When a disaster strikes.
Plan now for how you shall store your vital documents.
Plan now for how you shall store your vital documents.
- Replace Lost or Stolen Identification (ID) Cards
- Vital Records Documents Issued in the United States
- How to Replace Your Lost or Destroyed Vital Records
- Get a Copy of Your Birth Certificate
- Request a Replacement Marriage Certificate
- Request a Certified Copy of a Death Certificate
- Divorce Decrees and Certificates
If your driver's license or state-issued identification (ID) card was recently lost or stolen, contact your state motor vehicle agency.
When requesting a state ID, you may need to provide other forms of ID that contain your photo, full name, and date of birth. Contact your state motor vehicle agency to find out what you need to bring with you to prove your identity.
Social Security Cards
If your Social Security card was lost or stolen, contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) to request a replacement card.
Medicare ID Cards
The SSA can also help you replace a lost or stolen Medicare card.
Medicaid ID Cards
To replace a lost or stolen Medicaid card, please contact your state Medicaid office.
If your passport was lost or stolen, you must report the loss or theft immediately. Find out how to report a lost or stolen passport and get a replacement.
Permanent Resident (Green) Cards
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) can help you replace a lost or stolen Permanent Resident Card (Green Card).
Federal Employee ID Cards (Smart Cards)
The government agency that you work for can help you replace your Smart Card.
U.S. Military ID Cards
Vital records documents consist of birth, death, marriage, and divorce certificates. State government vital records offices issue these documents. To get a copy of a vital record document, contact the vital records office in the state where the event occurred.
Replacing all important documents that were lost or destroyed in a flood, fire, or other disaster can be overwhelming. Although the process varies from state to state, these general steps can help you get started.
- Replace your birth certificate. Find the vital records office in the state where you were born. Check to find out if you can obtain a certified copy of your birth certificate without any identification and follow the instructions. A few states don’t require a government-issued photo ID, or accept other solutions like a sworn statement of your identity. Some states allow your mother or father whose name is on the birth certificate to submit a notarized letter with a copy of their photo ID. If you do need your own government-issued photo ID to get a copy of your birth certificate, start with step 2.
- Replace your driver’s license. Get this first if you cannot get your birth certificate. This task varies from state to state. In some states, you can do it online.
- Replace your marriage certificate. You’ll need a certified copy as proof if you changed your name when you got married. Contact the vital records office in the state where you were married.
- Replace your Social Security card. It's free but you'll need a government-issued photo ID.
- Replace other important documents. Your state or local election office can tell you how to replace your voter registration card. Contact the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to find out how to replace naturalization or citizenship documents. Learn how to replace other documents including Medicare and Medicaid cards and military and federal employee IDs.
Government agencies usually mail replacement vital documents. But if your home was destroyed in a disaster, you might not be able to get your mail. Contact your local post office and ask if you can pick up your mail there or request to have your mail forwarded to a temporary location.
Your birth certificate is the most important document you'll need to prove your legal identity and age. You'll need it to apply for a passport or government benefits, enroll in school, join the military, or claim pension or insurance benefits. If you need a copy, where you were born will determine how to get it.
If You Were Born in the U.S.
For a certified copy of your birth certificate, contact the vital records office in the state where you were born for instructions on how to request a copy and get information on any fees.
If you need to get a copy of your birth certificate quickly, ask the vital records office at the time you place your order about getting expedited service or shipping.
If You Were Born Abroad, or on a Military Base Abroad
If you were born to American parents abroad, they should have registered your birth with the U.S. Embassy or consulate in that country, and received a Consular Report of Birth Abroad. You can get a copy of this report from the U.S. Department of State. Depending on the country, a vital records office in the nation may also list the birth.
If you were born on a military base abroad, and your parents did not register your birth with the U.S. Embassy, you may have to contact the hospital where the birth took place. You may also try contacting the base operator or public affairs office for the appropriate military branch.
If You Were Born Abroad and Adopted by a U.S. Citizen
The country in which you were born issued your birth certificate. If you need a replacement, you must contact the nearest foreign embassy or consulate for that country. A child born in a foreign country and adopted by a U.S. citizen will not receive a U.S. birth certificate. If the document is in a language other than English, you should also seek the embassy's help in getting the document translated if you require authenticated documents.
If you need to replace naturalization/citizenship documents for a child who was adopted from a foreign country by a U.S. citizen, you will need to fill out an application for replacement of naturalization/citizenship form or contact U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for further help.
Marriage Licenses and Marriage Certificates
A marriage license is the piece of paper that authorizes you to get married. A marriage certificate is the document that proves you are married. Typically, the person who performs your wedding ceremony submits the license to the county office within a few days of the ceremony. Your marriage certificate is then issued and sent to you, usually within a month.
Obtaining a New or Duplicate Marriage License
Most marriage licenses expire within 30 days to a year, depending on the issuing state. If your license expires before you get married, you can apply for a new one. If your license is lost or destroyed after the wedding, before being submitted to the county, the person who officiated should contact the office that issued your license to obtain a duplicate.
Obtaining a Copy of Your Marriage Certificate
For a certified copy of your marriage certificate, contact the vital records office in the state where you were married for instructions on how to request a copy and information on any fees.
Even though the guidelines vary by state, all requests should include:
- Full names of both spouses at time of marriage
- Month, day, and year of the marriage
- Place of marriage (city or town, county, and state)
- Purpose for which copy of marriage certificate is needed
- Relationship to persons whose marriage certificate is being requested
- Daytime telephone number (include area code)
You may need to provide a copy of the death certificate of a spouse or other family member for a variety of legal reasons. These can include claiming life insurance, applying for a spouse’s pension and/or Social Security benefits; applying for Medicaid benefits; changing joint bank and credit card accounts, utilities, mortgages, vehicle titles, and leases; and remarrying. Check to see which require a certified copy of the death certificate and which require just a photocopy.
If the Death Occurred in the U.S.
You can request a certified copy of a death certificate from the vital records office of the state or territory in which the death occurred. See the instructions for that state or territory for details such as fees, address to write to, and the requestor’s required identification.
In addition to your state’s requirements, all requests should contain:
- Full name of the person whose death certificate is being requested
- Their sex
- Their parents' names, including maiden name of their mother
- Month, day, and year of their death
- Place of death (city or town, county, and state; and name of hospital, if known/applicable)
- Purpose for which the copy is needed
- Your relationship to the person whose record is being requested
- Your daytime telephone number with area code
If the Death Occurred Outside the U.S.
A divorce decree is an official document from the court that grants the termination of a marriage. It includes specific details of the divorce.
A divorce certificate is issued by a state vital records office. It shows that a divorce occurred but does not state all of the same information as a divorce decree. You can save time and money by determining which document you need before making your request.
Get a Copy of a Divorce Decree
Contact the "county clerk's office" or "clerk of the court" for the county or city in which the divorce was granted.
Get a Copy of a Divorce Certificate
Contact the state vital records office in which the divorce was granted.
If the divorce occurred outside the U.S. and you are in the U.S., contact the appropriate country's embassy or nearest consulate to find out how to get a copy of the divorce decree.
United States law does not require U.S. citizens to register a foreign divorce decree at an embassy. But if the foreign country in which your divorce took place is a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Authentication of Documents, you may bring your divorce decree to a U.S. Embassy or consulate to have it certified.