In the U.S., the issuance of birth certificates is a function of the Vital Records Office of the states, capital district, territories and former territories. Birth in the U.S. establishes automatic eligibility for American citizenship, so a birth certificate from a local authority is commonly provided to the federal government to obtain a U.S. passport. However, the U.S. State Department does issue a Consular Report of Birth Abroad for children born to U.S. citizens (who are also eligible for citizenship), including births on military bases in foreign territory
The federal and state governments have traditionally cooperated to some extent to improve vital statistics. From 1900 to 1946 the U.S. Census Bureau designed standard birth certificates, collected vital statistics on a national basis, and generally sought to improve the accuracy of vital statistics. In 1946 that responsibility was passed to the U.S. Public Health Service. Unlike the British system of recording all births in “registers”, the states file an individual document for each and every birth.
The U.S. National Center for Health Statistics creates standard forms that are recommended for use by the individual states to document births. However, states are free to create their own forms. As a result, neither the appearance nor the information content of birth certificate forms is uniform across states. These forms are completed by the attendant at birth or a hospital administrator, which are then forwarded to a local or state registrar, who stores the record and issues certified copies upon request.
Most hospitals in the U.S. issue a souvenir birth certificate which may include the footprints of the newborn. However, these birth certificates are not legally accepted as proof of age or citizenship, and are frequently rejected by the Bureau of Consular Affairs during passport applications. Many Americans believe the souvenir records to be their official birth certificates when in reality they hold little legal value.