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April 2, 2010 9:14 PM   Subscribe

Passport help -- my birth certificate was filed more than a year after I was born. State Department says I'm staying put.

I went to apply for a passport last week and found out that apparently my birth certificate was filed more than a year after my birth. This is not acceptable to the State Department. (Cue postal working standing up, pointing at ancient sign on wall that says BIRTH CERTIFICATE MUST BE FILED WITHIN A YEAR.)

I know there are several things that I can use for evidence that I was, in fact, born when I said I was, but has anyone gone through this before? I called the hospital where I was born today and the records manager promised to look into it, but told me that records are destroyed after twenty years. (Dammit, I'm ten years too late.) There was also a newspaper story about my birth and I can hopefully get a reprint of that. My parents are willing to provide notarized affidavits, too, of course.

I talked to the State Department today and they said the more evidence, the better. But I don't have a family Bible (heathens) or circumcision certificate (wrong equipment.) Apparently I can get something from the census, but I think those guys are kind of busy right now.

Has anyone been through this before? What kind of evidence did you provide? And why oh why does the State Department have this rule in the first place?

Luckily, I'm not actually planning on a trip. I just kind of wanted a passport so I could technically be the kind of person who could depart on an international jaunt at a moment's notice.

Thanks for any help.
posted by sugarfish to Law & Government (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I had one client who did not have a birth certificate for her kid (she had him at home with no witnesses) and his birth didn't get record for quite a while after birth so she got a letter from the passport agency saying they needed more info. The main thing they seemed to want was a notarized letter from any witnesses to the birth (she didn't have any so the kid sill does not have a passport). Do any doctors, nurses, etc remember you being born? Was there a video? A baptism certificate?
posted by MsKim at 9:20 PM on April 2, 2010

The Census office has a procedure in place to request a copy of your own census record. It is apparently a common way to deal with a lack of a birth certificate. They call it an Age Search Service. They say
"Individuals can use these transcripts, which may contain information on a person’s age, sex, race, State or country of birth, and relationship to the householder, as evidence to qualify for social security and other retirement benefits, in making passport applications, to prove relationship in settling estates, in genealogy research, etc., or to satisfy other situations where a birth or other certificate may be needed but is not available."

Details and instructions is are available here.

While more documentation is better, it sounds from the Census Dept website that their documentation would be sufficient.

posted by metahawk at 9:25 PM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Well, to be honest, from what I understand the doctor was drunk. (New Year's baby.) So he probably didn't remember much from when it actually happened. Plus, it was thirty years ago. No video, no baptism. Dead grandparents who, inconveniently, left no affidavits.

I'll never see Paris.
posted by sugarfish at 9:25 PM on April 2, 2010

Here is the link.
posted by metahawk at 9:26 PM on April 2, 2010

Response by poster: Awesome, metahawk, that's super helpful. I guess I can't feel too bad about burdening the census folks if they charge a (congressionally mandated) $65 to look up my record.

Every step of this process makes me feel more and more like the FUUUUUUUU guy.
posted by sugarfish at 9:29 PM on April 2, 2010

When did your parents get you a Social Security number? (Mine didn't until I was four, but I guess they filed my birth certificate earlier than that because I got a passport with no problem using my birth certificate). Could the issue date of your SSN be enough evidence for them?
posted by ishotjr at 9:39 PM on April 2, 2010

Do you have what is known as a Delayed Birth Certificate? Because if you did, then it should list the early public records that were used to verify your birth, as well as the appropriate affidavits.

You should hunt down the newspaper article (in the microfilm of your hometown library). Also, call your first school and get those records. Were you baptized? Hunt down the doctor, too, if he's still alive. Sometimes doctors keep their own records. Your parents should do notarized affidavits NOW-- they'll almost certainly be necessary. Also, if you have any uncles or aunts who can attest to your birth, that will help too. Not "I was in the delivery room" but "I saw her when she was a baby in X year". You may also ask your parents to begin hunting for their proof of US citizenship and marriage certificate, as it might be useful.

Finally, you can escalate your application. Don't apply at the post office, apply at a regional passport office. They'll have more power and discretion.
posted by acidic at 9:43 PM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: ishotjr, I don't think I got my SSN till after my sister was born, so too late.

acidic, thanks for the 'delayed birth certificate' phrasing. It pulled up the state I where I was born, so I checked, but I don't know if that's what's going on. I have my original birth certificate and a copy because the original was hiding when I got married, and neither say anything about being delayed. Maybe just the fact that it was delayed makes it so?

I have an email in to the librarian of my hometown's newspaper. While I would, no joking, love to spend time hunting through microfilm, I live 1000+ miles away from where I grew up.

I figured I might have to try the regional passport center. When the postal worker saw that my birth certificate was filed too late, he just kept shaking his head and saying he'd never seen that before.
posted by sugarfish at 9:51 PM on April 2, 2010

Hi, there is another method here. Early childhood school records documenting attendance are acceptable.

While investigating a similiar problem, I stumbled upon it quite by accident.
posted by Funmonkey1 at 11:17 PM on April 2, 2010

I'd go another round with the State Department with all the documentation you can gather. If that fails, call your congressman's office. Passport problems are one of the more common issues they deal with, and they might just be able to get things moving for you here.
posted by zachlipton at 6:29 AM on April 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Here is the State Department's link on Secondary Evidence of US Citizenship. A Delayed Birth Certificate such as you have (i.e., not listing supporting documents) is acceptable in conjunction with Early Public Records (that list name, place of birth, date of birth, and preferably created within first 5 years of your life). Alternatively, you can submit a form DS-10: Birth Affidavit. It must be notarized, submittted in person with the DS-11, submitted with Early Public Records, completed by an affiant who has personal knowledge of birth in the U.S., state briefly how the the affiant's knowledge was acquired, and should be completed by an older blood relative.

Really, this happens more than you'd think. It's a pain in the neck, but since your parents are willing to provide affidavits you should be fine. Just go to the Passport Office where they've seen one of everything, rather than a post office with the guy who's only used to the most straight-forward cases.
posted by katemonster at 8:06 AM on April 3, 2010

I have no answer on how to get the passport in the first place, but I do have advice for once you get it. I wasn't born on U.S. soil, so I had to give them my foreign birth certificate, plus both of my parents' birth certificates. I haven't seen my birth certificate since, so I always use my passport as ID for that purpose. Once you get your passport, ALWAYS RENEW IT BEFORE IT EXPIRES. It expires every 10 years, and you actually have 12 years to renew. Even if you never plan on seeing Paris again, get the thing renewed so you never have to go through this again.
posted by wwartorff at 9:03 AM on April 3, 2010

One of the counters to the Obama birthers is the notice of his birth published in a Hawaii newspaper. You might find yourself via Newspaperarchive (involves a fee). Or contact the library in the area where you were born. They'll have the paper on microfilm and probably the capability to print from microfilm. If you're not nearby they'll mail you a print for a small fee, probably.
posted by beagle at 9:24 AM on April 3, 2010

Once you get your passport, ALWAYS RENEW IT BEFORE IT you never have to go through this again.

That used to be a problem, but now not so much. Just last month, Mrs Jones let hers lapse and was able to get a new one on the basis of the old one alone. The State Department does say, however, that some countries want your passport to age six months before they let you in, so, yeah, best to renew before expiration when possible.

See here for relevant section.

(Good luck with this. Acquaintance of mine had to go through this with the added problem of being adopted and barred by law from access to her birth certificate. She did get it resolved, though I forget the details.)
posted by IndigoJones at 9:32 AM on April 3, 2010

There may be a very simple way around this based on Dinger's Variable Idiocy theorem. The theorem states that in any monstrous bureaucracy, some drones are less idiotic than others. You have to find the right drone.

When I was in the Air Force, some personnel worker inadvertently changed my birthday. You see, (using fictitious examples) the military lists dates thusly: 7 March 1962, or 7/3/62. Since my "new" birthday was July 3rd, it was obvious that someone had just transposed the first two numbers. When I asked them to change it back, they said I needed to bring in my birth certificate. I didn't have one at the time. No amount of pleading or appealing to reason would change their minds.

Now, I was an aquaintance of the Personnel Officer at the base, and her husband was a fellow pilot and good friend. I decided to handle this gentleman to lady. I approached her in the bar one night, bought her a drink, gradually steered the conversation around to the subject of my amended birthday, and asked her, pretty please, just between you and me, old buddy, can't we change my birthday back to the real one? "No problem", she replied, "just bring in a birth certificate."

I gave up. My new "military" birthday, I supposed, was no better or worse than the old one, so I decided to just live with it. A year later, when I went in for my annual records review, there was a young new face in the personnel office. He asked me if my records appeared to be in order, and I said yes, except for the incorrect birthday which I'd tried to correct but had given up on. He took one look and said, "Well, it's obvious what happened. Someone just transposed the first two digits. Let's fix that right this minute." Bingo.

You need to go to a different Post Office or a passport office, possibly more than once. Eventually you will find the rational, level headed needle in the bureaucratic haystack. Good luck.
posted by dinger at 5:34 AM on April 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

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