When to register a birth
Births must usually be registered within 42 days. Stillbirths should also normally be registered within 42 days and no later than twelve months after the birth.
Who can register a birth
A mother can register the birth of her child on her own, regardless of whether she is married or not. She can also register the birth jointly with the father.
A father can only register the birth on his own if:
- he was married to the mother when the child was born or conceived, or
- the mother has completed a statutory declaration form naming him as the father, or
- there is a parental responsibility agreement in force, or
- he has an appropriate court order.
If the father is not married to the mother but registers the birth jointly with her, he will acquire parental responsibility.
If you're the female partner of a child's mother, you may be able to register the birth jointly with the mother in certain circumstances. This will give you parental responsibility.
For more information about parental responsibility, see under Children, in Living together and marriage - legal differences.
If you're the female partner of a child's mother, you might want to get advice about whether you can get parental responsibility for the child. You can get advice from a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.
If the child's parents are not able to register the birth, this can be done by one of the following people:
- a hospital administrator who has responsibility for registering births that occur in hospital
- someone living in the house where the child was born
- any person present at the birth
- any person responsible for the child.
How to register a birth
Usually, you must register a birth with the Registrar of Births and Deaths at the register office in the district where the baby was born. You can find the address of the register office in the telephone directory. You can also search for your local register office online at: www.gov.uk.
If you can't go to the register office in the district where the baby was born, you can go to another office. The registrar will then send the details to the office in the district where the baby was born. You must still go to the register office within 42 days.
There is no fee for registering a birth but there is a fee for an extra copy of the certificate. A short certificate of birth will be issued free of charge at the time of registration but there is a fee for copies of the full certificate.
Naming the child on a birth certificate
The parents can give the child any first names and surnames they choose and the surname does not have to be the same as the parents. In Northern Ireland details about a father who is not married to the mother may only be entered in certain circumstances.
A mother may give the child the same surname as the father if she wants, and she does not need the father's consent to do this.
In the case of a child whose parents are not married to each other, the mother can record the father's name in the birth entry.
Names cannot be changed unless it can be proven that an error was made.
Births outside the UK
All births on British registered ships and hovercrafts, and births of British subjects on foreign registered ships with a point of arrival or departure in the UK, are registered by the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen in Cardiff.
All births on British registered aircraft are registered by the Civil Aviation Authority.
Births of British citizens, British Dependent Territories citizens and British Overseas citizens can normally be registered in foreign countries at the British Consul or High Commission.
Births to members of the armed forces serving outside the UK may be registered by the Service Departments’ Registering Officer overseas.
What to do if a birth has not been registered
It is possible to apply to register a birth years after it occurred. You have to be one of the people who can register a birth and you will need to give as many details as possible, such as the exact date and place of birth including your or the child’s full name and address. You should write to:
PO Box 476
Telephone: 0300 123 1837
A transsexual person whose birth or adoption was registered in the UK, who is granted a full Gender Recognition Certificate by the Gender Recognition Panel, can get a new birth certificate reflecting their acquired gender from the Gender Recognition Register held at the General Register Office.
Someone looking at your new birth certificate will not be able to tell that you have legally acquired a different gender.
There is also the option for this new birth certificate to show your birth surname if different from the surname on your gender recognition certificate. Go to GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk.
Your original birth entry will remain in existence, but is not linked to your new entry.
Types of birth certificates
There are two types of birth certificates:-
- the full certificate. This is a copy of the entry in the birth register, giving all the recorded details
- the short certificate. This only gives the child’s full name, sex, date and place of birth. It does not give the name and particulars of the mother or father. A short certificate is issued free of charge when a birth is first registered
Getting a copy of a birth certificate
Birth certificates in England and Wales
You can get a copy of a birth certificate in one of the following ways and a fee will be charged:
- by post or personal visit to the register office where the birth took place
- online from the General Register Office, if you have full details of the birth or know the GRO Index reference number. You can pay by credit or debit card. You can apply online at www.gov.uk.
- by telephone from the General Register Office. This service is only available to credit and debit card holders
- by post from the General Register Office. You can download an application from the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk or by emailing the General Register Office. You can pay the fee by credit or debit card or by a cheque payable to IPS. The contact details are:
General Register Office
Certificate Services Section
PO Box 2
Tel: 0300 123 1837 (Mon-Fri 8am-8pm; Sat 9am-4pm)
For details of fees for copies of birth certificates, go to the GOV UK website at www.gov.uk.
You should provide as much information about the birth as possible. If you do not know your exact date of birth, a search will be made for one year either side of the year you give. If an entry cannot be traced, you will get a refund.
If you supply an index reference number, the certificate will be posted out within four working days. . The index reference number can be found by searching the indexes on microfiche at some large libraries and public record offices. Most of the indexes from 1837 until the early 20th century can be searched free of charge at: www.freebmd.org.uk. Some local register offices have made their own indexes available online: see ukbmd.org.uk.
You can get a certificate, for social security purposes only, from the local registrar where the birth was registered. If you obtain the copy soon after the birth is registered, you will be charged a lower fee. Once the register has been passed to the Superintendent Registrar, the full fee is charged. The certificate will be kept by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
Certificates from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland
You can get a copy of a certificate of a birth which took place in Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland, and details of the fees, from:-
The General Register Office
49-55 Chichester Street Belfast
Tel: 02890 252000
Republic of Ireland
General Register Office
Tel: 00 353 (0)90 6632900
Birth certificates after adoption
An adoption certificate replaces a birth certificate for someone who has been adopted and should be used for all official purposes. You can get a copy of your adoption certificate from the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk.
If you are aged 18 or over and have been adopted in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, you can apply for a copy of your original birth certificate.
If all the birth details are known, you should apply to the Superintendent Registrar in the district where your birth was registered or to the General Register Office. There is a fee for this.
If you don't know your birth details and you were adopted before 12 November 1975, you will have to see an experienced counsellor before you can get information from the original birth certificate.
If adopted on or after 12 November 1975, you can choose whether or not you would like to see a counsellor before getting information about your birth certificate.
For more information about access to birth records, go to the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk.
For more information about adoption, in England and Wales see Adopting a child in Family fact sheets. In Northern Ireland, see Young people and family.
Birth certificates from abroad
If you were born abroad, the birth may also have been registered in the UK. If so, a copy of the certificate can be obtained in the usual way - see above.
If the birth has not been registered in the UK, you may be able to get a copy of the birth certificate from the country where you were born. This can be done by contacting the relevant embassy in the UK.
If you are unable to obtain a copy of your birth certificate from abroad, the Local Document Searches of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office may be able to help. A fee is charged. The address is:-
Local Document Searches
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
If you were baptised in the Indian sub-continent before 1947 you should check with the India Office Records at:-
Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections enquiries
The British Library
96 Euston Road
Tel: 020 7412 7873
Fax: 020 7412 7641
Fees for copies of birth certificates in England and Wales
You can find information about the fees for copies of birth certificates in England and Wales on the GOV.UK website at: www.gov.uk.
Fees for Copies of birth certificates in Northern Ireland
You can find information about the fees for copies of birth certificates in Northern Ireland on the NI Direct website at: www.nidirect.gov.uk.