Go to main navigation
735 Bishop Street, Suite 402, Honolulu, Hawaii 96813
Call Today 866-468-5811 866-468-5811

Is Your Birth Certificate Really Unavailable? How to Find Out and What to Do If it Is

As applicants for permanent residency learn, a birth certificate with their date and place of birth and parents names reflected on the document is required for adjustment of status or immigrant visa processing at a consular post. While a copy of the birth certificate is sufficient for adjustment of his or her, originals are required for consular processing. Often a foreign national believes that his or her birth certificate is not available or that an original cannot be procured from the embassy or home country. How can you find out if your birth certificate really is unavailable and what can you do.

First, the State Department maintains a list of countries and the availability of documents in a particular country. Its Visa Reciprocity and Country Documents Finder can be found at https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/fees/reciprocity-by-country.html Both the National Visa Center (for consular processed green cards) and USCIS (for adjustment of status) use this reciprocity table to determine whether an applicant has gathered the minimum documents required for an adjudication. If the table says a document is unavailable in the country, then the foreign national does not need to obtain it. However, a copy of the reciprocity table should be included with the filing and its unavailability should be so noted in the cover letter.

If, however, the reciprocity table says that birth certificates are available or possibly available, the applicant must try to get it and such efforts should be documented in an affidavit for inclusion in the filing as well as the actual paper trail of such efforts. The applicant, for example, should explore whether the document can be obtained through friends, relatives, at an embassy, or even online or mail.

If a good-faith attempt to comply with the instructions was made and the birth certificate is still unavailable, then try to retrieve “secondary” evidence of the birth. This includes third-party, neutral records of the information required on the birth certificate often contained in government records, school records, baptismal certificates, medical records, hospital certificates, or entries in the family Bible or Koran. Again, document and describe in an affidavit all attempts to find these sources, successful or not. If the applicant cannot document “secondary” evidence, then prepare affidavits from people with direct knowledge of the birth. USCIS regulations require two affidavits. The very best person, if still alive, is the mother; next best is the father. Next is someone attending the birth. Then, relatives or friends alive at the time of the birth with general knowledge of the accepted details of the birth but who were not physically present at the birth. Least persuasive is a younger relative or family friend who only has word of mouth knowledge of the details of the birth, obtained long after the event.

While USCIS will often issue a request for additional evidence if sufficient birth documentation is not provided in the context of adjustment of status, for consular processed cases, the NVC will send a checklist letter to the petitioner or agent indicating what document is lacking or what changes are needed. If an applicant is unable to provide a required document listed on the reciprocity table, the applicant should provide a statement to that effect for inclusion in the case file in lieu of the document, as detailed above. The NVC will then send the case file to the post for the adjudication process. At that point, the consular officer will determine if a document is considered unobtainable and whether to permit the applicant to submit other satisfactory evidence in lieu of such document or record.