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

12 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.

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