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 updated on Apr. 4, 2016. It now states:
- 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. Submit a certified copy of that birth certificate issued by a PRC notary public office (由当地公证处出具的出生公证书). Have the original certificate available too at your interview for the officer’s review.
- For people born before 1996, “Due to the lack of a standardized format for birth certificates … original medical certificate of birth (when available) along with a notarial certificate of birth” should be provided. The notarial certificate of birth may be either a 出生公证书 Chu Sheng Gong Zheng Shu or 出生证明书 Chu Sheng Zheng Ming Shu.
The Reciprocity Schedule goes on to explain that such notarial certificates “can be based upon primary evidence [i.e., the original medical certificate of birth], secondary evidence, testimony of the applicant or other parties, or investigation by the notary.” Often times the notarial certificate is based on the notary’s review of the household register (户口 hukou), which the Reciprocity Schedule characterizes as “extremely susceptible to fraud and manipulation, especially if the holder lives outside of a major metropolitan area.”
As a result, in cases of suspected fraud, the notarial certificate “may not be adequate evidence of the facts claimed.” The government may request “primary and contemporaneous secondary evidence: old land deeds and old family registers; letters or money receipts; school and medical records.” Look at the USCIS files of family members to see if they reflect the claimed parental relationship. Old photographs can also sometimes be helpful. And, if all else fails, provide declarations from the parents and third parties who knew the family at or near the time of birth.
Our law firm helps clients with difficulty obtaining birth certificates or who need to gather secondary evidence of their birth.
The following table compares the new and prior versions of the State Department’s China Reciprocity Schedule for birth certificates:
|Apr. 4, 2016||Sept. 23, 2015|
|Original medical certificates of birth (出生医学证明 Chu Sheng Yi Xue Zheng Ming) are available starting from 1996. Also available are notarial birth certificates, which are secondary evidence. Due to the lack of a standardized format for birth certificates prior to 1996, original medical certificate of birth (when available) along with a notarial certificate of birth should be requested.||Available in the form of notarial certificates, which are secondary evidence.|
|Notarial certificates of birth (出生公证书 Chu Sheng Gong Zheng Shu or 出生证明书 Chu Sheng Zheng Ming Shu) for persons living in or recently departed from China are generally reliable, but are best used in conjunction with other evidence. They are most often based upon an HHR, (Household Record) which is easily susceptible to fraud, especially in villages. Notarial birth certificates for persons long departed from China are most likely based merely upon the testimony of interested parties.||Same|
|While some notarial birth certificates will list stepparents or adoptive parents along with natural parents, this is not always the case. In some cases, the certificates will list only the natural parents, covering up an adoption.||Same|
|Some applicants will present notarial certificates of relationship (关系公证Guan Xi Gong Zheng [or 证明 Zheng Ming] 书 Shu) in lieu of notarial birth certificates. These certificates of relationship are unreliable and tend to be based solely upon the testimony of interested parties. Notarial birth certificates should be required. Care should be taken with any certificate that lists step relationships. These relationships are as of the date of issuance of the certificate only. Marriage certificates should also be required.||Same|