In the normal course of life, you get your birth certificate at least a decade and half before you get a driver's license. But if you need a certified copy of that birth certificate as an adult, you'll have to prove your identity, and a driver's license is the handiest way of doing it. If you don't have a driver's license, however, you can use other methods to establish that the birth certificate you are seeking is your own.

Getting a Birth Certificate

With identity theft on the rise, it's little wonder that authorities don't want to give out copies of original birth certificates to just anyone. A birth certificate contains important and private information about you, including your birthdate, birthplace and your parents' information. This information, in addition to possession of the actual document, could allow an identity thief to make inroads into getting credit in your name.

Moreover, the information is private, not public. That's why many states strictly regulate who can get copies of birth certificates and what kind of information is offered. Some states, like California, only allow you or members of your immediate family, such as your parents, to obtain a certified copy that can be used for identification. Third parties can obtain only informational copies, which cannot be used to establish identification. In these states, you must prove your identity to get a copy of the original document.

Proving Identity

You can often order a copy of your birth certificate online or obtain one by visiting the state government office that keeps this type of vital record. You must have an authorized or certified copy to establish your identity for a passport and for Social Security and employment purposes.

Persons requesting an authorized copy must sign a sworn statement that they are an "authorized person" under state law. The list of authorized people varies among states but always includes the person listed on the certificate, that person's parents or legal guardians and any children. It might also include law enforcement agents, grandchildren or siblings and executors. You must make the sworn statement before a notary public after establishing your identity, usually with government-issued identification. In other states like Illinois, you must submit a copy of a currently valid government-issued identification.

Typical forms of government-issued identification for these purposes are driver's licenses and passports. This becomes problematic if you don't have a driver's license and are seeking a copy of your birth certificate to apply for a passport. But you do have other options.

Driver's License Alternatives

Any other government identification usually works just fine to prove your identity. This can include a state-issued identification card. If you don't have any of these cards, you'll have to review your state's rules. Most allow you to bring in two pieces of "lesser" identification.

In Illinois, for example, you can bring in two pieces of documentation with your name on them, including one showing your current address. One piece can be a utility or cellphone bill. The other can be one of the following:

  • Medical/car insurance card
  • Automobile registration
  • Credit card statement
  • Bank statement
  • Paycheck stub with imprinted information
  • Public assistance card
  • Voter’s registration card
  • Active duty military ID with issued and expiration dates 
  • Illinois Electronic Benefit Transfer Link Card

Check with your state's vital records department for its specific identification requirements.