When a baby is born in a hospital, it's the responsibility of the hospital to "register" the baby and to file for a certificate of live birth -- commonly called a birth certificate. If your baby was born in a hospital, the hospital will ask you questions and help you complete the certificate. If your baby is born outside a hospital or you give birth outside the United States, you'll need to assemble the proper documentation to register your baby and to obtain a U.S. birth certificate for your baby.
Babies Born in Hospitals
Decide on your baby's first, last and any middle names, ideally before you leave the hospital to help you complete the birth certificate. In some states, you can leave the section with the baby's name blank, but you'll need to get in touch with your state or federal Vital Records department within a specific time period, after you decide upon a name. In other states, parents must complete and sign the birth certificate before they leave the hospital. If the parents wish to change their baby's name, they can complete a new birth certificate within a specified deadline, which varies by state.
Answer the questions the health care provider asks when you complete the birth certificate in the hospital. Provide the baby's date of birth, both parents' social security numbers, facts about the pregnancy and the birth experience, and information about the baby's weight and health. If you're married, provide information about the baby's father. The Internal Revenue Service requires that all children over age 5 must have a Social Security Number if their parents are claiming them as tax deductions, so it is easiest to apply for an SSN when your baby is born. You can do this in the hospital. If the baby is to be adopted or not expected to live, you don't need to apply for an SSN for that child.
Fill out a paternity affidavit, provided by the hospital, if the baby's father is not married to you, and have the father sign it. This establishes his parentage and allows his name to be listed on the birth certificate.
Sign the birth certificate or accompanying documents before you leave the hospital.
Babies Born Outside the Hospital
Visit your state's human services department or the vital records department website to obtain instructions about the forms you need to complete and who you need to work with. Every state is different. In Oregon, the person witnessing the birth -- whether a midwife or friend or family member -- must complete the forms in a manner similar to the method used for hospital births. In Maryland, home births or births outside the hospital are registered by local health authorities. In some states you can preregister some of your information to enable the process to proceed more smoothly after the birth.
Assemble the required documentation before the birth -- if possible -- or soon after birth. In Maryland, this includes identification for each parent, two proofs of residency, such as utility bills or bank statements, a "fact of pregnancy" document from a medical provider that verifies your pregnancy status, and a "proof of delivery" statement that verifies where the birth took place.
Contact your state's health authority or vital records office for the proper forms, or set up an appointment with health officials to verify your information. If the newborn's father is not married to the mother, you'll also need to complete a paternity acknowledgement form. Your homebirth or birth center attendant can also help you locate the forms.
Submit the appropriate forms and documentation to the state registrar.
Babies Born Outside the U.S.
Contact the nearest U.S. consulate or U.S. embassy in the country where your baby was born and request an appointment to file a Consular Report of Birth Abroad.
Assemble the required documentation for your newborn, including the form DS-2029, both parents' passports, your marriage certificate -- or if you're not married -- have the U.S. father fill out form DS-5507. You'll also need any original birth certificate issued by the government in which the child was born, evidence that the U.S. citizen-parent resided in the U.S. for at least five years before the child's birth. This evidence could be W-2 forms or school transcripts. Also provide evidence of the relationship between the two parents, such as pictures.
Arrive at the consulate on time, with both parents, and provide the required documents. Pay the report fee, which was $100, as of the date of publication, and answer all questions posed regarding the nature of the birth, the baby's birth place and other pertinent information.
Things You Will Need
- Identification documents
- Proof of residence