If you were born in one of the five boroughs of New York City (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, or Staten Island), most likely, the original birth certificate you have will qualify for the legalization by an apostille or foreign embassy if it was issued by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (short form or long form, recent or old, with a letter of exemplification or without an exemplification letter). To make sure your document is eligible, please email a copy for a free evaluation. Then, mail the original document for legalization / apostille.
New York apostilles and legalization: a few useful tips
Notarized copies of birth certificates are not acceptable! In fact, New York notaries by law cannot notarize copies of vital records.
Copies certified as true copies by the document custodian (you) are not acceptable! You do need the original document.
Some foreign countries require that certified copies of birth certificates are recent, e.g. were issued within the last six or twelve months.
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If you have an original birth certificate eligible for an apostille or legalization please mail it to us and we will be happy to assist you with obtaining an apostille or legalization by a foreign embassy.
What is a "certified copy" of the birth certificate?
A certified copy is an official copy of the document issued by a vital records office and guaranteed to be a true and exact copy of the original document kept on file in this office. Upon request, the Vital Records office of the respective Department of Health will issue a certified copy of a vital record. In most cases, certified copies bear the Seal of the Department of Health, the signature of the state official (e.g. the commissioner of Health or the State Registrar) and the statement that the document is in fact a true and correct copy of the original document kept in the files of Vital Records office.
What is the difference between short and long form birth certificates? Are both forms eligible for apostille/legalization?
Short forms, known sometimes as computer certifications: limited information is taken from the original birth record (the long form) and stored in the database that can be accessed quickly when the birth certificates are needed in a short amount of time. Whereas the long form is a copy of the actual birth certificate, a short form is a document that certifies the existence of such certificate, and is usually titled a "Certification of Birth" or "Certificate of Birth Registration". The short form typicllay includes the child's name, date of birth, sex, and place of birth, although some also include the names of the child's parents.
Long form, also known as certified photocopies, vault copies, book copies, and photostat copies, are exact photocopies of the original birth record that was prepared by the hospital of attending physician at the time of the child's birth. The long form usually includes parents' information (address of residence, race, birth place, date of birth, etc.), additional information on the child's birthplace, and the information on the doctor(s) that assisted in the birth of the child. The long form also usually includes the signature of the doctor involved and at least one of the parents.
For most purposes, either short or long form birth certificate will be sufficient. However, sometimes the receiving authorities specifically require a long form birth certificate.
If you were born within the five boroughs of New York City, you first option is to apply in person or mail the request to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene at 125 Worth Street, New York, NY, 10013.
You will not be able to get a long form birth certificate over the counter. It will be mailed to you within two-three weeks. Short form birth certificates can be obtained over the counter.
Your second option is to use a private online service called VitalCheck that is the only agent authorized by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to assist you with the retrieval of your birth certificate. When ordering, you must specify that the purpose of your request is APOSTILLE/AUTHENTICATION. Then, most likely, you will get your birth certificate with a Letter of Exemplification. VitalCheck works OK, they also mail documents to foreign countries.
What is a letter of exemplification?
A Letter of exemplification is a page attached to a New York City long form birth certificate. It is hand-signed by a Deputy City Registrar and attests that the attached birth certificate is a true copy of the actual record. Read more about exemplification letters...
Exemplification letters can only be attached to the NYC long form birth certificates at the time a certified copy is issued. You cannot request a Letter of exemplification separately.
No, it is not true. New City birth certificates can be apostilled / legalized with or without an Exemplification letter.
As of now, a Letter of exemplification is not required for apostille / legalization purposes. If you received your birth certificate with a Letter of exemplification, wonderful! It will be legalized in accordance with the standard procedure, first by the County Clerk's office in New York City, and then by an apostille or foreign certificate / embassy. If however, your birth certificate came without a Letter of exemplification, do not despair! A different procedure will be used. Thankfully, there is a court in New York that can authenticate the signature of the City Registrar (present or former) directly, without a Letter of exemplification. After that, the document will be apostilled or legalized by a foreign embassy according to the standard procedure.
A few consulates (e.g. the Italian consulate) specifically require that you submit a long form birth certificate with a Letter of exemplification. Please follow the consulate requirements. However, if a Letter of exemplification is not specifically required (like in 99% of the cases), your birth certificate can be apostilled / legalized without it.
Short form birth certificate ("Certification of Birth") signed by City Registrar Stephen P. Schwarz. These birth certificates are acceptable regardless of the year when they were issued provided they are original. NO EXEMPLIFICATION LETTER IS REQUIRED FOR APOSTILLE/ LEGALIZATION PURPOSES.
Long form birth certificate ("Certificate of birth") signed by City Registrar Stephen P. Schwarz, with an Exemplification letter signed by Deputy City Registrar.
Long form birth certificate signed by former City Registrar Irene A. Scanlon. NO EXEMPLIFICATION LETTER IS REQUIRED FOR APOSTILLE/ LEGALIZATION PURPOSES.
Long form birth certificate ("Certificate of birth") signed by City Registrar Stephen P. Schwarz. These birth certificates are acceptable regardless of the year when they were issued provided they are original. NO EXEMPLIFICATION LETTER IS REQUIRED FOR APOSTILLE/ LEGALIZATION PURPOSES.
Older long form birth certificate ("Certificate of birth"), pink or yellow in color, signed by City Registrar Stephen P. Schwarz. NO EXEMPLIFICATION LETTER IS REQUIRED FOR APOSTILLE/ LEGALIZATION PURPOSES.
Short form birth certificate ("Certification of Birth") signed by former City Registrar Irene A. Scanlon. NO EXEMPLIFICATION LETTER IS REQUIRED FOR APOSTILLE/ LEGALIZATION PURPOSES.
You were born in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, or Staten Island, and you birth certificate looks different? It might be acceptable. Please email a scanned copy for a free evaluation.