How Can I Apply for a Passport if I Don't Have a U.S. Birth Certificate?

A Birth Certificate Makes it Easier, But It's Not Impossible Without

U.S. Passport on table
••• Jerome Tisne/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Today, we're talking about passports and how to get your hands on one if you don't have access to your birth certificate.

While sending off a birth certificate is the preferred method of proving your U.S. citizenship during the application process -- after all, that's the one thing everyone who is a U.S. citizen should have -- there are also alternatives to help you prove your nationality, so there's no need to panic if you don't have your birth certificate.

This article covers the different ways you can apply for your passport, as well as what you should do if you are a U.S. citizen, but was born outside of the United States.  

What You Will Need if You do Not Have a Certified Birth Certificate

A Letter of No Record

A Letter of No Record is issued by the State and includes your name, date of birth, which years were searched for a birth record and the fact that there is no birth certificate on file for you. It's basically proof that there's no record of your birth in the United States, and you'll need to send this off with your passport application.

In order to get a Letter of No Record, you'll need to speak to the government of the state in which you were born, and get in touch with their Department of Vital Statistics -- this is the only department who will be able to issue this letter. They'll be able to search their database to see if your birth is on record.

If not, they'll provide you with a Letter of No Record. You can expect this process to take about a week in total.

As many of the following as possible:

Once you've received your Letter of No Record, it's time to start gathering additional documentation as evidence of your citizenship. These documents are referred to as Early Public Records.

Here's the full list of what you can use: 

  • Baptismal certificate with the Church's seal
  • Hospital birth certificate with the baby's footprints on and your parents' names on it
  • Certified adoption decree
  • State or Federal Census records
  • Early school records
  • Family bible record
  • Medical record of post-natal care

Make sure that these documents are early public records that show your name, the date and place of your birth, and that they were created within the first five years of your life.

You may also submit an Affidavit of Birth form numbered DS-10 from an older blood relative, i.e.: a parent, aunt, uncle or sibling who has "personal knowledge" of your birth. It must be notarized or show the seal and signature of the acceptance agent.

You Can Also Use a Delayed Birth Certificate

Instead of a Letter of No Record, you may be able to apply for a Delayed U.S. Birth Certificate.

This is a birth certificate that is filed more than one year after your date of birth. You'll be able to apply for this and use it to get your passport as long as it lists the documentation that you used in order to apply for it and a signature from either an attendant who was there for your birth or an affidavit that has been signed by your parents.


What if You Were Born Abroad to U.S. Parents?

If you were born abroad and do not have a Consular Report of Birth Abroad or Certificate of Birth on file, the Department of State has the following instructions for you to follow:

If you claim citizenship through birth abroad to one U.S. citizen parent, you will need:

  • Your foreign birth certificate
  • Proof of citizenship of your parent who is a U.S. citizen 
  • An affidavit of your parent who is a U.S. citizen. This needs to show all periods and places of residence or physical presence in the United States and abroad before your birth

If you claim citizenship through birth abroad to two U.S. citizen parents, you will need:

  • Your foreign birth certificate
  • Your parents' marriage certificate
  • Proof of citizenship of your U.S. parents
  • An affidavit of your U.S. citizen parents showing all periods and places of residence of physical presence in the United States and abroad before your birth. 

    How to Apply for Your First U.S. Passport

    Once you've gathered your proof of citizenship, you can now follow all of the instructions in our detailed guide to applying for your first passport. You'll follow all of the steps, then submit all of the above as evidence of your U.S. citizenship. 

    Once you've submitted your application and received your passport, you'll now be able to use this as your primary form of identification in the United States and abroad. 


    This article has been edited and updated by Lauren Juliff