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Bureau of Vital Statistics (Birth and Death Certificates)

WHEN ARE BIRTH AND DEATH CERTIFICATES AVAILABLE?

Hospitals submit birth certificate information to the Bureau of Vital Statistics. This information is verified, given a file number, registered and signed by the local Registrar. Generally, it takes at least 90 daysafter a birth before the official Certificate of Birth is available.  Most Certificates of Death are available 45 days after death.  Having the name of the funeral home is helpful if we have to conduct a search, but it is not a necessity.  

CERTIFICATES ON FILE IN THIS OFFICE

Virtually all births and deaths that have occurred within the City of Houston since 1915 are on file.  This includes some areas within the city limits of Houston, but outside of Harris County.  In addition, some records of county births and deaths are available.  A limited number of death records between 1872-1915 and birth records between 1892-1915 are available.  Birth records from 1900-1937 and 1969-1996 are available through our computer system with some exceptions.  Almost half of all records from 1997 up to the present are available on our computer system.  Approximately one-third of the official birth records from 1938-1968 are available on the computer system.  Death records prior to 1976 are not available on the computer system at this time. 

The Bureau of Vital Statistics is working hard to make all certificates available through the computer system in order to provide better service.  We appreciate your patience.

A “Certification of Birth Facts” is the only type of certificate available in the local office for people born in the State of Texas, but not in the City of Houston.  These “Certification of Birth Facts” are available for most people born in the state of Texas since 1926.  These certifications are considered legal for most purposes but may not be accepted by the United States Passport Office, U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, Border Patrol or other government agencies.  If you plan to use a Certification of Birth Facts as an official document you should first verify if it is acceptable for official use by the agency/entity involved.

We cannot process requests for out-of-state birth or death certificates.

IDENTIFICATION REQUIREMENT

Vital Statistics records are exempt from the Texas Public Information Act and are not considered public information.

IN ORDER TO OBTAIN A BIRTH OR DEATH CERTIFICATE, ALL APPLICANTS MUST BE ABLE TO PROVIDE OFFICIAL PHOTO IDENTIFICATION.   Be prepared to provide a picture ID such as a current, valid: driver’s license, state/city/county ID card, student ID, employment badge or card, military ID, US Passport or other official photo identification.  If you do not have any type of photo identification please contact the office for assistance.

DEFINITION OF A QUALIFIED APPLICANT

A qualified applicant is defined as the registrant, or immediate family member either by blood or marriage, his or her guardian, or his or her legal agent or representative.  Local, state and federal law enforcement or governmental agencies and other persons may be designated as properly qualified applicants by demonstrating a direct and tangible interest in the record when the information in the record is necessary to implement a statutory provision or to protect a personal legal property right.   Aunts, uncles and cousins are not considered immediate family members. 

A person claiming to be a member of the immediate family or legal guardian, but with a different last name must show legal documentation of the relationship to the person named on the certificate  OR  provide a letter of authorization from the person named on the certificate or immediate family member of that person.  Photo identification (driver’s license, etc) of the applicant and the person authorizing  the applicant to obtain a certificate is required.

If the father’s name does not appear on a Certificate of Birth, he or a member of the child’s immediate family must provide legal documentation of his relationship to the child OR he must provide a signed letter from the mother, authorizing him to apply for and receive the certificate.

Those seeking a certificate for legal reasons must provide documentary proof of the legal need.  For example, a person needing a copy of a death certificate for insurance purposes should bring a copy of the policy naming them as beneficiary.

Lawyers and those representing legal firms, insurance companies, financial institutions, etc. shall provide a letter on the firm’s letterhead stating the exact legal need for the certificate, as well as the documentation mentioned above.  Private investigators and document servers must provide a signed letter of authorization from an immediate family member.  If representing a firm, the applicant must bring all of the above documentation as well as a signed letter of authorization from the firm to act as their agent. 

Official photo identification of all applicants and others involved in the application request is required.  The Bureau of Vital Statistics reserves the right to verify all letters of authorization and documents furnished by the person applying for the certificate.   To falsely obtain, use or alter another person’s Certificate of Birth or Death is a third degree felony with a fine of up to $10,000.00 and 2 to 10 years in prison (HSC195).

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