Resources for People in Need of ID or Certification Documents

With the passage by Congress of the REAL ID ACT of 2005, everyone needs valid, certified copies of their birth certificate, social security card and state ID or driver’s license. Without these documents, a person cannot apply for public assistance, open a bank account, enroll their children in school, get a job or travel between states by train or plane. In addition to valid ID, many employers are also requiring job applicants to supply proof that they graduated from high school or possess a GED certificate.

To ensure against criminal impersonation and identity theft, this same REAL ID ACT has also made it very difficult to get new documents if the old ones are lost or stolen. This process gets even harder if the person is homeless, unemployed and without money to pay the fees. Every year, staff of the Friendship House Day Centers spend nearly a third of their time and about $20,000 of Friendship House funds helping clients acquire various forms of identification.

To Get a Certified Copy of One’s Birth Certificate:

Vital records of one’s birth, marriage or death are kept in the Office of Public Records in the state in which these events occurred. Thus, if you were born in Maryland, you would have to write or go in person to the office of public records in Maryland for a copy of your birth certificate. Likewise, if you were born in Maryland, but got married in New York, you would have to write to or visit the office of public records in New York for a copy of your marriage certificate. Whether you go in person, apply by mail or go online to get a certified copy of your birth certificate, the REAL ID ACT of 2005 required that you present a valid copy of your state ID or driver’s license as proof of your identity.

To apply in person, go to the nearest office of vital records in your birth state. Fill out an application that will require you to state:

  • Your name at birth
  • Your birth date
  • The town, city or county in which you were born
  • Your father’s first and last name
  • Your mother’s first name and maiden last name.

If the information you supply match their records, if you possess a valid state ID or driver’s license and if you have the funds to pay the fee, you will immediately be given a copy of your birth certificate embossed with the state seal. The State seal is what makes this a certified copy. A photocopy of a birth certificate is not considered to be a certified copy.

To apply by mail, fill out the birth certificate application form of the state in which you were born. A copy of this form may be obtained at the Friendship House day centers or by visiting the website of your home state. Fill out the information listed above, attach a photocopy of your valid state ID or driver’s license and enclosed a check or money order of the state fee and mail it to the central office of vital statistics which is usually located in your home state’s capital city. Please note: the return address on your birth certificate application must match the home address on your state ID or driver’s license.

To apply online, go to any of the commercial sites that will get you a copy of your birth certificate in 2 – 3 business days. Be aware that they will charge you a $20 service charge in addition to the state fee for the birth certificate. You will still need to supply them with the personal information listed above and a valid copy of your state ID or driver’s license. In addition, the name on the credit card must match the name of the person on the birth certificate application.

How do I obtain a birth certificate for a child or other dependent?

In order to obtain a birth certificate for someone else, reasonable proof that you are the person’s custodial parent or caregiver may be required. Because the office(s) protect(s) the confidentiality and legality of all of its documents, all requests for information or documents for other persons are reviewed by a panel prior to release of information.

“What if I do not have a valid copy of my state ID or driver’s license?”

If you do not have a valid copy of your state ID or driver’s license, you can get someone to apply for your birth certificate using their valid ID. If this person is a close relative with the same name (e.g. parent, grandparent, sibling, son, daughter, etc), no further proof is needed. If the person is a social worker or friend, you will need to supply the office of vital records with a notarized letter authorizing the person to apply on your behalf. You will also need to attach some kind of picture ID for yourself (e.g. an expired state ID, a prison ID, a student ID, etc.) and a photocopy of your representative’s valid state ID or driver’s license. Although this proxy application usually works, some states are stricter than others about to whom they are willing to send another person’s birth certificate, even with their written permission.

What do I do if the office of vital records cannot find my birth certificate?

The office of vital records demands an exact match of the information you supply with what is in their records. If they send you back your application stating that there is no match, consult with your parents to be sure that you have the right name, date and birthplace. Sometimes one’s birth certificate lists the mother’s maiden name as the child’s last name.

Contact Information For Bureau of Vital Statistic in Delaware and Other Nearby States:

State Website Nearest County Office Cost
Delaware www.dhss.delaware.gov 258 Chapman Rd, Newark, DE 19702

University Plaza, Chopin Building

$25
Pennsylvania www.portal.health.state.pa.us/ 110 N 8th St, Suite 108, Phila, PA 19107 $20
Maryland www.dhmh.maryland.gov/vsa 401 Bow St, Elkton, MD 21921 $24
New Jersey www.state.nj.us/ Go to county seat of your birth county $25
New York www.health.ny.gov P.O Box 2602, Albany, NY 12220 $30
New York City www.nyc.gov Suite 133, 125 Worth St, Lower Manhattan, New York City, NY $15

(updated 9/24/14)

To Get A Social Security Card:

Today every person, even children, is expected to have a social security number. Because social security cards are so easy to forge, the government requires more proof of identity from people applying for an original or a replacement social security card. Because this proof of identity must be in the form original documents, not photocopies, most people apply for their SSN card in person.

Applying for a Social Security Number:

  1. For yourself, present original documents proving your citizenship, age and identity (e.g. Valid State ID or Driver’s License, Passport, US Military ID, Naturalization Papers, Employer ID). For your child, present medical records or school records.
  2. Fill out the application (Form SS-5)
  3. Take or mail your application and documents to the Social Security office in your area.

To Get A Replacement Social Security Card:

You can replace your Social Security card for free if it is lost or stolen. However, you may not need to get a replacement card. Knowing your Social Security number is what is important. You are limited to three replacement cards in a year and 10 during your lifetime. Legal name changes and other exceptions do not count toward these limits. For example, changes in immigration status that require card updates may not count toward these limits. Also, you may not be affected by these limits if you can prove you need the card to prevent a significant hardship.

Applying for a Replacement Social Security Card:

  1. Present original documents proving your US citizenship and identity.
  2. Fill out the application (Form SS-5)
  3. Take or mail your application and documents to the Social Security office in your area.
Social Security Administration 920 W Basin Rd 1-800-772-1213

To Get a Division of Motor Vehicle ID or Driver’s License:

Since a DMV picture ID or Driver’s License is the most recognized proof of one’s identity, every American is expected to have one. To insure against ID fraud and to satisfy the requirements of the Real ID ACT, states now demand more proof of one’s identity and residency to qualify for a DMV ID. In Delaware, to get a DMV picture ID or driver’s license, one must present certified proof of one’s citizenship, age and residency. The following documents are required to obtain a Federally Compliant Driver’s License or ID card:

  1. An original or certified copy of one’s birth certificate issued by the Bureau of Vital Statistic or State board of Health (wallets cards, birth registrations or hospital announcements are not accepted)
  2. One’s Social Security Card or an official letter issued by the Social Security Administration containing one’s full social security number
  3. Two proofs of one’s residency in Delaware containing a residential street address that includes one’s name and is postmarked or dated within 60 days (i.e. utility bill, cable bill voter’s registration card, or junk mail. Personal mail, P.O. boxes or business addresses are not acceptable.
  4. Legal name change documentation is required if one’s current name is different from that on one’s birth certificate or social security card.

The fee for a DMV ID card is $20; the fee for a DMV Driver’s License is $25 or $40. $25 is good for 5 years; $40 is good for 8 years. In addition to the documents listed above, persons with current out-of-state driver’s licenses desiring a Delaware Driver’s License must present either their out-of-state driver’s license or an official out-of -state driving record.

DMV – New Castle 2101 Mid County Drive 302-326-5000
DMV – Wilmington 2230 Hessler Blvd 302-434-3200

(Last Updated 9/24/14)