General FAQs

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Why do I need a Birth Certificate?

A Birth Certificate is one of the most important vital documents that any person should have and will be required at several points through a person’s life.  The general purpose a Birth Certificate serves is to identify a person.  The document tells the person's name, date of birth and where they were born.  A Birth Certificate also serves as basic proof of citizenship and is often required as identification for government services or applying for other personal documents.  Because a Birth Certificate is such a valuable document, it should always be kept in a safe place where it can be easily accessed when needed.  It is highly recommended that you do not carry your Birth Certificate in your wallet or purse as thousands of certificates are reported lost or stolen every month.

A Birth Certificate is required to identify children when they enrol at a new school.  This may be important when registering for kindergarten or if a family moves to a new district.

If a person desires to travel outside of the country, he must have a valid passport.  Birth Certificates are required to identify the traveler in order to obtain a passport.

Social Security Card
A Birth Certificate contains the required information necessary to obtain a social security card.  If a card is lost or stolen, a certified copy of the Birth Certificate is needed to get a replacement.

Driver’s Licence
When someone wishes to be issued a driver's license, a Birth Certificate is usually one of the forms of identification required to complete the process and gain the privileges of a licensed driver.  

What is the new security enhanced Birth Certificate?

Created by the Vital Statistics Council for Canada (VSCC) in conjunction with forensic document experts from the RCMP, Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Canadian Passport Office, Canada Border Services Agency and the Canadian Bank Note Company Ltd., the new Canadian Birth Certificates will be one of the most secure documents in the world.

On December 3, 2007, Nova Scotia was the first province or territory in Canada to introduce the new, more secure and durable Birth Certificate.  Since then, 7 other Canadian provinces followed suit, including Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Newfoundland & Labrador, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Saskatchewan.

The new Birth Certificate is made from a strong polymer material and has more than 20 visible and concealed security features to help prevent identity theft.

Experts in identity theft discourage carrying a Birth Certificate in a purse or wallet. The size of the new certificate is 12.5 cm wide x 17.6 cm high, which makes carrying it in a wallet or purse prohibitive.  Although the wallet size Birth Certificate is no longer available in these 8 provinces, individuals may still choose to include or exclude parental information.

People born in these 8 provinces are not required to obtain a new Birth Certificate as the old ones remain valid.  However, in some instances, where identity security is of utmost importance, citizens may be asked by other agencies to provide the new more secure document as proof of identity or citizenship.  Vital Statistics agencies will not exchange previous certificates free of charge. 

How do I order a first time Birth Certificate?

1.   Click "Select Certificate Type" or "Get It Now" button on home page.  Follow the prompts to select the proper certificate and Province/Territory you were born in.

2.   Click the "Apply Online" button.

3.   Complete the information on the Online Application which will guide you through several Steps and pay using your credit card.

4.   You will receive an order confirmation email from us within an hour.  We will then go on to process your application according to the service option you have chosen.  If there are any problems with your application, a representative will contact you via email with the required corrections.

5.   Your Birth Certificate will either arrive in the mail, or by courier, depending on the service option chosen.

How do I order a replacement Birth Certificate?

You may order a replacement Birth Certificate in the same way as a first time Birth Certificate (see above).  The application is the same for both types of orders.

How much does a Birth Certificate cost and how can I pay?

Birth Certificates range in price according to the Province or Territory, whether you want a Short Form or Long Form version, as well as the service option chosen on the order form.  The only payment currently accepted is credit card (Visa and MasterCard).

How long will it take to receive my Birth Certificate?

Birth Certificate processing times range according to the Province or Territory, as well as the service option chosen on the order form. 

What if I need a Birth Certificate in a hurry?

Each Birth Certificate application (except for Newfoundland & Labrador, Northwest Territories and Nunavut) have both a Regular Service and a Rush Service option.  If you require your Birth Certificate urgently, please check off the Rush Service option. 

Who issues Birth Certificates in Canada?

Birth Certificates can only be issued by the provincial government. They are not issued or recorded federally, as they are in many other countries. 

Why doesn’t Canada have a national Birth Certificate?

Canada, unlike most countries today, does not have a national Birth Certificate.  Each Province and Territory is expected to maintain its own vital statistics database.  The hospital records the birth of a new child and sends the information to either the municipal government as in Ontario, or a provincial Registrar as in Québec.  It is a system not easily comprehended by citizens.  Having the Federal government in charge of Birth Certificates would appear to be a more rational system.  So why is that not the case?

It is through historical circumstances that Canada does not have a national Birth Certificate policy.  Births were typically registered with local parishes serving small municipalities. That is why the municipal government still acts as an intermediary between a new born child and the provincial government.  It is only recently that the role of the church as record keeper of important events such as births, deaths, and marriages has been taken over by the provincial government.

On October 24, 2001, Joseph Facal, a Québec Minister, announced that all Birth Certificates issued before 1994 in the province be made void.  All Birth Certificates must now be handled by the Registrar of Civil Status.  Moving Birth Certificate administration to the provincial level is good, but many argue that Canada should ultimately make the federal government responsible for the handling of Birth Certificates. 

How will my Birth Certificate be sent to me?

Your Birth Certificate will be sent to you directly from the Provincial Vital Statistics Agency.  It will either arrive in the mail, or by courier, depending on the service option chosen on the order form. 

How do I find the status of my application?

If you are following up on the status of an already ordered certificate, as the applicant, you will need to contact the government agency directly.  They will only discuss the status of the application with the applicant.  The contact information for the government agencies can be found on your order receipt or below.

Government Agency Contact Numbers

Telephone: 780-415-2225 

British Columbia
Toll Free: 1-800-663-8328 (BC only)
Telephone: 250-952-2681 

Toll Free: 1-800-282-8069 (Manitoba only)
Telephone: 204-945-3701 

New Brunswick
Telephone: 506-453-2385 

Newfoundland & Labrador
Telephone: 709-729-3308 

Northwest Territories
Toll Free: 1-800-661-0830
Telephone: 867-777-7400 

Nova Scotia
Toll Free: 1-877-848-2578 (Nova Scotia only)
Telephone: 902-424-4381 

Toll Free: 1-800-661-0833
Telephone: 867-645-8002 

Toll Free: 1-800-461-2156 (Ontario only)
Telephone: 416-325-8305 

Prince Edward Island
Toll Free: 1-877-320-1253 (PEI only)
Telephone: 902-838-0880 

Telephone: 418-643-3900 

Toll Free: 1-855-347-5465

What is the difference between Short Form and Long Form Birth Certificates?

A Short Form Birth Certificate contains less information than a Long Form Birth Certificate and is smaller in size.  It will contain basic information regarding the child’s birth, but does not show the names of the child’s parents.

A Long Form Birth Certificate contains more information than a Short Form Birth Certificate and is larger in size.  It will contain the name of the child and the names of both parents.  If only one parent was declared, then it will show the child's name & the mother's name.

Although a Short Form Birth Certificate is a valid legal document, most government agencies prefer the Long Form Birth Certificate as identification as it contains more information concerning your identity, especially in the case of children/minors. 

What is a Photocopy of Registration?

A Photocopy of Registration is a certified photocopy of the original Registration of Birth, completed at the time of birth.  It contains all the information appearing on the Registration of Birth and is usually required for legal purposes.  Photocopies are rarely needed by citizens and are, by law, for restricted use only.  They are not recommended for use as identification.  A restricted photocopy can only be issued if authorized by the Registrar General of Vital Statistics or on the order of a court. 

What if I am uncertain of my date of birth?

Birth Certificates are issued using the information from the original Registration of Birth, completed at the time of birth.  If you are not certain of your date of birth, some Provinces give you the option of ordering a search letter.  A search letter only states that according to the Vital Statistics office, an event either is or is not recorded in a range of years provided.  No actual information is provided or confirmed.  In other Provinces where search letters are not available for order, you are required to fill out your estimated date of birth on the Birth Certificate application.  If a record cannot be found, a search will automatically be carried out and the applicant will be notified. 

Can I obtain a Birth Certificate for a birth that occurred a long time ago?

Most Vital Statistics offices hold complete birth records dating back to the mid-to-late 1800’s, when civil registration began in that particular Province.  Effective January 1, 2003, The Vital Statistics Act was proclaimed providing unrestricted access to birth records that are more than 100 years ago.  These unrestricted birth records are then transferred to the provincial Archives and are input into a database available for searching.  However, Vital Statistics offices caution that not everything in the original record has been transcribed.  To get all of the details, it is necessary to order a copy of the original document.  Also, the information which was collected has varied over the years, with more recent records containing more details than those which are older.  For example, Vital Statistics offices have some incomplete church records that date further back than their civil registration records, which their staff may be able to search if the applicant knows the denomination of the person whose birth record they are seeking. 

Who is entitled to apply for a Birth Certificate?

Eligibility requirements vary by Province or Territory.  Please select a Province or Territory where the birth occurred to confirm whether you are eligible to apply on behalf of another person. 

What should I do in the event that my Birth Certificate is lost or stolen?

You may complete a Declaration of Lost or Stolen Birth Certificate form.  The filing of this Declaration provides the authority for the cancellation of a certificate under Section 40.1 (2) (c) of the Vital Statistics Act.  This service is provided free of charge.

It is important to note the use of a lost or stolen Birth Certificate by another individual cannot be prevented by the Vital Statistics Agency.  However, Vital Statistics does electronically verify Birth Certificate information with programs such as ICBC.  In the event a verification request is received, Vital Statistics will notify them the certificate is invalid.

You may also wish to contact the local police to report your lost certificate in the event it has been turned in, or if you suspect you have been a victim of identity theft.  Contact RCMP PhoneBusters at 1-888-495-8501. 

If I have a French name, should I include the accents on my application?

Yes.  If the birth record contains any French accents on the registered names, please ensure they are clearly displayed on the Birth Certificate application form. 

Can I exclude my parents’ names from my Birth Certificate?

Yes.  You may choose to order a Short Form Birth Certificate which excludes the names of your parents on the document. 

Can I make an amendment to a Birth Certificate?

Yes.  Occasionally birth records need to be amended, when an error has been made or for another reason.  The process for getting information changed on a Birth Certificate in Canada differs between the 13 Provinces and Territories. You will want to contact the Vital Statistics office in the province where the birth took place in order to make an amendment.  You will generally be required to pay a prescribed fee to have the Birth Certificate amended.  Also, be aware that in most cases, the original birth record will be kept on file, as well as the changes made.

Adding Biological Father’s Name
One of the most common amendments made to Birth Certificates is the addition of a father's name to a record previously lacking this information.  Generally, this process requires writing a statement detailing the change you wish to have made to the Birth Certificate.  If the mother and father both agree to the change, they should sign this letter and deliver it to the vital records office.  Some Provinces or Territories may require the parents to appear in person.  If he father does not agree to amend the Birth Certificate with his name, you will need to obtain legal proof of paternity.  This generally involves a DNA test if the mother and father were not married at the time of the child's birth.  The mother may have to obtain a court order if the proposed father refuses to voluntarily submit to testing.

Adding Adopted Father’s Name
To add a man’s name to the Birth Certificate which is not the biological father, you will be required to obtain a legal report of adoption.  If the mother and her husband wish to have his name added to the Birth Certificate, this will likely require permission of the biological father (if known) and sometimes requires a court order.  It may be necessary to have the biological father's paternity rights terminated.

Changing Your Last Name after Marriage
If you are getting married, you have the option of changing you name legally, or you can simply assume your spouse’s last name, or combine both of your last names into a hyphenated last name.  The benefit of assuming a married name instead of doing a legal name change is that it does not change your last name on your Birth Certificate.  Later, if you wish to use your own last name again, it is already on your Birth Certificate and you won’t have to pay to change it back.

Legally Changing a Child’s Name
To formally and legally change a child’s name, the child must be under the age of 18 and depending on the Province, have met a residency requirement prior to submitting the application.  When you change a child’s name, you will be issued a Change of Name Certificate with their new legal name(s) as well as a new Birth Certificate.

Correcting Errors on a Birth Certificate
Misspellings and incorrect data on a Birth Certificate can affect many other crucial documents.  Drivers' Licences, Social Insurance cards, Passports and other government-issued documents rely on a Birth Certificate to verify information.  If that information is incorrect, it can cause all the other documents to have incorrect data as well. You can find the correct forms to file a change at your Provincial registrar’s office.  Ask the clerk to explain the process and provide you with all the appropriate forms.  The documents and actions needed to fix an error will depend on the type of error made.  Most misspellings can be changed with paperwork and supporting documentation (i.e. marriage licence, school enrolment papers, employment records, etc.).  Errors that involve the time, date or name of parents might require a court order and/or paperwork from the delivering doctor or nurse.  A notary must sign and stamp all of the forms. 

Can I laminate my Birth Certificate?

No.  You cannot laminate your Birth Certificate yourself because it will render it invalid. However some provinces, like Ontario, used to laminate certificates before the 1980s, and providing the provincial government laminated the document it remains valid. Today many provinces now issue laminated wallet sized Birth Certificates. 

Can I travel to the United States using only my Birth Certificate?

No.  This used to be possible, but under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, a Canadian Birth Certificate is no longer considered valid proof of identity when traveling between Canada and the United States.  Children in school parties can still use their Birth Certificates, but anyone else planning to cross the border must have a valid travel document like a Canadian passport, enhanced driver’s licence or a NEXUS card. 

Can I get a Canadian Passport without my Birth Certificate?

No.  If you were born in Canada, you need your Canadian Birth Certificate to obtain a Canadian Passport.  In extremely rare exceptions will this rule not apply. 

Is it possible for my child to travel before he is registered?

Yes.  If your newborn is required to travel before the birth is registered, you may obtain a Temporary Confirmation of Birth Letter through the city clerks’ office in the municipality in which the baby was born.  You may travel using this document for up to 90 days after the date you submitted the Statement of Live Birth document.

At least one parent must appear in person and provide identification to obtain a Temporary Confirmation of Birth Letter. There may be fees for this service, which are set and collected by individual municipalities. 

Does my Birth Certificate expire?

No.  Birth Certificates do not expire as long as they remain in good physical condition.