Are Birth Records Public in Washington?
Yes. However, it depends on the type of birth records being requested. Certified copies of birth records in Washington are not public birth records. Only the registrant and certain authorized persons can request and access these types of birth records. Meanwhile, uncertified copies of birth records are considered public birth records in Washington. Members of the general public are allowed access to review and request these types of birth records.
Generally, birth records and other vital records and vital statistics are held and maintained by the Washington Department of Health. Hence, both certified and uncertified copies of birth records, such as birth certificates, may be requested through the Department.
What are Birth Records in Washington?
Washington birth records document information on births that occur in Washington. The state officially began the statewide recording of births in 1907. Before then, most counties were already recording birth events, but compliance was generally low. Birth certificates are issued, on request, as evidence of births that occurred and registered in Washington. A Washington birth record typically contains the following information:
- Child’s full name
- Date of birth
- Place of birth (city and county)
- Mother’s full name, maiden name included
- Father’s full name
A Washington birth record serves as proof of citizenship. It is also needed in obtaining documents such as driver’s license and passports. Additionally, Washingtonians require birth records to register for health insurance and enroll in school.
How to Find and Request Birth Records Online in Washington
Records of births that occurred in Washington before 1907 are accessible online and managed by the Washington State Archives. Records of births registered by the counties have been reproduced in digital forms and are also available online. Recent amendments to the laws governing vital records prohibit Washington birth records from being public information. Birth records from 1907 became publicly available on January 1, 2021, as they have been kept for over a hundred years. This restriction makes it impossible to look up recent birth records online in Washington. Interested persons can obtain birth records online by requesting through third-party vital records websites authorized by the Washington Department of Health (DoH).
Considered open to citizens of the United States, public records are available through both traditional, government sources, and through third-party websites and organizations. In many cases, third-party websites make the search easier as they are not limited geographically or by technological limitations. They are considered a good place to start when looking for a specific record or multiple records. In order to gain access to these records, interested parties must typically provide:
- The name of the person listed in the record. Juveniles are typically exempt from this search method.
- The last known or assumed location of the person listed in the record. This includes cities, counties, and states.
While third-party sites offer such services, they are not government-sponsored entities, and record availability may vary on these sites when compared to government sources.
How to Get Birth Records in Washington
Birth records in Washington can be obtained by applying in person or by mail to the Department of Health (DoH). Birth records are also available at the various Local County Health Departments in the state. In-person requests are processed and fulfilled the same day. In-person requests cost less than mail applications.
Requesters can obtain any of these three when applying for birth records in Washington:
- Birth Certificates: These are official documents of births used for legal purposes. According to the new amendments, only persons named in the certificates, their immediate relatives, or legal representatives are eligible to obtain birth certificates.
- Heirloom Birth Certificates: Heirloom birth certificates are ceremonial certificates with all the information provided on regular birth certificates. They can be framed and presented as gifts.
- Non-Certified Informational Copies: These contain the same information as birth certificates but are not printed on certified papers and cannot be used for legal purposes. Informational copies of birth certificates are inscribed with “Cannot be used for legal purposes. Informational only”.
Where Can I Find Birth Records in Washington?
Washington Department of Health - Walk-in Requests
Interested persons can submit applications for birth records in person to the DoH at:
Washington State Department of Health
Center for Health Statistics
Town Center 1
101 Israel Road South East
Tumwater, WA 98501
Washington Department of Health - Mail-In Requests
To obtain Washington birth records by mail, requesters should complete the Birth Certificate Mail Order Form and send with supporting documents to the DoH at:
Center for Health Statistics
Department of Health
P.O. Box 9709
Olympia, WA 98507
The following are some documents required of a requester to obtain birth records in Washington:
- Valid government-issued photo identification. Identity cards that expired not more than 60 days before requests are also acceptable. If a valid identification is unavailable, requesters can submit two alternative documents as stated by the DOH. The alternative documents must bear the names of requesters. They must also provide information on their dates of birth and photos.
- Proof of eligibility. Requesters must provide documents to prove their relationship with the registrants. Adult registrants seeking to obtain birth records do not need such evidence.
To obtain non-certified informational copies of birth records, requesters must provide the following information in addition to their supporting documents:
- The first, middle, and last names of the registrants on record
- First and last names of parents
- Date, month, and year births took place
- Cities and counties of birth
Local County Health Departments
The Local Health Departments in Washington counties issue birth records upon in-person and mail requests. Requesters should complete the Birth Certificate Order Form and submit it in person or send it by mail at/to the county locations of the Local Health Departments where such births occurred.
How to Get Birth Records From a Hospital in Washington
By law, Washington hospitals do not issue birth certificates. Only the Washington State Department of Health (DoH) and the Local County Health Departments are authorized to issue birth records. The Washington State Birth Filing Forms completed by new parents at the hospitals are only used to provide information electronically to the DoH.
Can Anyone Get a Copy of a Birth Certificate in Washington?
Certified copies of birth records in Washington are not public records and as such, are not available to everyone. Birth certificates can only be issued to adult registrants (persons named on the records). Registrant’s parents, immediate relatives, guardians, and legal representatives can also obtain birth certificates on behalf of minor registrants. However, proof of eligibility and relationship with the registrants is required for persons other than the registrants.
Non-certified informational copies of birth records in Washington are available on request to everyone. Requesters must, however, provide the necessary information to facilitate a smooth search. No proof of eligibility is required as informational copies of birth records cannot be used for legal purposes.
How Much Does a Birth Certificate Cost in Washington?
The cost of obtaining birth certificates in Washington varies depending on a requester’s method of application. The acceptable means of payment include checks, money orders, and cash. Money orders and checks are payable to the Department of Health, while cash payment is permitted for only walk-in requests. All fees are non-refundable even when certificates requested are not found or requests denied due to invalid supporting documents.
Walk-in Request - Washington Department of Health
Requesters applying for Washington birth certificates in person at the DoH pay $25 per copy. To obtain an heirloom birth certificate, the DoH charges $50.
Mail Request - Washington Department of Health
Requesters pay $25 per copy of a Washington birth certificate requested by mail to the DoH.
Local County Health Departments
The cost of obtaining Washington birth certificates at the Local Health Departments differs by county. Requesters should inquire about this by calling the health department in the counties where such births were recorded. However, the following delivery charges (for mail-in requests) apply for all counties:
- $5 by U.S. Mail
- $15 by UPS (takes three days)
- $40 by UPS (delivered the next business day)
How Long Does It Take to Get a Birth Certificate in Washington?
Birth certificates are issued to walk-in requesters on the same day at the Washington Department of Health (DoH). This is a lot faster than mail requests that take up to three weeks to be processed and delivered. Mail requests for heirloom birth certificates require additional time. They are fulfilled between six to eight weeks of receipt by the DoH. The processing time for requests submitted to County Health Departments by mail differs from county to county. Licensed third-party vital record websites offer expedited processing of birth records requests made to them. Obtaining copies of amended birth certificates in Washington from the DoH may take up to 5 months of processing.
How to Get a New Birth Certificate in Washington
Registrants and other qualified persons can get a new birth certificate in Washington through the state Department of Health or a local Washington Health Department office.
interested persons may request a new birth certificate by mail by completing the Birth Certificate Mail Order Form and mailing it with the required pieces of information to the WDOH address on the form. For expedited service, record seekers can opt to make an in-person request at a local Washington Health Department.
The required documentation needed to make a new birth certificate request in Washington includes a valid government identification or alternate identification and proof of qualifying relationship documentation. Record seekers would also need to pay the applicable request fee, which starts at $25 per certificate, and provide some information about the requested record. These include:
- The full name of the subject of the record.
- Date of birth (Month, Day, Year).
- The name of the City or county of birth.
- The full name of all parents listed on the record.
Record seekers may also use online vendors to request new birth certificates in Washington. Some online vendors also offer phone order requests.
How to Expunge Your Birth Records in Washington
In Washington, having records expunged exempts them from all access. At present, Washington does not have any provision for birth record expungement.
How to Seal Your Birth Records in Washington
Washington law automatically seals records of births that are not up to a hundred years. Such records only become public at the State Archives after a hundred years. Access to a sealed birth record is limited to the adult registrant, registrant’s parents, immediate relatives, guardians, and legal representatives. An adoption record in Washington is also sealed upon the finalization of the adoption process. A record holder must not submit a petition to seal adoption records in Washington to have their adoption records sealed. Hence, Washington adoption records are, by default, maintained as private records. Adoptee’s original birth certificate, adoption reports, certified copies of the adoption decree, and other documents regarding adoption are all sealed records.
How to Unseal Your Birth Records in Washington
In Washington, the possibility of unsealing adoption records rests almost entirely on the birth parents’ permission to disclose information about them. Generally, adoptees who are 18 years and older can gain access to non-certified copies of their original birth certificates if their birth parents have not filed affidavits of non-disclosure. They can do this by completing and submitting the Adoptee Request for Original Birth Certificates from a Sealed File Form to:
Center for Health Statistics
P.O. Box 9709
Olympia, WA 98507-9709
The DoH charges $20 to process such birth records requests, and it takes about five weeks to process.
Adoptees cannot obtain sealed birth records if their birth parents previously filed the Contact Preference Form stating non-disclosure of information about them. They can only access such records at the demise of their birth parents. Adoptees can request sealed birth records if their birth parents have given written consent to reveal the information in such documents. Birth parents that previously filed for non-disclosure of their information can also rescind such decisions.
An adoptee can equally access a sealed birth record in Washington by appointing a confidential intermediary to obtain a court order for that purpose. Confidential intermediaries are responsible for contacting adoptees’ birth parents to seek the release of private information to adoptees. If granted, birth parents will provide written consent for disclosure of the information in adoptees’ original birth certificates.
Who Signs Birth and Death Certificates in Washington?
A birth certificate in Washington must be completed and signed by someone who knows the birth facts, pursuant to RCW 70.58A.100. These could be a midwife or a representative of the facility where the baby was born.
On the other hand, a medical certifier who was the last to attend to the deceased certifies and signs a death certificate. A medical certifier includes a physician, physician assistant, or an advanced registered nurse who examined, counseled, or administered medication to the deceased within a year prior to death. RCW 70.58.170.