Vital Record Correction

Correcting Vital Records, Naturalization Certificates - Obtaining Declaratory Relief
and Securing Benefits including Dual Citizenship

Correction of vital records can be required for a variety of reasons, including to secure a benefit, such as the citizenship of another country or to apply for social security benefits earlier.

Many highly developed nations, particularly in Europe, offer dual citizenship. These include Germany, Italy and Spain. As of the time of writing, Greece, Portugal and Spain required at least a grandparent born in the country; Poland required at least a great-grandparent born in Poland; and Italy allowed citizenship as long as you can show a great-great-grandparent was born in Italy. In all cases, they require clear documentation of ancestry from that country.

Issues arise when the vital record of the applicant or his/her predecessor has incorrect information. For example, a grandfather’s birth certificate misspelled his name. These records must be corrected. In the alternative, a declaratory judgment may suffice. 

Illinois vital records often require an Order of Court to be corrected. Vital records include certificates of birth, marriage and death. A birth certificate, for example, can be corrected within one year of issuance if the correction is minor. Sec. 500.40 of the Administrative Code. However, in most instance to correct your records, a court order will be needed.

Orders from the court are obtained by filing a case against the Department of Public Health. Usually these cases need to be filed in the county where the record was issued, as the County Clerk acts under the Departments delegated authority, and is also named as a party.

Many cases, particularly parentage/paternity cases are sealed or impounded, and require an Order to be opened. If a record establishing who was your biological parent is needed, you will need to go to court just to obtain that record.

If correcting a record, such as a death certificate, of a deceased relative, a court Order is always required. Even if the record cannot be corrected, the Court may declare that the record is incorrect and further declare the correct information which is needed to establish your eligibility for the benefit you seek (citizenship, etc.). Declaratory judgments are often accepted by other countries as proof of descent. 

Naturalization Certificates sometimes contain incorrect information, such as a date of birth. When an immigrant finds out that in fact the date of birth was earlier, for example, she/he may be eligible for social security and Medicare earlier. Naturalization certificates may be corrected by USCIS, but prior to 1991, they may only be corrected by a federal court. This requires a federal court case to be filed against the federal government.

These cases sound more difficult than they are, but that is only true if the attorney handling the case has experience. We have experience securing record corrections for our clients and otherwise helping securing citizenships of another country. We have filed cases against the federal government and have secured declaratory judgments.

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