Article image birth certificates

Anyone who has ever decided to move abroad knows that having the correct paperwork in order is essential, especially when it comes to identification. There are many kinds of ID people can use to prove they are who they say they are. Some of them have different levels of importance or validity. 

For example, a driver’s licence is a valid form of identification in some situations but not in others. If you were to treat proving your identity like a game of cards, the strongest hand you could have is generally a passport and a birth certificate. Birth certificates are very important but do they work the same in every country? How do birth certificates work in France? Do foreigners need to do something special with their birth certificates when moving here? Read on to find out more. 

Do Birth Certificates Work the Same Way in Every Country?

Birth certificates, in principle, are quite similar all over the world, but they’re not really the same in every single country. Depending on where you’re from, they might be issued in different ways. For example, in Australia (where I’m from), your birth certificate is issued on the day you are born by the department of Births, Deaths and Marriages in the state where you reside. In Iceland, babies actually don’t have a birth certificate until they have been named by their parents, and the parents have around 6 months to decide on a name. 

How Do They Work in France?

A birth certificate in France is called ‘Act de Naissance’. It is commonly used as a form of identification for just about every situation where a French person needs to prove their identity. 

French birth certificates work quite differently from the birth certificates in a lot of other countries. In many other countries (particularly those in the English speaking world), a birth certificate only contains information about a person’s birth. It usually has the date, time, place and information about the person’s parents. Usually, this is a document that never changes. 

In France, birth certificates are more of a living document. They are regularly amended each time important details change in a person’s life. These amendments are called ‘Mention Marginale,’ and this literally translates to ‘a note in the margin of the page.’ Mention Marginale includes things like when people get married, get divorced, have children and so on. 

Will My Original Birth Certificate be Enough in France?

You might think that your original birth certificate would work the same way in France as it does in your country of birth, but you might be wrong. French birth certificates are changed regularly. As a result, when French people need a copy of their birth certificate, there is normally a stipulation on how old that copy is allowed to be. In most cases, the copy isn’t allowed to be older than three months. 

Getting a recent copy of a birth certificate is quite easy and free for French people. They simply apply for it online, and it will arrive at their chosen address via registered post. 

The fact that it’s so easy and free to get a copy of a birth certificate for French people means that people in the French administration might expect foreign birth certificates to work the same way. It can therefore sometimes be a bit uncompromising in this situation. Technically people in the French administration are allowed to accept foreign birth certificates that are older than three or six months. However, if you check out any online forum, you will find that this doesn’t happen very often. 

In some situations, you will also need to get your birth certificate translated into French

Any Words of Advice for Preparing Copies of my Birth Certificate?

The biggest piece of advice I could give you is to plan ahead as much as you can. If you know you are going to need your birth certificate for some appointments, perhaps try to get those appointments within the same month. Like this, you can get as much use out of the copy of your birth certificate as you possibly can. 

What happens when I Become a French Citizen?

When foreigners become French citizens, they are actually given a French birth certificate. As a result, their enormous French paper trail actually becomes a lot easier. 

Fun Fact: All foreigners who become French citizens have the city of Nantes on their Act de Naissance as their city of birth.