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Birth certificate: Why you need it in France and how to request one

The Local France
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Birth certificate: Why you need it in France and how to request one
Official naturalisation documents for France (Photo by ALAIN JOCARD / AFP)

In France, birth certificates are important documents that are necessary for several different administrative processes. For foreigners, this can come as a bit of a shock - particularly when they are asked for an 'acte de naissance' issued within the last six months. Here's how it all works.


The common (and understandable) reaction to this is "but I was born longer than three months ago" and, once they have realised that it is in fact a new copy being requested, "my birth date has not changed, so why do I need a new, official copy every time?"

And yes, it does seem kind of mad, but this is the system and we're stuck with it, so here's what you need to know;


Types of birth certificates in France

Before embarking on the various scenarios where you might need a birth certificate in France, you should be aware of exactly what you're being asked for. 

Your birth certificate should include you full name, sex, date and place of birth, and you may also need your parents' details. If you're from a country that issues 'short' and 'long' versions of the certificate, you may need to request the full 'long' certificate (which includes parental details) before you can start. More on how to do that below.

An extrait avec indication de la filiation means you need a certificate that includes parental details, one sans filiation means this is not necessary.

The full document must also mention any marriages, divorces, legal separations or deaths. Finally, it should reference nationality.

Then you need to check whether you're being asked to provide an extrait or a copie intégrale

A copie intégrale is a copy of the certificate, a simple photocopy is fine, but it should still include all relevant personal information (your full name, sex, date and place of birth) and those of your parents, as well as marginal mentions (eg marriage/ divorce). 

An extrait  must be an official version of the legal document by the authorities that issued it in the first place. Essentially the authorities who granted it in the first place need to reissue the certificate, and it should provide the date of re-issue. This is sometimes translated as 'a birth certificate issued within the last six months' which provokes much hilarity and incomprehension.

But it really means an 'official reissue' of your certificate. 

Along with your birth certificate, you may need to provide a certified translation and an apostille - a certificate that authenticates the origin of a public document.

When you need your birth certificate

Any change to your civil status - getting married, pacsé (entering into a civil partnership), or divorced - will require you to provide an official copy of your birth certificate (specifically, the extrait avec indication de la filiation)

The general rule is that the official copy of the document must have been re-issued by the authority that originally issued it, within six months for foreigners (ie those born outside of France). Be sure to double check this with préfecture, however. 

For non-French nationals, it must be accompanied by an official translation and a legalisation (or apostille). For French nationals, birth certificates for these procedures must be at most three months old.

To see the other documents you must provide to get married in France, click HERE. For PACS - click HERE.


Citizenship - You will also need your birth certificate when applying for French nationality. In this scenario, the French government website Service-Public states that the form must also indicate the full names of your parents, their birth dates, and places of birth.

If any of this information is missing, then you might be required to provide full copies of your parents' birth certificates as well. Additionally, if you have changed your name at any point, you must provide documentation for this as well. 

At the interview for citizenship, you will need to present the original document in its original language with proof it was issued in the last three months by the proper authorities (an apostille), and a translation for each document (if it was not issued in French). Just as for marriage and PACs, this must be the 'extrait avec indication de la filiation' version. 

READ MORE: What you need to know about PACS v marriage in France

The family residency permit - This residency permit - the "private and family life" one (vie privée et familiale) is for those who qualify for French residency due to "family ties." However, not everyone applying for this permit will need to give a copy of their birth certificate, you will only need to do so if you do not have a pre-existing visa or carte de séjour

Family record book - any update to the livret de famille (or family record book) must be accompanied by several documents, including your birth certificate. The family record book should be issued at the birth of a first child and updated for any major family event, such as marriage, birth, adoption, divorce or death. 


Registering for carte vitale/healthcare - When registering for your carte vitale health card, you will need to provide a copy of your birth certificate. In this situation, you may or may not need to have the document translated, so you will want to verify with the relevant authorities. If you cannot provide this document, then French social security may accept an "equivalent" provided by your consulate or embassy. You are requested to provide a 'copie intégrale' - though you can also provide an extrait as well. You can see the list of documents necessary to register for social security HERE.

Other - You may also need to provide a copy of your birth certificate when applying for government subsidies with CAF (Caisse d'Allocations Familiales). Additionally, to incorporate a company in France, you will need to provide identification for the physical person making the request, and as a result may be required to give a copy of your birth certificate. 

READ MORE: How to get a carte vitale in France and why you need one

How to request your birth certificate

Most people will have their birth certificate with them, but as outlined above you may need to request another - either the long-form version or the recent reissue.

In all cases, you request it from the authority who issued it in the first place - the issuing authority name should be on the certificate and you can then search online for their contact details (if you were born in the UK you may also need to check if that authority still exists after several local government reorganisations).

Your country's embassy or consulate in France cannot issue birth certificates.



You need to request your certificate from the state that issued it, and each state has a slightly different process.

Many states will only mail an official birth certificate within the United States, so consider whether you have a trusted friend or family member you could mail it to. You will have to pay a fee for this process, with the amount depending on the state.

If you are ordering a birth certificate from a state that does not allow you to request it online, you may still be able to request it on the internet by using the website VitalChek.

If you need your certificate apostilled, the procedure will, again, depend on your state. For some states, you (or a parent) can walk-in and have the birth certificate apostilled. For others you will have to either make an appointment or mail it in.

Additionally, when getting something apostilled you will also likely have to put down an American address.

Basically - the steps go: request long-form birth certificate with state authorities, request apostille from state authorities, and expect the corresponding delays between those steps, as well as mailing time back to France.



If you were born in England or Wales, you can order by phone by calling the General Register Office (GRO). To order your birth certificates by the post, fill in the relevant GRO certificate application and send it to the address on the form.

You can also do so online simply by registering with the GRO and requesting a copy.

Keep in mind that Scotland (information HERE) and Northern Ireland (information HERE) have different procedures for requesting a birth certificate.

The procedure will incur "certificate fees" - these cost £11 and are sent 4 days after you apply for the birth certificate. According to the UK government official website, if you do not have a GRO index reference number, then you will have to pay £3 extra for each search.

Your birth certificates will be sent 15 working days after you apply, but if you need it sooner you can request a priority service for a higher fee.

If you need your certificate apostilled, you can only use the paper-based apostille service. To request it, you can apply online or you can submit your documents by the post or in person.

This process typically takes up to 20 days. You can learn more HERE.

Getting your birth certificate translated

You will not need this for every administrative procedure requiring a birth certificate, but for marriage, PACs and citizenship, you will need an official translation of both the birth certificate and the apostille. 

The documents must be translated by a certified translator (traducteur certifié) who has the relevant official stamp.

READ MORE: Certified translations: What are the rules for translating documents into French?


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Anonymous 2022/11/21 13:52
It is worth noting if your birth certificate is written in both English and French (or any other language and French), then an official translation is not required.

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