What Type of China Birth Certificate Is Required for U.S. Immigration?

If you were born in Mainland China and are applying for a U.S. green card, you will need to submit a China birth certificate. That’s true regardless of whether you are filing a Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status, with USCIS or are applying for an immigrant visa at a U.S. consulate abroad.

Both agencies look at specifications in the State Department’s Reciprocity Schedule for what type of birth certificate is required. The Reciprocity Schedule was just updated on May 13, 2019.

The Updated Reciprocity Schedule

The Reciprocity Schedules now states, in relevant part:

Document Name: Notarial certificate (Gong Zheng Shu)

Issuing Authority: Local Notary Public Office (Gong Zheng Chu)

Special Seal(s) / Color / Format: A notarial birth certificate normally contains a watermark, seal, and red stamp. It indicates the applicant’s name, gender, date of birth, ID number, place of birth, and both parents’ names.  NOTE: Notarial birth certificates issued prior to 2012 may not list the ID number. All notarial documents must have an English translation, and be attached with a certificate stating that the English translation is in conformity with the Chinese original.

Issuing Authority Personnel Title: Notary Public (Gong Zheng Yuan)

Registration Criteria:

  1. A National ID and household registration (Hu Kou Bu). If the applicant lives abroad, a copy of his or her passport is also required.
  2. One of the following three documents:
    • Birth certificate (Chu Sheng Zheng Ming Shu) or medical certificate of birth (Chu Sheng Yi Xue Zheng Ming) issued by the hospital
    • Initial Birth Record issued by the Household Registration Department of the local Public Security Bureau
    • Proof of birth issued by the sub-district office or the Personnel Department of Work Unit
  3. Photographs – at least two.
  4. A signed affidavit or authorization certificate from the applicant if someone other than the applicant applies for the certificate on his or her behalf. The authorized person also needs to provide his/her national ID.
  5. Documentation of both parents’ identification. If deceased, a death certificate is required.
  6. Other documents requested by the Notary Public (Gong Zheng Yuan).

Procedure for Obtaining:

  1. Complete an application and submit all relevant documents to the Notary Public Office (Gong Zheng Chu).
  2. The Notary Public then examines the documents. If the application is accepted, the applicant pays all related notary fees.
  3. Once the review of the submitted documentation is completed, the notarial birth certificate is issued….

Comments: Applicants should check the website or contact their local Notary Public Office to obtain specific information regarding required fees and supporting documents. 

My Thoughts

An article from the China Notary Association emphasizes that there are two acceptable types of notarial certificate (gong zheng shu 公证书) that describe the circumstances of a person’s birth:

Type 1: Birth certificate notarization (出生证公证 chushengzheng gongzheng):

For people born starting 1996, the original medical certificate of birth (出生医学证明 chusheng yixue zhengming) should be available in a standardized format. That certificate should be issued by the hospital or medical clinic where the individual was born. Issuance of such certificates is mandated by the Law on Maternal and Infant Health Care, article 23 (1994).

medical certificate of birth--China
Standard medical certificate of birth issued since 1996

The first type of notarial certificate is a “birth certificate notarization,” meaning a photocopy of the medical certificate of birth with an attestation by the notary that the photocopy “confirms to the original, and that the original document is authentic.” The notarial certificate lists the “issue under notarization” (公证事项) as “birth certificate” (出生医学证明):

Page from a birth certificate notarization

Type 2: Birth notarization (出生公证 chusheng gongzheng):

  • For people born before 1996, there was no standardized format for medical certificates of birth. Therefore, a “birth certificate notarization” cannot be issued, according to the China Notarization Association article.
  • Instead, the second type of notarial certificate is issued based on the alternative evidence listed above in the Reciprocity Schedule.
  • This type of certificate lists the “issue under notarization” (公证事项) as “birth” (出生):
Page from a birth notarization

An older birth notarization may have the title “birth certificate” (出生公证书 or 出生证明书), as mentioned in the Reciprocity Schedule through at least 2016.

Requests for Other Evidence of Birth

These days, the Reciprocity Schedule expresses a pretty high level of confidence in the accuracy of notarial birth certificates:

By regulation, notaries are empowered to issue certificates only after they conclude that the applicant’s claims are true. Although these certificates are secondary evidence, they are used because primary evidence is not standardized, is easily forged, and can be difficult to evaluate. Notarial certificates are easier to interpret than primary evidence and in principle represent an expert judgment on the part of the notary official as to the facts documented. Generally notarial certificates issued in China are reliable; However, in rare cases we have seen evidence of fraud.

Despite this characterization of notarial birth certificates being generally reliable, a U.S. Consulate or USCIS may request additional evidence of birth. This could include the household register (户口 hukou), old photographs, school records, medical records, family planning records. Look at the USCIS files of family members to see if they reflect the claimed parental relationship. And, if all else fails, declarations from the parents and third parties who knew the family at or near the time of birth may be helpful.

Our law firm helps clients with difficulty obtaining birth certificates or who need to gather other evidence of their birth.

18 Replies to “What Type of China Birth Certificate Is Required for U.S. Immigration?”

  1. I was born in 1958 in China. There is not birth certificate at that period. I left China in 1986 to Australia and I am Australia citizen. Please advice whether the Australia passport would be OK instead a Chinese birth certificate for this case. Thanks.

    1. Lan Ji: If you’re applying for a U.S. immigrant visa, then the above rules state that you should apply for a notarial certificate of birth, which may be issued based on information found in other sources, such as your hukou. An Australian passport is no substitute.

  2. Hi.
    I was born after 1996, and I have a medical certificate of birth. But we don’t have notorial certificate of birth, because my mother is not availble, they won’t give us one. I want to ask if medical birth certificate alone is good enough for i130 and i485 application? Thanks!

    1. Max C: Good question. As the Reciprocity Schedule says, medical birth certificates are available for persons born after 1996. They are primary evidence of birth. Normally, primary evidence is all that’s necessary to satisfy USCIS. However, the Reciprocity Schedule also states that “primary evidence is not standardized, is easily forged, and difficult to evaluate. Notarial certificates are easier to interpret than primary evidence and theoretically represent an expert judgment on the part of the notarial official as to the facts documented.” Therefore, the best practice would normally be to present both the medical birth certificate and the notarial birth certificate. I understand that you’ve run into trouble getting the notarial birth certificate. A conservative approach would be gather evidence for possible presentation to USCIS that the notarial birth certificate is unavailable. You could combine that with other secondary evidence of your birth, such as your household register, your school records naming your parents, and old photos of you with yoru parents.

  3. Hi Gary,

    I recently received a request for evidence (RFE) from USCIS regarding my I-130 petition for my mother. I submitted the notarial birth certificate, but USCIS stated that it is a “late registered birth record.” Now they are requesting the oldest possible documents (that show DOB, birthplace, and full name of my parents and I), such as religious documents, school records (prefer the first one I attended), medical records, census record. I am 31 years old, and a lot of these old records are not available anymore. The hospital can only issue a letter confirming my birth, but it would not be an “old record”. Would the translation of my Hukou be helpful? Any other advice? Thanks.


    1. Lara: The notarial birth certificate is “late registered” because it wasn’t created near to the time of your birth. Take a look at the additional types of secondary evidence I’ve listed above to see what you may be able to find.

  4. Hi,
    The NVC has requested my mother’s “birth certificate.” She was born in China in 1938 and has no birth certificate. What should we do?

  5. Hello Gary, my Chinese fiancée was born in a small town in 1993. She has never heard of a birth certificate before but has a hukou. What form of birth certificate does she need for immigration? Thank you for your help.

    1. Bill, as mentioned above, a person born before 1996 should apply to the notary for issuance of a notarial birth certificate. Such a person may well not have a medical certificate of birth since such documents were not standardized throughout China before 1996. In that event, the person should make available to the notary from whom the notarial birth certificate is requested their hukou and any other evidence the notary requests.

  6. Gary,

    Thank you so much for maintaining this excellent blog. I’ve referenced it to expats several times.

    Currently my wife does not have a birth certificate as she was born at home in the 1960’s. Her father has passed away and her mother is getting on in years. Though we will not need the notorial birth certificate for sometime, it would seem prudent to obtain one now. Once her mother passes away, it will be much more difficult or impossible to get a certificate. Is my understanding correct? Thanks.

  7. Gary: My partner, born in 1998, has recently submitted her original medical certificate of birth (出生医学证明 chusheng yixue zhengming) and was told it was the improper and denied. Why?

    1. Eric: As you can see above, under current State Department guidance, submission of just the medical certificate of birth is insufficient. A notarial certificate is needed.

  8. From checking out the Internet Archive Wayback Machine on the Reciprocity Schedule, it looks like the State Dept. inadvertently DROPPED the reference to the Medical Certificate of Birth when they reformatted the page in Nov or Dec 2018.

    See old page (Nov., 2018) at https://web.archive.org/web/20181118212311/https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/Visa-Reciprocity-and-Civil-Documents-by-Country/China.html

    and new page (Dec., 2018) at https://web.archive.org/web/20181209114824/https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/Visa-Reciprocity-and-Civil-Documents-by-Country/China.html

    1. The current Reciprocity Schedule still says that a “medical certificate of birth (Chu Sheng Yi Xue Zheng Ming) issued by the hospital” is “one of three” types of documentation of birth that may be used to get the notarial birth certificate. Still, this obscures the fact that for births starting in 1996 the medical certificate of birth is standard, primary evidence of birth.

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