Birth, marriage, divorce, death and adoption certificates vary by country. Often times, your home country’s documents are issued or stored in a completely different manner than that of the US style. The civil authority that regulates recording of birth, marriages, death sometimes conducts its business in a completely different manner than the US style. Some countries did not even use birth certificates until the late 1980s. Sometimes, if the country went through a period of civil unrest such as a civil war or genocide, all birth records and marriage records were lost. If you are applying for a US immigration visa and are lost on how you can provide a valid Birth, marriage, divorce, death or adoption certificates, you need to check out the Country Reciprocity Schedule on the Department of State’s website.
As you may know, the US Department of State operates the foreign embassies and consulates around the world. The Dept of State personnel studies and attempts to understand the various cultural differences in how the civil records are established and kept in foreign countries. Through their findings, they document exactly what would be the equivalent certificate that can be used to satisfy the documentation requirement on your immigration visas. DO NOT try to fool the National Visa Center (NVC) or the Dept of State; they know exactly what kind of documents you should be able to produce for your immigration application if your country uses a different civil record keeping system. Also, they are aware of a country or region’s history to understand that sometimes all records are lost and will provide a way for you to still get some kind of documentation to be submitted with your immigration application. They will provide the name of the civil authority necessary to obtain your documents, so you don’t really have a way of saying “I simply don’t have it”. For example, if you search for China, you can see immediately that the Dept of State asks you to contact the Gong Zheng Chu notary office to get official birth or adaption certificates. For marriage certificates, you would go to Jie Hun Gong Zheng.
The schedule is very detailed and you can simply search by your home country at the top of the page to see what documents can suffice for your particular country. When you search for a country, you are first prompted with a huge list of visas that are available for your country and the validity period for your country. Keep scrolling down and you will see a section of civil documents that are commonly used in your home country and that you can use those to substitute what is needed on the immigration visa application should you not have the exact style of certificates.
Take an example, if you search for Taiwan, you will see that in Taiwan, birth certificates are not actually commonly used in the past. Due to the Japanese occupation and their implementation of the koseki system, the household register is actually used to keep track of population and families. And so the website shows that you can use the household registration records as a form of birth certificate, especially for older people who were born around the time of WWII.
Sometimes, the problem with your document is that the way the name is spelled in English is different from the passport and the civil document. Take Taiwan for example again, the Dept of State researched and found that “Taiwan does not use a standard system for romanizing names, resulting in a wide range of name spellings.” The Dept of State knows that it is common that the same person’s name is spelled differently in English from one document to another. Therefore, instead of relying on the name, the Dept of State asks to use the National Identification Number which is unique to every Taiwanese citizen to be included in the documents so that it can be known that although the name is spelled differently, the documents are actually for the same person. Again, the Dept of State knows exactly how different countries have different issues with civil documents and therefore implements a solution to avoid issues.
Basically, do not worry if you don’t have the US style civil documents for your immigration visa applications. The Dept of State has thoroughly researched how your home country keeps their civil records and gives you every possible method for you to obtain similar or substitute documents. The Dept of State will inform the NVC how to accept different documents for the same person due to the different styles of civil recording keeping in each country. When in doubt, just go to the Country Reciprocity Schedule.