They are the first and last ID documents under your name: a birth certificate and death certificate.

A birth certificate is needed for getting a driver’s license, a passport, and verifying your U.S. citizenship throughout your life. In the U.S., birth certificates are usually issued by the hospital, birthing facility, or midwife/doula that helped deliver the pregnancy.

A death certificate is needed for family members to take care of a deceased loved one’s estate, claim life insurance benefits, and apply for permits for burial or cremation. In the U.S., death certificates are issued by the funeral home, cremation service, or the person who takes care of the deceased’s remains.

But what if you can’t find these certificates and have no clue how to request one? Don’t worry, Pennsylvania has a pretty straight forward systems for requesting a birth or death certificate — it’s not too hard if you have the right documents.

Key takeaways

  • The process for requesting these certificates are the exact same.
  • You'll need government-issued ID or documents that show your full name and current address.
  • You may need to prove your relation to the person you're requesting a certificate for.
  • It costs $20 per certificate.
  • If you apply online or by mail, the process takes 2-3 weeks. If you apply in person, you can get it the same day.
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How to get a birth certificate in Pennsylvania

When a child is born, parents should receive a complimentary birth certificate. If you need another copy, you can apply for a new birth certificate.

You or a family member have to apply for a certified copy of your birth certificate with the Pennsylvania Department of Public Health’s Office of Vital Records. If you have questions, you can call them at 724-656-3100 or toll-free at 844-228-3516, Mondays through Fridays from 7:15 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. — or use the online contact form.

Who is eligible to request a birth certificate

Person named on the birth certificate (you), spouse, parent, sibling, children, grandparent or grandchild, legal guardian, or representative of the person named on the birth certificate. Must be 18 years or older.

  • Relatives have to prove that they’re related to you.

  • Legal representatives have to prove that they are representing you.

  • If you need a birth certificate for someone who is deceased, you have to also provide a copy of the person’s death certificate.

What information is on a birth certificate?

Birth certificates include the person’s name, birthdate, place of birth, and other information like gender assigned at birth. It also includes the names of your parents, and can include their birthdates and other information.

What documents do I need to get a birth certificate in Pennsylvania?

  1. You need an application form, which can be picked up at an Office of Vital Records (In Philly, at 110 N. Eighth Street) or downloaded. For other Office of Vital Records locations visit the website.

  2. You have to provide government-issued ID or a legible photocopy. Acceptable forms of ID include: Driver’s license, license to carry firearms/carry and conceal permit, inmate ID card, military ID card, medical marijuana ID card, passport (U.S. or foreign), and state-issued ID.

  3. If you don’t have government-issued ID, then you need to provide two current documents that verify your full name and current address, like a utility bill, pay stub, bank statement, car registration/lease, or rental agreement.

  4. If a family member is requesting someone’s birth certificate, you have to provide documentation — like a marriage license or birth certificate — that proves you’re related. Legal representatives have to provide documentation that they are representing the person named on the certificate.

How much does it cost to get a birth certificate in Pennsylvania?

$20 for each birth certificate requested. Note that there’s an additional $10 service fee and shipping cost if you apply online. Make checks and money orders payable to “VITAL RECORDS.” Cash is not accepted.

  • Online: Credit card

  • In-person: Credit card, check or money order

  • Mail: Check or money order

How long will it take to get a birth certificate in Pennsylvania?

Two weeks. That’s the current estimated wait time for processing a birth certificate request.

However, you may be able to get the certificate in the same day if you request a certificate in-person at an Office of Vital Records by 2:30 p.m., or 10:30 a.m. for Philadelphia.

How to apply for a birth certificate in Pennsylvania

  • Online (Quick & available 24/7, but $10 extra) — Pennsylvania only has one authorized vendor for requesting birth certificates: mycertificates.health.pa.gov. Be ready to upload scanned copies of the required documents and pay fees with a credit or debit card.

  • In-person (Same-day service available) — Visit the Office of Vital Records at 110 N. Eighth Street. Bring your valid ID, processing fee, and the application form (if you have it already, but you can get the form at this office). For other Office of Vital Records locations visit their website.

  • MailSend your filled-out and signed application form, valid ID, processing fee, and any other supporting documents to: Division of Vital Records, Birth Certificate Processing Unit, PO Box 1528, New Castle, PA 16103. Remember to make checks and money orders payable to “VITAL RECORDS.” Cash is not accepted. Keep in mind that if you’re applying by mail, the mailing address you apply with has to match the address on your ID.

How to get a death certificate in Pennsylvania

You can request copies of a death certificate from the funeral director or person in charge of taking care of your deceased loved one’s remains when making funeral arrangements. If you need a loved one’s death certificate after the person’s funeral has passed then you need to apply at the Office of Vital Records.

A family member or eligible party can apply for a certified copy of a death certificate with the Pennsylvania Department of Public Health’s Office of Vital Records. If you have questions, you can call them at 724-656-3100 or toll-free at 844-228-3516, Mondays through Fridays from 7:15 am to 10:00 pm — or use the online contact form.

Who is eligible to request a death certificate

Spouse, ex-spouse, parent, sibling, children, grandparent or grandchild, a person with direct financial interest, extended family members with a direct relationship, and legal guardians and representatives of the deceased person.

Relatives have to prove that they’re related to the deceased person. Legal representatives have to prove that they are representing the deceased person or their estate. People with a direct financial interest — like a business partner or loan provider — have to prove that they did business with the person.

What information is on a death certificate?

Death certificates include the name of the person, time of death, place of death, cause of death, and other vital information about the deceased person.

What documents do I need to get a death certificate in Pennsylvania?

  1. You need an application form, which can be picked up at an Office of Vital Records (In Philly, at 110 N. Eighth Street) or downloaded. For other Office of Vital Records locations visit their website.

  2. You have to provide government-issued ID or a legible photocopy. Acceptable forms of ID include: Driver’s license, license to carry firearms/carry and conceal permit, inmate ID card, military ID card, medical marijuana ID card, passport (U.S. or foreign), and state-issued ID.

  3. If you don’t have government-issued ID, then you need to provide two current documents that verify your full name and current address, like a utility bill, pay stub, bank statement, car registration/lease, or rental agreement.

  4. If a family member is requesting someone’s death certificate, you have to provide documentation — like a marriage license or birth certificate — that proves you’re related. Legal representatives have to provide documentation that they are representing the deceased person or their estate. If you have direct financial interest with the deceased person, you have to provide financial documents or contracts to prove that you were in business with this person.

How much does it cost to get a death certificate in Pennsylvania?

$20 for each death certificate requested. Note that there’s an additional $10 service fee and shipping cost if you apply online. Make checks and money orders payable to “VITAL RECORDS.” Cash is not accepted.

  • Online: Credit card

  • In-person: Credit card, check or money order

  • Mail: Check or money order

How long does it take to get a death certificate in Pennsylvania?

Three weeks. That’s the current estimated wait time for processing a death certificate request.

However, you may be able to get the certificate in the same day if you request a certificate in-person at an Office of Vital Records by 2:30 p.m. — or 10:30 a.m. for Philadelphia.

How to apply for a death certificate in Pennsylvania

  • Online (Quick & available 24/7, but $10 extra) — Pennsylvania only has one authorized vendor for requesting death certificates: mycertificates.health.pa.gov. Be ready to upload scanned copies of the required documents and pay fees with a credit or debit card.

  • In-person (Same-day service available) — Visit the Office of Vital Records at 110 N. Eighth Street. Bring your valid ID, processing fee, and the application form (if you have it already, but you can get the form at this office). For other Office of Vital Records locations visit their website.

  • MailSend your filled out and signed application form, valid ID, processing fee, and any other supporting documents if needed, to: Division of Vital Records, Death Certificate Processing Unit, PO Box 1528, New Castle, PA 16103. Remember to make checks and money orders payable to “VITAL RECORDS.” Cash is not accepted. Keep in mind that if you’re applying by mail, the mailing address you apply with has to match the address on your ID.

Expert sources

  • Maggi Barton, Deputy Press Secretary, Department of Health
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