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Replace Your Vital Records

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How to Replace Lost or Stolen ID Cards 

Rules for replacing government-issued ID cards vary. Many require you to show an official document, like your birth certificate. This proves your identity or citizenship. 

Replace a Driver’s License or State ID Card

Contact your state motor vehicle agency for a replacement license or state ID card.

Replace a Social Security Card

Visit the Social Security Administration website to replace your card online, by mail, or in person

Replace a Medicare Card 

Request a replacement online with your my Social Security account. Or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227 TTY 1-877-486-2048).

Replace a Medicaid Card

Contact your state Medicaid office to get a replacement.

Replace a U.S. Passport

Report your lost or stolen passport to the State Department. Then request a replacement in person.

Replace a Permanent Resident (Green) Card

Apply through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to replace your Green Card.

Replace a Federal Employee or Contractor ID Card

Notify your supervisor, your agency’s security office, and the IT service desk if your federal employee or contractor ID was lost or stolen.  

Replace a Military ID Card

Report the missing card to your unit security officer. Then find an ID Card office and make an appointment.

Vital Records Issued in the United States

Vital records consist of birth, death, marriage, and divorce certificates. State government vital records offices issue these documents. To get a copy of a vital record, contact the vital records office in the state where the event occurred.

Get a Copy of Your Birth Certificate

As a U.S. citizen, your birth certificate may be your most important document. It proves your identity and age. You'll need it to:

  • Apply for a passport or government benefits

  • Enroll in school

  • Join the military

  • Claim pension or insurance benefits

If you need a copy, where you were born will determine how to get it.

Birth Certificate Copies: Born in the U.S.

Contact the vital records office in the state or territory where you were born to get a copy of your birth certificate. Follow the instructions for requesting copies and paying fees. If you need a copy fast, ask about expedited service or shipping when you place your order.

Birth Certificate Copies: Americans Born Abroad

If you were born to American parents abroad, they should have registered your birth with the country's U.S. embassy or consulate. If they did, they would have received a Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA). You can get a copy of this report from the U.S. Department of State. Depending on the country, a vital records office in the nation may also list the birth.

What if the State Department  cannot locate your CRBA? If  you were born on a military base abroad, your parents might not have registered your birth with the U.S. embassy. In that case, you may have to contact the hospital where you were born. 

Birth Certificate Copies: Born Abroad and Adopted by U.S. Parents

If you were born in a foreign country and adopted by a U.S. citizen, you would not have received a U.S. birth certificate. The country in which you were born would have issued one. To get a copy, contact the nearest foreign embassy or consulate for that country. If you need an authenticated copy and it's not in English, ask the embassy for help to get it translated.

If you were adopted from another country by a U.S. citizen, you should have copies of your naturalization/citizenship papers. If you don't, submit an application for the replacement of a naturalization/citizenship document. For help, contact U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

How to Get a Copy of a Marriage Certificate or a Marriage License

A marriage license legally allows you to marry. A marriage certificate proves you got married. How you get copies depends on whether you married in the U.S. or abroad.

Married in the U.S.: How to Get a Certified Copy of a Marriage Certificate

Contact the state vital records office. They may direct you to the clerk of the city or county where the license was issued or to another local office. They will tell you the cost, what information you need to supply, and if you can  get a copy online, by mail, or in person.

How to Get a Copy of a Marriage License

County governments issue marriage licenses. It may be a clerk of court, probate court, or a marriage license department that issues them. Contact the county government where you'll be married to apply for a license.

  • Most marriage licenses expire within 30 days to a year, depending on the issuing state.

  • If yours expires or gets lost before you get married, apply for a new one.

Married Abroad: How to Get Marriage Records

Contact the embassy or consulate of the country where the marriage took place. Its staff will help you get a certified copy of the foreign marriage document.

The State Department has documents on file confirming marriages that:

  • Occurred before November 9, 1989

  • A U.S. consular officer witnessed

If those facts apply, contact the State Department to get a copy of the Certificate of Witness to Marriage Abroad.

How to Get a Certified Copy of a Death Certificate

Many organizations require a certified copy of the death certificate when someone dies. How you get copies depends on whether the person died in the U.S. or abroad.

Death in the U.S.: How to Get a Certified Copy of a Death Certificate

Contact the vital records office of the state where the death occurred to learn:

  • How to order a certified copy of a  death certificate online, by mail, or in person
  • How to get a copy fast
  • The cost for each certified copy

You will need to know the date and place of death. The state may also ask for other details about the person, how you are related to them, or why you want the certificate.

When to Use a Certified Copy or a Photocopy

You will need to purchase a certified copy of the death certificate for tasks such as:

  • Notifying the Social Security Administration and other government agencies
  • Closing or transferring credit cards and bank accounts
  • Claiming a person’s life insurance or pension

You may only need a photocopy for other tasks, such as canceling a subscription. Check with the agency or organization handling each account. 

Death of a U.S. Citizen Abroad: How to Get Death Records

When a U.S. citizen dies in another country, the U.S. embassy or consulate should get a death certificate or notification from the foreign government. It will then issue a Consular Report of Death Abroad (CRDA). Use the CRDA in the U.S. as proof of death for closing accounts and handling legal tasks.

  • You can get up to 20 certified copies at the time of death for free.

Divorce Decrees and Certificates

A divorce decree is an official document from the court that grants the termination of a marriage. It includes specific details of the divorce.

A divorce certificate is issued by a state vital records office. It shows that a divorce occurred but not all the same information as a divorce decree. You can save time and money by determining which document you need before requesting a copy.

U.S. Divorces

How to Get a Copy of a Divorce Decree

Contact the "county clerk's office" or "clerk of the court" for the county or city where the divorce occurred.

How to Get a Copy of a Divorce Certificate

Contact the vital records office of the state where the divorce occurred.

Overseas Divorces

If the divorce occurred in another country and you're in the U.S., contact that country's embassy or nearest consulate. They can tell you how to get a copy of the divorce decree.

United States law does not require U.S. citizens to register a foreign divorce decree at an embassy. But if the country in which your divorce took place is a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Authentication of Documents, you may bring your divorce decree to a U.S. embassy or consulate to have it certified.

How to Find Adoption Records

Once an adoption is finalized, the state seals all records to protect the privacy of all involved parties. To obtain adoption records, adopted persons must make arrangements through state agencies. Find out what records are available and how to obtain them.

Contact a State Agency to Obtain Adoption Records

You may be able to get identifying or non-identifying information about your adoption. What information you can obtain will depend on state statutes. Some states have age restrictions or require court proceedings to get information about an adoptee’s birth.

Non-identifying information includes:

  • The adoptee’s birth date and place of birth
  • The birth parents’:
    • Ages
    • Physical descriptions
    • Race
    • Religion
    • Medical history
    • Education 
    • Occupations 
  • Siblings’ gender, age, and other non-identifying information depending on the state
  • The reason why the child was put up for adoption

Identifying information includes:

  • Current or past names
  • Addresses
  • Employment history

By searching the Child Welfare Information Gateway, you can find out which state agency to contact to get adoption records.

Access Adoption Records Through Consent

In some states, you may be able to access identifying information through a mutual consent registry. Using these registries, all involved in an adoption can declare what information may be disclosed. Some states may require the consent of both the birth parents and adoptive parents for the release of records. However, the release of information varies by state.

If your state does not maintain a mutual consent registry, there are other ways to obtain records through consent. Public or private agencies can locate birth parents in some states. When an agency contacts birth parents, they can find out identifying information through:  

  • Confidential Intermediary System ‐ The court gives permission to a court-certified confidential intermediary. This permission grants them access to sealed adoption records. They can also contact the birth parents to obtain consent for the release of identifying information.
  • Affidavit System - Birth parents can officially file their consent or refusal to be identified or contacted.

Use the Child Welfare Information Gateway to find out about how your state allows access to your adoption records.

Obtain an Original Birth Certificate

When an adoption is finalized, the state issues a new birth certificate to the adoptive parents. The adoptee’s original birth certificate is then sealed and kept confidential by the state’s vital records department. Half the states in the U.S. require a court order to unseal an original birth certificate. However, many states allow access to original birth certificates through: 

  • A request from the adult adoptee 
  • A request by the adoptee unless the birth parent filed an affidavit denying access 
  • Establishment of eligibility to obtain identifying information with the state
  • A record of consent from both birth parents

Find out how to obtain original birth certificates in different states.

Obtain International Adoption Records

When either the adoptee or the birth parents live outside the U.S., International Social Service USA (ISS-USA) can help both search for one another. The organization offers assistance with adoption-related cases in over 120 countries.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has forms that can assist with international adoptions. Form G-884 can be used to request original immigration documents.

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Last Updated: July 8, 2022