Birth registration and birth certificates: report

Appendix F╤Current law and practice in selected international jurisdictions

England and Wales

1.1 The civil registration of births in England and Wales began in 1837.[105] The requirement to give notice of a birth in England is contained in section 269 of the National Health Service Act 2006 (UK)[106] and the National Health Service and Public Health (Functions and Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2013 (UK).

1.2 In Wales, the Minister for Health and Social Affairs has responsibility for the National Health Service (NHS).[107] Birth notification requirements are provided for in separate, but effectively mirror provisions, in the National Health Service (Wales) Act 2006 (UK)[108] and the National Health Service (Notification of Births and Deaths) Regulations 1982 (UK).[109]

1.3 Birth registration requirements are contained in a separate Act and accompanying regulations—the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953 (UK); the Registration of Births and Deaths Regulations 1987 (UK)[110]; and the Registration of Births and Deaths (Welsh Language) Regulations 1987 (UK).[111] This Act also establishes the ability to apply for a birth certificate.[112]

1.4 In both of these jurisdictions, it is the duty of a child’s father and any person in

attendance upon the mother to give notice of the birth, within six hours, to the relevant body (in England) or local health board (in Wales) of the area in which the birth takes place.[113] ‘Relevant body’ in England includes the board, local authority or clinical commissioning group.[114] Failure to notify the relevant body or local health board within

36 hours of a birth, on a prescribed form,[115] can attract a penalty.[116]

1.5 NHS hospitals routinely give notice of births to the local government authority (for example, the local council) registry closest to where the mother resides.[117] Notice is also given to the NHS Numbers for Babies Central Issue Service (NN4B CIS).[118] Birth notification has been recognised by the United Kingdom Government as a ‘vital component’ of the civil registration system:

The notification provides the evidence that a birth has taken place and helps in verifying that all births are registered, thus guarding against fraudulent registrations and avoiding duplicate registrations. To deliver electronic registration of births, these notifications will need to be provided electronically by the Health Authority where the birth occurred. Information contained in a notification, including the child’s NHS number, will form a ‘marker’ record and be matched against the information given by the parent(s) when registering the birth and naming the child.[119]

1.6 After notification, births must be registered within 42 days.[120] The registration of a birth is free of charge.[121]

1.7 A birth notification paper will be provided to new parents upon discharge from hospital or from the attendant midwife at the birth. Parents may choose to bring this form with them when registering the birth.[122]

1.8 A parent may register the birth prior to leaving hospital (if the facility is available),[123] or at the local government authority registry where the baby was born.[124] If the parents do not reside within the district where the baby was born, or have moved, they can register at any office within England or Wales.[125]

1.9 If, after 42 days, the birth has not been registered, the registrar may require qualified persons with information regarding the birth to come forward and register the birth.[126] There are separate provisions within the legislation for births registered after 12 months.[127]

1.10 When registering a birth, the particulars required include the date and place of birth; the full name and gender of the child; the father’s full name, place of birth and occupation; the mother’s full name, maiden name, place of birth and usual address; and any informant’s full name, qualification and usual address.[128]

1.11 Particular provisions apply to the inclusion of the father on registration documents if the child was born to parents who were not married at the time of the birth.[129]

1.12 The Act provides for the registrar to provide the informant (generally a parent) with a certificate of the registration at the time of registration on request.[130] Parents can use this confirmation document when seeking child benefits[131] or other services.

1.13 If a birth is registered at the local government authority registry, a short birth certificate can be issued immediately after registration. This certificate will show the name, sex and date of birth of the child.[132] There is no charge for this certificate. If a child is registered in an area other than where the birth occurred, the registrar receiving the declaration of birth will forward the registration on to the appropriate registrar and a short birth certificate will be issued and mailed to the parent’s home address from that local authority.

1.14 A full, certified copy of a birth certificate is only issued on payment of a prescribed fee.[133] This full birth certificate includes further information, such as the parents’ details. This form of certificate is required for more formal identity proof, for example, in passport applications.[134]

1.15 Fees for a full, certified copy of a birth certificate vary depending on whether the certificate is applied for at the same time as the birth is registered or at a later stage.[135] Whether the application is made to the Registrar General, superintendent registrar or local registrar will also affect the fee payable[136]

1.16 A full, certified birth certificate can be applied for online to the Registrar General at the Central Registry Office. This costs £9.25 (approximately AUD $13).[137]

1.17 A full birth certificate can also be issued by a local registrar at the time of registration. This costs £4 (approximately AUD$6),[138] while a full certificate issued at a time other than registration may cost between £7 and £10 (approximately AUD$10–15).

Tell Us Once service

1.18 Tell Us Once is a free government initiative offered in England and Wales, designed to decrease the administrative burden involved in notifying government departments, organisations and local authorities of a birth or death.[139] Tell Us Once is a voluntary service offered by most local authorities.

1.19 If a parent/s elects to use the Tell Us Once service, the local registry office will tell government departments and local council services about the birth on the parents’ behalf. This includes the Department for Work and Pensions, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit offices, Children’s Services and HM Revenue and Customs.[140]

1.20 If a parent/s wishes to claim child benefit, they must take the completed child benefit form to their registration appointment. The local registry will stamp and date the form and send it to the Department for Work and Pensions which can speed up the application process.[141]

1.21 Recent evaluations of the scheme have been positive.[142] Both government agencies and new parents have reported time and financial savings associated with using the service.[143]

1.22 Tell Us Once is an example of the greater streamlining of government services possible in a non-federated model.

New Zealand

1.23 The law concerning birth notification and birth registration is found in the Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Act 1995 (NZ). This Act covers notification, registration and the application for a birth certificate.

1.24 All births in New Zealand must be notified and registered.[144] A preliminary birth notice must be submitted to a registrar within five working days of a birth.[145] A birth notice must include the length of gestation, the child’s weight and the mother’s contact details.[146]

1.25 The notice must be submitted to Births, Deaths and Marriages (Whãnautanga, matenga, mãrenatang) by:

• the occupier of a hospital, if the birth occurs in a hospital, or

• a doctor or midwife who is present at the birth, or, if neither is present, the occupier of the premises where the birth occurred or where the mother is admitted immediately after the birth.[147]

1.26 A Notification of Birth for Registration form must be completed and signed by both parents as soon as is reasonably practicable after the birth.[148] However, a form signed only by one parent can be accepted in certain circumstances, including if a registrar is satisfied that requiring one or other parent to sign the form would cause unwarranted distress.[149] These forms should be provided by the hospital or midwife shortly after the birth and, if not, can be obtained through the Registry.

1.27 A person who notifies a registrar of the birth of a child must specify a name for the child.[150]

1.28 The Notification of Birth for Registration form contains similar particulars to Victoria’s birth registration statement. However, additional particulars are required, including the ethnic group of the child, and the citizenship or residency status of the mother and father.[151] The form must be submitted to the Registrar at Births, Deaths and Marriages.

1.29 If birth is not registered within the specified time period, the Registry will issue automatic reminder notices to the parents 28 and 42 days after the birth notice is received.[152] Births may also be registered more than two years after the birth occurred, but only with the approval of the Registrar-General.[153] There is no fee to register a birth or for late registration.

1.30 An application for a birth certificate can be made by filling out a prescribed form.[154] It is possible to apply for a birth certificate at the same time as registering a birth. Of the 63,307 births that were registered in 2011, Births, Deaths and Marriages estimates that over 85 per cent were accompanied by an application for a birth certificate.[155]

1.31 The Registrar cannot issue a birth certificate without payment of the prescribed fee.[156] The current fee is $26.50 NZD (approximately AUD $20.50).[157] No fee waiver is provided under the Act, although the Act does provide for the Registrar to ‘dispense with the payment of all or any part of any fee payable’ under the Act, or to refund all or any part of a fee paid.[158]

Ontario Province, Canada

1.32 The notification and registration of births in Ontario is regulated by the Vital Statistics Act, RSO 1990, c V.4.

1.33 The Act requires that a person who attends a birth of a child in Ontario shall give notice of the birth in the manner specified by the regulations.[159] In practical terms, notice of a birth must be given first by a legally qualified medical practitioner attendant at the birth, and secondly by the child’s parent/s.

1.34 Each legally qualified medical practitioner or midwife who attends the birth must give notice of the birth, unless notice has already been given.[160] If both the medical practitioner and midwife fail to notify of the birth, a nurse or other person in attendance at the birth must notify the Registrar-General.[161] This notification, in the form of the Notice of Live Birth,[162] must be mailed or delivered to the Registrar-General or submitted electronically within two business days of the birth.[163]

1.35 Following notification of the birth, the Act requires parental certification of the birth in the manner prescribed in the regulations.[164] The duty of certification requires the parents of the child to make and certify a statement (the Statement of Live Birth form)[165], and mail or deliver the statement, or submit it electronically, within 30 days of the birth of the child.[166] Ontario is a participating province in the National Birth Registration Service. This online, multi-agency birth registration service was discussed in detail in Chapter 3 of this report.

1.36 A person acting on behalf of a parent of a child may make and certify the statement if:

• both parents are incapable, or

• the child’s mother is incapable, and

• the child’s father is unacknowledged by or unknown to the mother and there is no other parent of the child.[167]

1.37 If no certification is received in the required time, the Registrar-General may complete, certify and register a statement.[168]

1.38 Following the Registrar-General’s receipt of and approval of statements giving notice of a birth and certifying a birth, registration of the child’s birth is complete.[169] The Registrar-General may refuse to register the birth until satisfied that the information provided accurately states the facts.[170] The registration of a child’s birth is free of charge.[171]

1.39 If the registration of a birth has not taken place within one year from the date of birth, any person may apply for the registration of the birth.[172] Such an application requires payment of the prescribed fee and must be submitted along with a complete and certified statement in a prescribed form, a statutory declaration in an approved form and certain identification evidence.[173]

1.40 Following this, provided the Registrar is satisfied that the application is made in good faith, the evidence provided is correct and sufficient and the regulations have been complied with, they must register the birth.[174]

1.41 Where a person fails to perform their duties of notification and certification within the time limit, they will be guilty of an offence. This is the case regardless of whether any other person has given notice or registered a birth.[175] The person is guilty of an offence for the failure to perform his or her duty and is liable for separate offences for each successive period of prescribed time during which the failure to perform continues.[176]

1.42 A person who fails to give notice or to register or furnish documentation or particulars relating to a birth may be liable to a fine of up to CAD$50,000.[177] This does not apply to a father who has reasonable grounds for believing he is not the child’s real father.[178]

1.43 A parent may apply online for a short-form (CAD$25) or a long-form birth certificate (CAD$35).[179]


  1. HM Government, Economic Secretary to the Treasury (2002), Civil Registration Vital Change: Birth, Marriage and Death Registration in the 21st Century, Civil Registration White Paper CM5355, 9.

  2. The National Health Service Act 2006 (UK) c 41, s 269 replaced the provisions in the National Health Service Act 1977 (UK) c 49, s 124 on 1 March 2007.

  3. Responsibility for the National Health Service in Wales was passed to the Minister for Health and Social Affairs as part of devolution in 1999.

  4. National Health Service (Wales) Act 2006 (UK) c 42, s 200.

  5. The National Health Service (Notification of Births and Deaths) Regulations 1982 (UK) SI 1982/286 were revoked in relation to England by the National Health Service and Public Health (Functions and Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2013 (UK) SI 261 Pt 3 (as of April 1, 2013). They remain in force for Wales.

  6. Registration of Births and Deaths Regulations 1987 (UK) SI 1987/2088, sch 2, form 1.

  7. Registration of Births and Deaths (Welsh Language) Regulations 1987 (UK) SI 1987/2089.

  8. Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953 (UK), 2 Eliz 2, c 20, s 30.

  9. National Health Service Act 2006 (UK) c 41, s 269(4); National Health Service (Wales) Act 2006 (UK) c 42, s 200(4).

  10. National Health Service and Public Health (Functions and Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2013 (UK) SI 261, reg 9.

  11. National Health Service Act 2006 (UK) c 41, s 269(6); National Health Service (Wales) Act 2006 (UK) c 42, s 200(6).

  12. National Health Service Act 2006 (UK) c 41, s 269(8); National Health Service (Wales) Act 2006 (UK) c 42, s 200(8). The penalty cannot exceed level one of the standard scale, this has been set since 1 October 1992 at £200: Criminal Justice Act 1982 (UK) c 48, s 37.

  13. London Borough of Lewisham, Registering a Birth (2013) <http://www.lewisham.gov.uk>.

  14. Since 2002, an electronic notification of each birth has been sent to this Central Issuing System so that the National Health Service number for the baby can be generated and a small set of data recorded about the birth. This includes the gestational age at birth and the baby’s ethnicity. As of 1 April 2013 the NHS Connecting for Health service, which hosted the CIS was subsumed by the Health and Social Care Information Centre: <www.hscic.gov.uk>.

  15. HM Government, Economic Secretary to the Treasury (2002) Civil Registration Vital Change: Birth, Marriage and Death Registration in the 21st Century, Civil Registration White Paper CM5355, 14.

  16. Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953 (UK), 2 Eliz 2, c 20, ss 2–3. Amendments pending Welfare Reform Act 2009 (UK) c 24, Sch 6(1) para 3(4) (prospective—date to be appointed).

  17. Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953 (UK), 2 Eliz 2, c 20, s 5.

  18. See, eg, London Borough of Lewisham, Registering a Birth (2013) <http://www.lewisham.gov.uk>; London Borough of Waltham Forest, Register a birth (2013) <http://www.walthamforest.gov.uk>.

  19. For example, Liverpool City Council permits the registration of births at the Liverpool Women’s Hospital: Liverpool City Council, Register a birth (2013) <http://www.liverpool.gov.uk>.

  20. In Manchester the local Registry sends a registrar to the local children’s centre to provide a registration service for parents who do not wish, or are unable, to attend the main Registry office: Manchester City Council, Sure Start Centres where you can Register Births (2013) <http://www.manchester.gov.uk>.

  21. GOV.UK, Register a birth (2 April 2013) <https://www.gov.uk>.

  22. Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953 (UK), 2 Eliz 2, c 20, s 4.

  23. Ibid s 7.

  24. Registration of Births and Deaths Regulations 1987 (UK) SI 1987/2088, sch 2, form 1.

  25. Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953, 2 Eliz 2, c 20, s 10. This Act provides for a number of ways that the details of the father can be included on the registration documents when parents are unmarried, including by completing a statutory declaration as to acknowledgement of parentage. Even where the father’s details are not included, they may be later included by re-registering the birth: Directgov, Government, citizens and rights (22 August 2012) <http://www.direct.gov.uk>. Amendments pending Welfare Reform Act 2009 (UK) c 24, Sch 6(1), para [11] (prospective—date to be appointed).

  26. Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953 (UK), 2 Eliz 2, c 20, s 12.

  27. Child Benefit is a non-means-tested, tax-free payment that parents or carers of a child may claim. The rate for each child depends

    on the birth order. It is £20.20 for the first or only child and £13.20 for subsequent children. It is paid directly into a bank account

    every four weeks or sometimes more frequently if the person receives other social security benefits.

  28. See, eg, The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Registering a birth (2012) <http://www.rbkc.gov.uk>.

  29. Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953 (UK), 2 Eliz 2, c 20, ss 30–32.

  30. GOV.UK, Apply for your first adult passport (21 March 2013) <https://www.gov.uk>.

  31. Westminster Council, Frequently asked questions (2013) <http://www.westminster.gov.uk>

  32. Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953 (UK), 2 Eliz 2, c 20, ss 30–33.

  33. Ibid s 30. General Register Office, Certificate ordering service (12 April 2012) <http://www.gro.gov.uk>.

  34. See, eg, Hammersmith and Fulham, Registering a birth (29 March 2013) <http://www.lbhf.gov.uk>; Wandsworth Council, Register a birth (2013) <http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk>.

  35. GOV.UK, Tell Us Once (22 March 2013) <https://www.gov.uk/tell-us-once>. See also, for example, North Yorkshire County Council,
    Birth—tell us once
    (10 May 2012) <http://www.northyorks.gov.uk>.

  36. North Yorkshire County Council, Birth—tell us once (10 May 2012) <http://www.northyorks.gov.uk>.

  37. Ibid.

  38. See, for example, Government Computing, The benefits of Tell Us Once (16 December 2011)

    <http://central-government.governmentcomputing.com>.

  39. Ibid.

  40. Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Act 1995 (NZ) s 5.

  41. Ibid s 5A(4).

  42. Statistics New Zealand, Information about the births, <http://www2.stats.govt.nz>.

  43. Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Act 1995 (NZ) ss 5A(2)–(3).

  44. Ibid s 9(1).

  45. Ibid s 9(2).

  46. Ibid s 19(1).

  47. Statistics of New Zealand, Information about the births <http://www2.stats.govt.nz>.

  48. Email from Alison Ainsworth, Business Support Officer, Births, Deaths and Marriages to Myra White, Community Law Reform Manager, Victorian Law Reform Commission, 6 August 2012.

  49. Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Act 1995 (NZ) s 16.

  50. Ibid s 67. The Request for New Zealand Birth Certificate or Printout is available on The Department of Internal Affairs (New Zealand) website at <http://www.dia.govt.nz>.

  51. Email from Alison Ainsworth, above n 48.

  52. Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Act 1995 (NZ) s 72.

  53. Births, Deaths and Marriages (NZ), Forms, Fees and Information Brochures (2011) <http://www.dia.govt.nz>.

  54. Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Act 1995 (NZ) s 90.

  55. Vital Statistics Act, RSO 1990, c V.4, s 8.

  56. Vital Statistics Act, O Reg 357/11, RRO 1990, Reg 1094, s 1(1).

  57. Ibid.

  58. Service Ontario, Newborn Registration Service (10 March 2013) <https://www.orgforms.gov.on.ca>.

  59. Vital Statistics Act, O Reg 357/11, RRO 1990, Reg 1094, s 1(3).

  60. Vital Statistics Act, RSO 1990, c V.4, s 9(1).

  61. ServiceOntario, What is a birth registration? (14 November 2012) <http://www.ontario.ca>.

  62. Vital Statistics Act, O Reg 357/11, RRO 1990, Reg 1094, s 2(4).

  63. Ibid s 2(8).

  64. Ibid s 2(11).

  65. Vital Statistics Act, RSO 1990, c V.4, s 9(3); Vital Statistics Act, O Reg 357/11, RRO 1990, Reg 1094, s 2(17).

  66. Vital Statistics Act, RSO 1990, c V.4, s 9(4).

  67. ServiceOntario, Register your newborn baby (2 April 2013) <http://www.ontario.ca >.

  68. Vital Statistics Act, O Reg 357/11, RRO 1990, Reg 1094, s 4(1).

  69. Ibid s 4(2).

  70. Ibid s 4(3).

  71. Vital Statistics Act, RSO 1990, c V.4, s 11.

  72. Ibid s 11.

  73. Being the fine for an individual. A corporation may be liable for up to CAD $250,000: Vital Statistics Act, RSO 1990, c V.4, s 55(1).

  74. Vital Statistics Act, RSO 1990, c V.4, s 55(2).

  75. ServiceOntario, Register your newborn baby (2 April 2013) <http://www.ontario.ca >.