Frequently Asked Questions

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Does the Vital Records Office offer expedited service?

No. Due to the unique nature of our records, we cannot provide expedited service. The Vital Records Office does not create new records. We can only provide official copies of records including Consular Reports of Birth Abroad, Consular Reports of Death Abroad, Certificate of Witness to Marriage Abroad, and Panama Canal Zone Birth Certificates, that are on file with the U.S. Department of State. Consular Reports of Birth Abroad created prior to November 1, 1990 may require an in-depth, manual search at the Federal Records Center. A manual search can take months to complete.

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Can I ask the Vital Records Office to check for my records via phone call or email?

No. Due to Privacy Act requirements, the Vital Records Office can only issue physical records after receiving:

  • A physical, notarized request
  • Fees for the service you are requesting
  • Photocopies of necessary IDs
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Can I ask the Vital Records Office to email an electronic copy of my records?

No. Due to Privacy Act requirements, the Vital Records Office can only issue physical records.

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My request has been delivered to the mailing address on your website. Why isn’t my case in the system yet?

All requests are delivered to our mailing facility in Sterling, Virginia, where they go through a security screening before being forwarded to our office. This process takes 7-10 business days.

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Should I laminate my record?

No. Laminating your document will invalidate it because it will destroy crucial security and authentication features.

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Should I make photocopies of my record?

Yes. We recommend that you make high-quality photocopies of your records (ex. Consular Reports of Birth Abroad, U.S. passport data page etc.) and store them in safe places in case of emergency.

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Is there a deadline to report my birth or my child’s birth overseas to create a Consular Report of Birth Abroad?

Yes. Currently, the birth of a U.S. citizen overseas must be reported to a U.S embassy or U.S. consulate before the child’s 18th birthday. Prior to November 1990, a Consular Report of Birth Abroad must have been issued by a U.S. embassy or U.S. consulate before the child’s 5th birthday.

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Can I report the death of a U.S. citizen (or U.S. national) overseas to the Vital Records Office?

No. A Consular Report of Death Abroad can only be created overseas at a U.S. embassy or U.S. consulate in the country the citizen died.

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Is a Panama Canal Zone birth certificate evidence of U.S. citizenship?

No. People born in the former Panama Canal Zone did not automatically acquire U.S. citizenship at birth. A Panama Canal Zone birth certificate can be submitted to apply for a U.S. passport. In addition to a Panama Canal Zone birth certificate, an applicant will also need to submit evidence of their parents U.S. citizenship (ex. birth certificate from a U.S. state or territory, U.S. passport, naturalization certificate, etc.) to fully document their claim to U.S. citizenship.

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Is a U.S. passport proof of U.S. citizenship?

Yes. A current, full-validity U.S. passport is proof of U.S. citizenship similar to a Consular Report of Birth Abroad or a Certificate of Naturalization or Citizenship.

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I was born overseas. Should I have a U.S. passport?

Yes. We suggest that you always maintain a fully-valid U.S. passport as proof of your citizenship and identity.

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I was born in a U.S. territory (Puerto Rico, Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands, Northern Marianas Islands, or American Samoa). Is this the correct office to contact for my birth record?

No. If you were born in a U.S. territory, you must contact the vital records office in your U.S. territory to obtain your birth certificate.

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Is a U.S. military base overseas considered U.S. territory?

No. While the U.S. military base may be controlled by the U.S. military via agreement with the host country, the land remains the sovereign territory of the host country.

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I was born on a U.S. military base overseas. Did I automatically acquire U.S. citizenship at birth?

No. A U.S. military base overseas is not considered U.S. territory. Your claim to U.S. citizenship must be documented in the same way as any other U.S. citizen born overseas. If you are outside the United States, you need to apply for a Consular Report of Birth Abroad or a U.S. passport at a U.S. embassy or U.S. consulate. Inside the United States, you need to apply for a U.S. passport or a Certificate of Citizenship from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

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I’m a Legal Permanent Resident (Green Card Holder). Can I have a Consular Report of Birth Abroad?

No. Consular Reports of Birth Abroad can only be issued to U.S. citizens (or U.S. nationals) who acquired their status at birth, via documented relationship to U.S. citizen (or U.S. national) parents.

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I am a naturalized U.S. citizen. Can I have a Consular Report of Birth Abroad?

No. Consular Reports of Birth Abroad can only be issued to U.S. citizens who acquired their status at birth, via documented relationship to U.S. citizen parents.

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What is a U.S. national?

U.S. national is a special status under U.S. law for people born in American Samoa and Swains Island. U.S. nationals born in American Samoa or Swains Island are not U.S. citizens. U.S. nationals can apply to be naturalized and gain U.S. citizenship.

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My parents are U.S. nationals (born in American Samoa or Swains Island). Can I have a Consular Report of Birth Abroad?

Yes. Consular Reports of Birth Abroad can be issued to U.S. nationals who acquired their status at birth, via documented relationship to U.S. national parents.