The government maintains birth records at the local and state level. Vital records offices keep track of these records, including birth certificates, birth indexes, and birth databases. States and local offices have been keeping birth records for decades, while many states have kept records since joining the Union. Offices that maintain birth records also keep death, marriage and divorce records. Some states additionally have paternity registries and affidavits of parentage for children born to single parents. Birth records can usually be ordered online or in a local office for a small fee. Some offices offer same-day service.
Specialized departments within the vital records office can alter birth records. The department can only change these records through a court order. Various parties can request birth records for any number of reasons, which can be certified or authenticated. A certified copy will have an embossed seal and is used for passport issuance or other government documents. Adoption or work visas often require authenticated copies.
There are various types of birth records. One type is a souvenir birth certificate. These are often issued at hospitals and include prints of the baby's feet and hands, but are not on record at state and county offices. The birth records that are kept by these offices include a certified record used for legal purposes. Some states and communities maintain short-form birth certificates, but these can't be used in the same legal circumstances as certified copies. The legal, certified copy is a record stating the name, gender, race, date, time and place of birth. It also includes vital information about the parents. The official long-form birth certificate includes the signature of the doctor who delivered the child, as well as the signature of one or both of the parents.