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Birth certificates

This information applies to Scotland

Registering a birth

In Scotland every birth must be registered within 21 days of the birth.

This applies even if the baby is stillborn or only lives for a short time. The doctor or midwife attending the delivery must issue a medical certificate of stillbirth and this certificate is used to register the birth.

There is no fee for registering a birth. However, there are fees for getting copies of birth certificates. For details, see under heading Getting copies of a birth certificate.

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Where to register a birth

From 1 January 2007, a birth can be registered with the Registrar of Births and Deaths anywhere in Scotland. The address of the local Registrar is in the telephone directory.

If the birth takes place when the mother is at sea or in an aircraft the administrative officer on the vessel or craft must record the details and send them to the National Records of Scotland. For address, see under heading Further information.

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Who can register a birth

If the parents of the child are married, either the mother or the father can provide the information to the Registrar who will register the birth.

If the parents are not married:-

  • the mother can provide the information to the Registrar even when she is under 16 or
  • the father can provide the information but only if he has the agreement of the mother. She must give this agreement by signing a declaration (Form DPM) and the father must sign a declaration (Form 27). From 4 May 2006, if an unmarried father jointly registers the birth of his child with the child's mother he will automatically acquire parental responsibilities and rights towards the child.

From 1 September 2009, if a woman has a child by donor insemination or fertility treatment, was in a civil partnership at the time of the treatment, and her civil partner is the child’s legal parent, either woman can register the birth on her own. If the women were not civil partners, the mother can register the birth alone, but her female partner can only register it in certain circumstances. However if the mother and her female partner are not civil partners and the mother’s partner registers the child’s birth jointly with the mother, she will ensure that she has parental responsibilities and rights towards the child.

If neither the mother nor the father or, in the case of a same-sex female couple from 1 September 2009, the mother or her partner, can provide information to the Registrar, any of the following people can provide the information:-

  • someone living in the house where the child was born
  • any person present at the birth
  • a relative of either parent who has knowledge of the birth
  • any person responsible for the child.

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What information is required to register a birth

The following details must be entered on the register:-

  • the date, time and place of the birth
  • the child’s name
  • the child’s sex
  • the mother’s full name. This must include her maiden name if she uses a different married name
  • the mother’s normal place of residence
  • the mother’s occupation (or last occupation)
  • if the parents are married, the father’s full name and occupation (or last occupation). If the parents are not married the father’s full name and occupation are required if the father’s name is on the birth certificate
  • if the parents are married, the date and place of the marriage
  • if the mother is in a civil partnership, or the female partner of a mother who is not in a civil partnership is to be registered, the full name and occupation (or last occupation) of the child’s mother’s female partner.

Other details are required for statistical reasons, but do not appear on the register. These details relate to the mother’s marital status, whether or not she has other children and where and when she was born. Other details about the father’s date and place of birth will only be needed if the parents are married or his name is on the birth certificate. If the mother is in a civil partnership, or the female partner of a mother who is not in a civil partnership is to be registered, the mother’s female partner’s date and place of birth will be required.

Although providing proof of the details given to the registrar is not necessary it may be useful to take along any relevant birth certificates and marriage, civil partnership or divorce certificates to make sure the details are correct. It is an offence to give false information to the registrar.

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Choosing the child’s name

Who can choose a child’s name depends on whether one or both parents have parental responsibilities and rights towards the child.

A married couple or civil partners will have to agree on the choice of name for the child because each has an equal right to choose a name for the child. They will have to agree the child’s first name and surname. The child of a married couple does not have to have the father’s surname.

If only the mother has parental responsibilities and rights towards the child then only she has the right to choose the child’s names. She can call the child whatever she wishes. This means that in an opposite sex couple, the mother can give the child the father’s surname if she chooses.

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Naming the father on a birth certificate

If the parents are married both have to have their names registered.

If the parents are not married the following points are important:-

  • the mother does not have to give details of the father on the birth certificate. She can leave that part of the form blank
  • the father cannot register his name unless the mother agrees
  • when both the mother and father agree to the father’s name being registered they can go to the office together. However, if only one of the parents goes to the registrar’s office s/he has to have a document called a declaration, signed by the other parent, to prove that each agrees to the father’s name being added. There are special forms available at the Registrar’s office to make the declaration
  • the mother can register the father as being the father if she has a court order declaring that he is the father.

From 4 May 2006, an unmarried father who jointly registers the birth of his child with the child’s mother will automatically acquire full parental responsibilities and rights towards the child and he will share these with the child’s mother. An unmarried father who jointly registered the birth of his child before that date will not suddenly acquire these rights. He would have to enter into a parental responsibilities agreement with the child’s mother or go to court to acquire these rights and responsibilities.

Registering a father on a child's birth certificate may also have the following effects:-

  • the Child Support Agency or the courts could use the certificate as evidence of paternity for maintenance proceedings
  • the courts could use the certificate as evidence of adultery
  • the father could use the certificate as evidence if he wants to apply to the courts for parental rights and responsibilities
  • the certificate gives very strong evidence that he is the father because his name can only be added if both the mother and father agree that he is the father or a court order states that he is
  • the child will have information about who both parents are.

You can find information on joint birth registration in a leaflet produced by the Scottish Government by clicking on this link: www.scotland.gov.uk

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Making changes to a birth certificate

Changing the child’s name

A child’s forename may be changed once before they are two years old by applying to the Registrar General to record the change. The original name will be removed from the certificate (for the address, see under heading Further information). The registrar will help you to do this and explain which people can apply to change the child’s name.

Once a child is over two years old their birth certificate can be amended to show a new surname. The original name will also remain on the birth certificate. However, a child’s surname can be re-registered before the age of two if the father’s name is added to the birth certificate (see below).

Adding the father’s name

The father’s name can be added to the birth certificate at a date after the original registration. The Registrar will help you to do this but only if there is evidence that the father is the father, for example, a signed declaration by the mother. From 4 May 2006, an unmarried father who jointly re-registers the birth of his child with the child's mother, in order to add his name to the certificate, will automatically acquire full parental responsibilities and rights.

Removing the father's name

The father's name cannot be removed from a child's birth entry if he is the biological father of the child. A father's name can only be removed from a child's birth entry if it has been established in court that he is not the biological father of the child.

Same-sex female couples and the mother’s partner’s name

If a child’s mother and her female partner are civil partners, the mother conceived the child by donor insemination or fertility treatment on or after 6 April 2009, and the mother’s civil partner is the child’s legal parent, both the mother and her partner’s names must be included on the birth certificate.

However if the child’s mother and her female partner are not civil partners and the female partner’s name was not originally entered on the register but the mother conceived the child by donor insemination or fertility treatment on or after 6 April 2009, and the mother’s partner is the child’s legal parent, the mother and her female partner can re-register the birth to include the female partner’s name. This will mean that the partner gains parental responsibilities and rights towards the child.

Correcting mistakes on a birth certificate

If a mistake has been made on the original birth certificate, the parent(s) can apply to have it corrected by contacting the Registrar General. The Registrar General will need evidence that a mistake has been made, and proof of the corrected information.

It is an offence to give false information when registering a birth. However, the Registrar General would not necessarily take action against someone who made a genuine mistake when registering a birth. For the address of the Registrar General, see under heading Further information.

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What to do if a birth has not been registered

A birth that has not been registered within 3 months of its occurrence requires the written authority of the Registrar General before it can be registered. The Registrar General will investigate the matter. If the birth was recent this may be cleared quite quickly but if the birth took place years before they may require a ‘qualified informant’, that is, someone alive at the time of the birth who can give information as a witness.

If a birth certificate is needed urgently, for example, to apply for a passport or as proof for a claim for a social security benefit it may be possible to use other sources of evidence, for example, a school record or a baptismal certificate to speed up the process.

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Transsexual people and birth certificates

If you are a transsexual person and have obtained legal recognition of your acquired gender, and your birth was registered in the UK, then you will be able to obtain a new birth certificate. The new birth certificate will be the same as the original birth certificate apart from the fact that it will show a different gender, and usually, a different name. It will not disclose that you have changed gender.

You will still be able to obtain copies of your original birth certificate.

For more information about gender recognition, see Frequently Asked Questions about Family.

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Getting copies of a birth certificate

Scotland

You can get a copy of a birth certificate either from the registrar’s office where the birth was registered or from the National Records of Scotland. If the birth took place before 1910 or you don’t know where it was originally registered you will have to contact the National Records of Scotland.

There are fees for copies of certificates and for searching the registers. A full list of fees can be obtained from the National Records of Scotland.

If the birth took place and was registered in England, Wales, Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland copies of certificates are available for a fee and can be obtained in the following ways:

England and Wales

  • by post or personal visit to the register office where the birth took place
  • online from the General Register Office, if you have full details of the birth or know the GRO Index Reference Number. You can pay by credit or debit card. You can apply online at www.gro.gov.uk
  • by telephone from the General Register Office. This service is only available to credit and debit card holders
  • by post from the General Register office. To pay the fee, enclose credit or debit card details, or a cheque payable to IPS. Applications by post can only be made by filling in the application form. You can obtain an application form by emailing the General Register Office.

The contact details are:-

General Register Office
Certificate Services Section
P.O Box 2
Southport
Merseyside
PR8 2JD
Tel: 0845 243 7788
Email: certificate.services@ips.gsi.gov.uk

Northern Ireland

The General Register Office
Oxford House
49/55 Chichester Street
Belfast
BT1 4HL
Tel: 028 9025 2000
Website: www.groni.gov.uk

Republic of Ireland

General Register Office
Government Offices
Covent Road
Roscommon
Tel: 00 353 (0)90 6632900
Website: www.groireland.ie

Getting copies of birth certificates from abroad

If you were born abroad, the birth may also have been registered in the UK. If so, a copy of the certificate can be obtained in the usual way – see above.

If the birth has not been registered in the UK, you may be able to get a copy of the birth certificate from the country where you were born. This can be done by contacting the relevant embassy in the UK. Alternatively, the Overseas Registration Department at the General Register Office can contact the embassy on your behalf – see under heading Further information for address.

If you are unable to obtain a copy of your birth certificate from abroad, the Consular Directorate of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office may be able to help. A fee is charged. The address is:-

Consular Directorate
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Old Admiralty Buildings
London
SW1A 2PA
Tel: 020 7008 1500
E-mail: consular@fco.gtnet.gov.uk

If you were baptised in the Indian sub-continent before 1947 you should check with the India Office Library (Tel: 020 7928 9531).

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Further information

Further information about birth certificates can be obtained from a local registry office or from the Registrar General for Scotland.

The address of the Registrar General for Scotland is:-

National Records of Scotland
New Register House
3 West Register Street
Edinburgh
EH1 3YT
Tel (switchboard): 0131 334 0380
Tel (ordering service): 0131 314 4411
Fax: 0131 314 4400
Email: via contact form on website
Website: www.gro-scotland.gov.uk

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