Tuesday, September 21, 2010

To Do: Get Birth Certificate

In just nine days from today, on September 30th, all Puerto Rican birth certificates will be invalid if they were issued before July 1st, 2010. Last December, the Puerto Rican government decided to pass this law requiring all Puerto Ricans who were born on the island to obtain new birth certificates. The primary reason behind this decision is due to the fact that approximately 40% of fraudulent U.S passport applications involve the usage of a Puerto Rican birth certificate. The U.S federal government was said to have pressured the local government to annul the old birth certificates. Back in 2007, there were numerous thefts which occurred in several public schools throughout the island where a significant amount of birth certificates were stolen. Perhaps another startling fact is that an estimated 12,000 Puerto Ricans on the island have been victims of identity fraud.

Exacerbating the situation is the requirement of many local governmental agencies to have a birth certificate presented when applying for a driver's license or an electoral card. Many of the stolen birth certificates have been sold for thousands of dollars on the black market. As expected, thousands of people have shown up at their local demographic registrar's office to apply for a new birth certificate. Puerto Ricans who were born on the island, but live on the mainland or elsewhere, can apply for a new birth certificate online. There are two options, either through the official government Web site or through another service called VitalChek. In fact, government officials recommend most people to go online, instead of going in person to the demographic registrar's office. Although the new birth certificates are said to be harder to forge, perhaps a more effective method to combat identity fraud is to stop the requirement of submitting them (as well as social security numbers) as a form of identification.

Update (9/30/10): Authorities have decided to extend the deadline to Oct. 30th to allow people more time to get their new birth certificate.

(Image above was obtained from www.vocero.com)

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