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China Birth Certificates: U.S. State Department Guidelines and Solutions for Difficult Cases

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 guidelines in the State Department’s Reciprocity and Civil Documents by Country for what type of birth certificate is required.

This article covers:

The U.S. State Department Guidelines for Birth Certificates

The State Department’s guidelines were last updated on May 13, 2019. They explain that what is required is a document called a notarial certificate (公证书), issued by the local notary public office (公证处).

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 (公证员)

Registration Criteria:

  1. A National ID and household registration (户口簿). If the applicant lives abroad, a copy of his or her passport is also required.
  2. One of the following three documents evidencing the circumstances of birth:
    • Birth certificate (出生证明书) or medical certificate of birth (出生医学证明) 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 (街道办事处) 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 (公证员).

Procedure for Obtaining:

  1. Complete an application and submit all relevant documents to the Notary Public Office (公证处).
  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. 

Two Types of Certificates the Notary Can Provide

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 State Department’s guide. 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 State Department’s guide through at least 2016.

Solutions for Difficult Cases

The most common difficulty is that a birth certificate meeting the State Department’s guidelines may be unobtainable. That must be proven to the officer’s satisfaction. 8 C.F.R. § 103.2(b)(2); 22 C.F.R. § 42.65(d)(1).

To prove that a China birth certificate is unobtainable, it is almost always necessary to actually apply and be denied. If the refusal is because you lack a required document, such as evidence of the circumstances of birth from the hospital, public security bureau, sub-district office, or work unit, you need to show that you unsuccessfully attempted to get such evidence from any entity that could have it.

If you cannot get the notarial birth certificate or evidence of circumstances of birth, you also should submit to USCIS a certified statement from the appropriate government authority explaining, for example, that

  • the applicant’s birth was never officially recorded;
  • the applicant’s birth records have been destroyed; or
  • the appropriate government authority will not issue one.

8 C.F.R. § 103.2(b)(2); 9 FAM 504.4-4(F).. The certified statement should further explain whether “similar records for the time and place are available.” 8 C.F.R. § 103.2(b)(2).

If that certified statement cannot be obtained, an applicant should submit evidence that repeated good faith attempts were made to obtain it. 8 C.F.R. § 103.2(b)(2).

Even if the birth certificate is unobtainable, still the applicant must provide secondary evidence of the circumstances of their birth. This could include, for example:

  • the household register (户口 hukou)
  • family planning certificate (计划生育服务证 jihua shengyu fuwu zheng) from the family planning bureau
  • old photographs
  • school records
  • religious records (e.g., a baptismal record)
  • medical records
  • If the applicant left China at a young age to a third country or region, that place’s immigration records may also be helpful (e.g., Hong Kong Certificate of Registered Particulars).
  • USCIS files of family members to that reflect the claimed parental relationship
  • Declarations from the parents and third parties who knew the family at or near the time of birth

For earlier births (e.g., 1958 or beforehand), a genealogist may be able to hunt down secondary evidence of birth, My China Roots, a leading genealogy research company specializing in helping Overseas Chinese trace their ancestry in China, can have their native researchers travel to the applicant’s hometown to search for family tree books (jiapu 家谱), ancestral graves, ancestral tablets, temples, and testimonies of relatives. 

Chinese tombstones sometimes list the names of living descendants.

Working with Chodorow Law Offices

To schedule an initial consultation with our firm to discuss how we can help with solutions for your hard-to-get birth certificate, please schedule a consultation with our firm.

Who is Quoting This Article?

An earlier version of this article is cited by the Canadian government’s Immigration and Refugee Board.

58 replies on “China Birth Certificates: U.S. State Department Guidelines and Solutions for Difficult Cases”

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

Lara

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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?

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

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.

Hi Gary,
My dad was born in 1946 in Shanghai and moved to Hong Kong in 1953. He never had a birth certificate, and he doesn’t have a hukou. We are now helping him apply for a green card. USCIS is requesting the birth certificate. My grandparents have both passed away and we dont have any evidence to prove my dad’s original birth in Shanghai. Which notary do we apply for the birth certificate at?

Anita: You’ll need to apply for the notarial birth certificate at a notary office in Shanghai. (A notary in the U.S. can’t do the basic job which a Shanghai notary does, which is to investigate and determine the true facts regarding the date and place of birth as well as parentage). In 1946, the Japanese military controlled all or nearly all of Shanghai, so I’m not sure what records the notary and public security bureau will be able to help you unearth. If none, you’ll need to collect other evidence of birth, as mentioned above.

Hi Gary, I have an old “Chu Sheng Gong Zheng Shu” from 1996 when i moved to canada (it doesnt have any photo or ID# for my parents. Im currently applying for a green card in the usa. Is this sufficient? I have heard from some friends that that it may need to be updated?

Dave: I’m not sure whether a birth certificate from 1996 that does not meet the specifications of the current State Dep’t guidelines (but does meet the specifications of earlier versions of the guidelines) would be acceptable for purposes of immigration. The current guidelines do not require a photo and acknowledge that certificates issued prior to 2012 “may not list the ID number,” so those aren’t problems. But what could be a problem is that you mention your certificate is titled “chu sheng gong zheng shu” (出生公证书) whereas the new guidelines say the document should simply be titled “gong zheng shu” (公证书). Given this uncertainty, if you have time, you may want to get a new birth certificate. Let me know what your experience is.

Hi Gary,

Thank you for this very helpful blog post. My birth certificate is Type 2: Birth notarization, and the translated page has the same format as the one you included. Is it necessary to get a professional translation service to certify this translation, or is it good enough on its own? Other sources suggest that all foreign-language documents need to be translated with a signed certification saying “I, [TRANSLATOR’S NAME], affirm that I am competent to translate this document”, etc.

Wendy: Let me provide general information. This may not apply in every case, but normally (1) U.S. Consulates abroad will accept the translator’s certificate provided by the PRC notary with the birth certificate, which is standard when you tell the notary birth certificate is needed for U.S. immigration; (2) USCIS requires a “signed” translator’s certificate, so you could make a special request that the notary sign the translator’s certificate. if they don’t do so, then you’ll need to add anothe tranlsator’s certificate. USCIS doesn’t require that the translator’s certificate be done by a professional.

Hi Gary, I received RFE from USCIS about my i485 “ You have submitted secondary evidence and/or a birth affidavit as proof of a birth record for the applicant. However, the evidence you have submitted is insufficient. Submit the Notarial Certificate of Birth.” I was born before 1996, and have submitted my “ chushenggongzhengshu(出生公证书), which was five pages including front cover and with both Chinese and English, also has signature, red stamp, water mark and seal”. Does that mean I just submit the same “chushenggongzhengshu” again? Or I need to notary this “chushenggongzhengshu” again at USA? Thanks so much!

Jeff: I suggest you consider hiring our firm or another firm review your documents and perhaps ask USCIS for clarification. It sounds like you submitted a notarial birth certificate and USCIS has requested exactly that.

Hi Gary, is the information above also for a US Passport and Certificate of Citizenship application? I want to apply for a US passport because I fall under Section INA 320. I have all of the other documentation except for a birth certificate. I have a notarial certificate (公证书) from 1994 stating my relationship to my mother and date of birth. For a US passport application, would this suffice as “proof of the child’s relationship the US citizen parent” instead of a the usual “foreign birth certificate?” Is there any other documentation I could provide instead of going to Changchun, China to get a (notarial) birth certificate? How long is the normal process to apply for the notarial birth certificate at a notary office in China? Thanks in advance!

Kate: Yes, these guidelines from the State Department apply to birth certificates for U.S. passports and certificates of citizenship. A Chinese “certificate of relationship” has not been acceptable in lieu of a notarial birth certificate.

Hello Gary, I’m trying to get a notorial birth certificate for my wife but we have been told she needs her fathers and mothers ID to get it. Problem is that her father is not in contact with her so getting his ID is a problem. However his name and ID number are in her Hukou. What can we do? I’ve already submitted the I130 through DCF Beijing, we want to be ready when the interview comes.
Thanks

Jeremy: In similar cases, clients have told me they resolved the problem by explaining to the notary their inability to get a parent’s ID and having the notary designate alternative acceptable evidence. Other clients have told me that if the notary they were dealing with was not receptive they have been successful by applying at a different notary office. Let me know what your experience is with this.

Hello Gary, thank you for this blog post! I am asking this for a friend of mine. Does he need to travel to China to get a notarial birth certificate? Or is it possible to request this over the phone? If not, would it be possible to authorise a lawyer of notary to obtain the necessary documents? He does not have any relatives or friends in China (has only lived there when he was a baby).

Hi Gary,

I have a Notarial Certificate from 1999 (without the Id numbers for my parents and I), which I used for my Canadian immigration. From reading this post and some comments, its my understanding that I can still use it to apply to US permanent residence. What do you think?

Hi Gary: My husband filed a Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status, and has received a Request for Initial Evidence notice asking for a Notarial Certificate of Birth. We don’t have the required items for a Notarial Certificate of Birth application, such as the IDs of the mother and father.

What we do have is a Notarial Certificate where the applicant on the certificate is my husband’s mother. The Notarial Certificate states the name and birthdate of his mother; and then it states that my husband is the “Related Person” with the following text: “Related person, , born on , resides in Shanghai, China. This is to certify that the applicant is the mother of .”

Will this suffice in place of a Notarial Certificate of Birth? If not, what can we do?

Olive: It sounds like you have a “relationship certificate,” which does not contain all details required of a birth certificate, namely, the (a) date and place of birth, (b) names of both parents, (c) that this certificate is an extract from the official records. 22 C.F.R. § 42.65(c)(4). If the birth certificate is unobtainable, the first thing needed is evidence it is unobtainable. In some cases, that’s a statement from the local authorities that the birth certificate was lost or destroyed or never existed. 22 C.F.R. § 42.65(d). In other cases, that’s proof that you applied for the birth certificate, were denied, and that the reasons for the denial cannot be overcome. In addition, you would need other evidence of the birth, such as mentioned in the last section of the above article. Feel free to schedule a consultationconsultationconsultation with our firm if you’d like assistance.

Hi, Gary! Thanks for all your pasts. I recently received a RFE for I-485. It requests to submit the Notarial Certificate of Birth. It just stated ” this office is unable to complete the processing of your… (Form I-485). We are writing to inform you that we need more information from you to make a decision on your case.” “What you need to do, You must submit the Notarial Certificate of Birth issued by the appropriate civil authority for the applicant.” I have submitted a copy of the Notarial birth certificate. Is that because I submitted a copy? Should I submit the same original Notarial Certificate of Birth? What do you think?

I checked on my Notarial Certificate of Birth the cover page wrote GONG ZHENG SHU in Chinese without “Notarial Certificate” in English and the translation in English title is ” Ceritificate” not “Notarial Certificate” and the Notarial Item only ” Certifita: Birth” all the other are same as type 2 that you included. My Notarial Certificate only have one page in chinese and one page in English translation. It didn’t include a certificate stating that the English translation is in conformity with the Chinese original. Do I need to add another tranlsator’s certificate?

If your notarial birth certificate is only 2 pages long, it’s not in the format required for U.S. immigration, which must be at least 4 pages long when issued by the notary–birth info in Chinese, birth info in English, translator’s certification in Chinese, translator’s certification in English.

Hi, Thank you for your post. I’m currently filing my Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status. I was born in Hong Kong, and was issued a official Birth Certificate from Hong Kong. I have submitted the photocopy of my official birth certificate but then received a RFE asking for a “notarial certificate of birth.” I don’t understand what that is.

Y: Here’s a theory to discuss with your lawyer. The officer may have mistakenly referred to the China rules, which require a “notarial birth certificate” instead of the HK rules, which require a CERTIFIED COPY OF AN ENTRY IN A REGISTER OF BIRTHS KEPT IN TERMS OF THE BIRTHS AND DEATHS REGISTRATION ORDINANCE. If so, you can point out the HK rules to the officer and explain how your certificate complies.

My son was born in China in 1987. He had notarial birth certificate issued in 1998 with English translation but without a certificate stating that the English translation is in conformity with the Chinese original. The USCIS has asked us to submit a notarial birth certificate with translation and the conformity certificate. Can I ask a certified translator to certify this?

Mu Liu: Sorry, no luck: you can’t get a translation company to provide the translator’s certification. That’s because the State Department guidelines require the translator’s certification to be part of the notarial booklet. (If you need help, feel free to click the “contact us” button in the menu at the top of the page.)

Hi Gary, Thanks so much for your blog! My mom was born at home in China in 1947 but moved to Hong Kong when she was 3 months old. She doesn’t have a birth certificate, national ID, or hukou. We have 2 affidavits from her elder siblings who witnessed her birth. Is this sufficient, or do we still need documentation or response from a Chinese authority? We have none of the items required to submit a birth certificate request so I’m not sure how we go about getting some version of a certificate of non-availability.

Allen: As described in the above section related to “Unobtainable Birth Certificates,” an applicant typically needs to submit a certified statement from the appropriate government authority explaining why the birth certificate is unobtainable as well as additional evidence, including but not limited to declarations or affidavits.

Thanks Gary, do local notary offices actually issue certified statements re: unobtainable birth certificates? If so, is there a standard format or document to request, with stamps etc, with english translation? Otherwise, is it sufficient to request a written statement in chinese that we then have someone translate and notarize on our end?

Allen: There is no standard format for an agency’s certified statement. For a Chinese agency, it should preferably be on letterhead, include their chop, and list their contact info. It need not be issued in English, and it need not be notarized.

Hi Gary, my mother-in-law was issued a notarial birth certificate in the province of her father’s home village. When we filed her I-130, we used her Canadian passport which listed a different province as her birthplace, and entered that different province in the “place of birth” section as well. Will that prove a problem at the visa interview?

Brianne: Since there is conflicting evidence regarding the circumstances of your mother-in-law’s birth, you may want to investigate the circumstances of her birth in further detail, correct whichever document (passport or notarial birth certificate) is mistaken, and be ready for the possibility that the officer may seek secondary evidence corroborating the true place of birth.

Hi Gary, do birth affidavits have to be notarized by a US notary public? My uncle is signing one for my mom but he lives in Hong Kong and was going to use a Hong Kong notary public.

Hi Gary – my wife is a Hong Kong resident born in mainland China (before 1996). She was issued a 1-page birth notarization (no ID number) without English translation by Notary Public Office in 2002. Given that she is not able to go back to China and return to US due to Covid-19, is it sufficient if she can get the 1-page birth notarization translated by someone in the US? If no, what else can she possibly do? Thank you.

My Chinese notary birth certificate paperwork keeps getting rejetced. First my notary is not in color so maybe that is why and secondly, my mother is doing the notary paperwork for me because I am in America under F-1 Visa and she is in China waiting for our green card. Therefore she is the one doing the notary paper work for me so she is the applicant but the notary birth certificate has all my information on it. We have both translated version and the orginal chinese language version in the notary birth certicate paper work. I’m just frustrated and need some help on this. Thank you for the article too because it was extremely helpful.

Hi Gary,

My mum was born in Guangdong in 1946, then relocated to HK with her parents possibly within the first 2 years after she was born. At that time of point, there was no birth certificate available. Currently , we only have a HK passport indicates her place of birth is in Guangdong (possibly based on the memory of her parents) and a marriage cert to show the name of her father. They have no household registery in China. Since both of her parents have passed away, it is more difficult for her to gather evidence. Could you kindly advise how can my mom get a notarised certificate of birth?

Hi Apple: As mentioned above, check the website of the local local Notary Public Office (in Guangdong) to obtain specific information regarding required supporting documents. Assuming you need the notarial birth certificate for U.S. immigration purposes, those documents will include evidence of the circumstances if birth, such as: Birth certificate (出生证明书) or medical certificate of birth (出生医学证明) issued by the hospital; Initial Birth Record issued by the Household Registration Department of the local Public Security Bureau; or Proof of birth issued by the sub-district office (街道办事处) or the Personnel Department of Work Unit. Assuming that none of those documents can be obtained, that must be proven, as also explained above, and secondary evidence of birth must be submitted. If we can be of assistance, feel free to schedule an initial consultation with our firm to discuss how we can help with solutions for your hard-to-get birth certificate.

Hey Gary. Thanks for taking the time to write this post.

I was born in Shanghai in 1989. Here is my birth certificate: https://i.imgur.com/VS07WlO.jpg.

Why has USCIS issued a request for evidence stating that my birth certificate is not sufficient?

It was issued by the police and then I had a translator swear before a New York notary that the translation is accurate.

Jason: You’ll need a birth certificate issued by NOTARY PUBLIC OFFICE IN CHINA. You can apply by submitting the birth certificate you have from the police, together with evidence of you and your parents’ identity.

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