Why must birth certificates in France be less than 3 months old?

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Most foreigners living in France are asked at some stage to deliver a full birth certificate that is less than 3 months old. Why three months?

If you’ve even seen a French birth certificate of someone who has been married, you will understand why.

French birth certificates are “annotés” which means that any change in civil status is recorded on the birth certificate itself – marriage, civil union, separation, divorce, remarriage, death … It’s like a personal history rather than a record of a single event. This is also the purpose of the livret de famille*.

As a result, the French authorities always ask for a recent certificate, which is defined as less than 3 months old. Birth certificates are obtained from the town hall of the place of birth and are free of charge. You simply send a photocopy of your identity card and a stamped addressed envelope with a cover letter saying who you are and what you want and they usually arrive in a few days. You can also go to the town hall in person. Since February 15th 2019, birth certificates can also be obtained in multilingual versions (i.e. all the languages of the European Union).

In most countries other than France, birth certificates are not annotated. As a result, there is no reason to submit a certificate of less than 3 months, nor a translation of less than 3 months. Unfortunately, a lot of authorities are not aware of this. I am a sworn translator (Orléans Appeal Court) and have just translated a UK birth certificate for a British citizen who is getting married in a neighbouring town in the Loire Valley because the local town hall simply knows nothing about the regulations and my client doesn’t want to mess around.

I have personally used the same Australian birth certificate for countless cartes de séjour, two marriages, one divorce and a successful application for French citizenship. Each time, I explained that “les actes de naissance en Australie ne sont pas annotés.”

On the French official website service-public.fr, it says:

“Un acte de naissance, de mariage ou de décès demeure valable tant que les éléments qui y figurent n’ont pas été modifiés.”  https://www.service-public.fr/particuliers/vosdroits/F10449. i.e. a birth, marriage or death certificate remains valid as long as the information given in the certificate has not been modified.

This means that, unless your name has changed (for a reason other than marriage) or there was an error in your initial certificate, you can use any full birth certificate issued since you were born. If questioned (which I very much doubt), all you have to do is quote the above sentence if an authority insists on a certificate less than 3 months old. Good luck!

*livret de famille: this is a little booklet you are given when you marry. It is added to each time you have a child. It also records divorces and deaths.

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11 thoughts on “Why must birth certificates in France be less than 3 months old?”

  1. Interesting. It makes sense to ask for a recent copy if every change in civil status is recorded on the birth certificate itself. These are curiosities that you will only find out if you live in that country.

  2. France is a little like the USA. It is the United States of France, same laws, interpreted differently by different prefectures. They do this with many formalities and records, and obviously are doing it with CDS, rightly or wrongly.
    Nicholas Russell.

  3. Thank you so much for this post and the tips to submit birth certificates. Me and my mother having been tearing our hair out trying to understand how to get a birth certificate for my father with his death on it so that we can sort out the pension paperwork. People answering our emails have simply stated they need a birth certificate, but not why, or if we can get away without having annotations. This has taken a huge weight off our shoulders, and hopefully they will accept your très belle phrase…

  4. Thanks so much for the link to the service-public page, here’s hoping it works.
    It’s clear for marriage certificates but they neglected to copy and paste the same line below, so fingers crossed we’ll be convincing enough to the fonctionnaire in front of us…

  5. Thank you for this! I recently applied for dual citizenship to France as my mother is born there and I am an American.
    They sent me back : need originals of mothers marriage cert, birth cert and translation in French. The 3 month old birth does not have her marriage on there so I feel I am at a loss.

      1. I am so happy I got in touch with you as well. Still waiting patiently on paperwork.
        Talk soon thank you Rosemary

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