Vital Records Issuance

About the United States

The federal government does not maintain a national database that contains all vital records. Consistent with the constitutional framework set forth by our founding fathers in 1785, states were assigned certain powers. There are 57 “state” registrars of vital records, and this includes the 50 states, Washington D.C., NYC, and the 5 territories. The 57 vital records jurisdictions, not the federal government, have legal authority for the registration of these records, which are thus governed under state laws. The laws governing what information may be shared, with whom, and under what circumstances varies by jurisdiction.

In 2016, there are approximately 7000 local registrars across the country. Some states have no local registrars, and for states with local registrars the number varies from 2 to about 1500, with most having about a hundred or less. Not all states with local registrars allow them to issue birth certificates – some of these local registrars handle only death certificate issuance. 34 of the 57 vital records jurisdictions do allow local registrars to issue birth certificates. Some of these 34 states —but certainly not all of them— issue birth certificates only from the state vital records database, and some (but not all) of these states also require that local registrars use the standard state issuance form.1

Number and Uniformity of State and Local Vital Records Registrars 

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, as of the year 2000 there were more than6,000 entities issuing birth certificates. The Inspector General report states that according to staff at the Immigration and Naturalization Service’s Forensics Document Laboratory the number of legitimate birth certificate versions in use exceeded 14,000.

About Texas

To date, there are 388 local registrars in the state of Texas. All local registrars come under the statutory authority of the State Register. All local registrars must comply with same process and procedures for ordering and issuing birth certificates and death certificates. The State of Texas has recently implemented the use of a uniform type of paper containing various security features for all local registers office who issue birth and death certificates.

"According to the U.S. Department of State, Texas ranks number one in the nation as the claimed place of birth on fraudulent passport applications.”2

More research is required to determine the cause for this fraud. Fraudsters may have been able to claim birth place by:

  • presenting a fraudulent birth certificate document
  • presenting a real birth certificate document achieved through some fraudulent means:
        -purchased on black market
        -pretended to be someone else to gain access to their birth certificate
        -worked as an insider to print birth certificates

1 Patricia W. Potrzebowski, National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems

2 Lonnie Whitehead from the U.S. State Department presented these stats at the 2015 National National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems (NAPHSIS) in Pittsburgh PA on June 2, 2015.