birth. You have to complete this after you have a name and before you leave the hospital. (They say that if you can’t decide on a name you can fill in additional paperwork, and still be allowed to leave, but this sounds like a lot of hassle, so I advise you to choose a name before you and baby are discharged.)

So what can you do?

Step one – you decide on a name and fill out the paperwork in the hospital.

Step two – take the baby home, enjoy cuddles, and sleepless nights.

Step three – Four months down the line remember that you haven’t actually gotten the kid’s birth certificate yet, and take steps to do so.

Step four – Find the website for your local county clerk office, (the place in charge of issuing birth certificates):

We’ve done that for you here:

An American Baby needs a Birth Certificate

Bringing baby home…

Most counties have the option to get a birth certificate by mail, or in person. Santa Clara even has an online option. In most cases, if you go in person, both parents must be present and provide ID, (another reason to do this sooner than later – it can be a nice little trip, while you and your partner are on parental leave.) We went in person to the San Mateo office to get our first son’s birth certificate. It was simple and quick, probably 20 minutes total, not at all like visiting the Department of Motor Vehicles! The certificates were produced right then (I suggest getting two or three) and there was no appointment needed. The office was easy to find, not far from Hillsdale Mall.

My second son was born in San Francisco County, and we did not fancy a trip into the center of the city with two kids in tow, to pick up a few pieces of paper, so I obtained his birth certificate through the mail. I completed a simple form, downloaded from their site (see above), and filled it in. The only extra step was having to get the form notarized, but this was easy enough at our local UPS store, and only cost about $10.  I sent all the paperwork off and got the certificates back within a week. I experienced a slight delay because I sent a check, which they don’t accept. Someone from the office called to inform me, and I was able to give a credit card over the phone. Obviously, use caution when giving credit card information over the phone. I verified a few details before I did so.

Why do you need a birth certificate?

Obtaining a birth certificate is the first step in getting your child an American passport. YES – being born in America automatically entitles your child to an American passport and citizenship. You will also need the birth certificate when enrolling your child in school, sports etc later in life.

Now you have a Birth certificate, it’s time to get baby a passport:

About Michelle Laker

A California native; I spent 10 years living, studying, working, (and falling in love) in the United Kingdom. I returned to the Bay Area in 2011, with my British husband in tow. I am re-adjusting to life in the bay, feeling more like an expat than a local. I have spent my career working with international student & families. I love learning about other cultures, languages, and traditions. My desire to welcome newcomers, and help you make the most of your new life in the Bay Area comes from the unforgettable memories (and mistakes) I made during my time in the United Kingdom. If you've just arrived, and don't know where to start, email me ( I am happy to help!

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