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Vital records

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How do I apply for a copy of a vital record online?

You may request a certified copy online.

2. How do I obtain an application to request a certified copy of a vital record if I do not wish to apply online?

Informational pamphlets and copies of all California Department of Public Health-Vital Records (CDPH-VR) applications for certified copies of birth, death, marriage, or divorce certificates can be downloaded online.

3. How do I obtain a copy of my marriage certificate?

Requests for copies of marriage certificates are not handled in the same manner as requests for birth and death certificates. Please view the CDPH-VR page on obtaining copies of a marriage certificate

4. How do I add/remove the parent’s/father’s name on a birth certificate?

Please view CDPH-VR page on changing the parentage/paternity on your child's birth certificate.

5. What is the difference between a certified copy and a certified informational copy?

A certified copy can be used to establish the identity of the person named on the certificate, whereas a certified informational copy cannot be used to establish identity. Persons who are not eligible to receive a certified copy can receive a certified informational copy. Both types of documents are certified copies of the original document on file with CDPH-VR office. Depending on the exact year of event, some Certified Informational Copies will have signatures and Social Security numbers removed.  For more information, please refer to the application of the vital record you are seeking, or view the CDPH-VR page, Authorized Copy vs. Informational Copy.

6. Does the sworn statement need to be notarized?

If you are requesting a certified copy of a record via mail, you will need to provide a sworn statement and have it notarized.  If you are only requesting a certified informational copy, then you will not need to provide a sworn statement.  If you choose to go to the county recorder’s office in the county where the event occurred to apply in person, you will also not need to supply a notarized sworn statement.

7. I currently live in a foreign country and need to apply for an authorized copy of a vital record.  How can I get the sworn statement notarized?

You may seek notarization from one of the following options:

  • An Ambassador, Minister, Consul, Vice Consul or Consular Agent of the United States, or from a Judge of a Court of record having a seal in a foreign country; or,
  • A foreign notary, with an apostille attached for the foreign notarization.

For information on how to obtain an apostille, please see FAQ #20.

8. Can you check to see if a record exists before I submit an application?

No, state law requires CDPH-VR office to receive an application with the mandatory fee included before CDPH-VR can perform a search for any record.

9. Can I drop off my application in person?

No, the state Vital Records office does not have a public counter and cannot accept any in-person requests or applications.  However, most county recorder’s offices offer walk-in application services for the general public.

10. How long will it take for my application to be processed and completed?

You may view the CDPH-VR current processing times online.

11. Why does it take so long to receive a copy of my record?

Due to the high volume of incoming applications, it may take some time to receive a copy of a certificate.  Older records are not in digital or electronic format, and will require physical searches in order to locate the record.  This includes manually searching through rolls of microfiche film for individual records. 

12. Can I expedite my application? 

CDPH-VR Vital Records office cannot accommodate expedited requests. 

13. Do I have other options for obtaining a certified copy of a record?

Often, the counties may provide a faster processing time than the state office.  You may contact the county in which the event (birth, death, marriage, or divorce) occurred, for the record you are seeking.

14. How can I check the status of my request?

CDPH-VR does not have an online system set up to check the status of applications.  Please call the CDPH-VR Customer Service Unit at (916) 445-2684, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. to speak to an agent or e-mail us:

15. Why did I not get a refund for my request if no record was found by your office?

If the CDPH-VR cannot locate the record based on the information you provide, California Health and Safety Code authorizes the CDPH-VR office to retain the fee for the search itself, and will issue a Certificate of No Public Record (CNPR).

16. What is a Certificate of No Public Record (CNPR)?

A CNPR is a certified document that is issued by the CDPH-VR office, stating that no record could be located with the information provided on an application.

17. I went to the county and I applied to get a copy of my certificate, but they found no record.  Can I use the fee I paid to the county to check if your office has the record I need?

No, the CDPH-VR office is separate from the local registrars and county recorders.  Fees previously paid to these offices cannot be transferred to the CDPH-VR office.

18. I ordered my birth certificate from a private third party. Can I get my money refunded?

No, you will need to contact that third party directly.  CDPH Vital Records is not affiliated and does not work directly with any third-party entities.  CDPH-VR will not have any records or information about your request if you submitted it through a third party.

19. How do I get my birth certificate if I was born overseas but to U.S. citizens?

You will need to contact the Bureau of Consular Affairs for more information.  The following contact information is directly from their website and may be helpful:

Bureau of Consular Affairs Website
Phone: 1-877-487-2778, TDD/TTY: 1-888-874-7793
Automated Passport Information is available 24 hours, 7 days a week.
Speak with a representative Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., EST, excluding federal holidays.

Specific information about this issue can be found at:

20. How do I obtain an apostille?

Complete an application for a certified copy of the vital record you seek, and state “apostille” as the reason for “Purpose of Request”.  CDPH-VR will forward you further instructions for obtaining an apostille from the Secretary of State once this application is received.  You may also contact the Secretary of State directly for more information about apostilles.

21. I am homeless and do not have the funds to obtain a birth certificate.  Is there any assistance offered to homeless individuals?

Yes. Effective July 1, 2015, California law allows qualified homeless individuals to receive a copy of his/her birth record without a fee. Applicants must meet the requirements and complete an affidavit to receive a free copy of a birth record.

For more information about this law, see Assembly Bill (AB) 1733

22. What if I cannot find the answer to my question on this website?

Please call the CDPH-VR Customer Service Unit at (916) 445-2684, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. to speak to an agent.  You may also send your questions via mail or e-mail to:

California Department of Public Health
Vital Records – MS 5103
P.O. Box 997410
Sacramento, CA 95899-7410

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