By the end of the month, those born in Jersey City will be able to get a certified copy of their birth certificates from City Hall, eliminating the hours-long journey to Trenton which became necessary 14 years ago.
In 2004, a corruption scandal rocked the Hudson County Office of Vital Statistics when the Federal Bureau of Investigation and officials from the U.S. Attorney’s Office raided the division as part of an investigation into a conspiracy. Individuals in the division were allegedly issuing phony certified birth certificates. Those involved were later convicted or pleaded guilty.
Later that year, the U.S. State Department announced it would no longer accept passport applications or birth certificates from the Hudson County Vital Statistics Office. Instead, those born in Jersey City had to go to Trenton to obtain copies.
This meant the U.S. State Department, New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, and other agencies would not accept the locally issued birth certificates for anyone born before 1965.
Local and state officials at the City Hall Annex in Jackson Square made this announcement Sept. 12.
“This is a great thing for the county and Jersey City,” said Mayor Steven Fulop. “We’ve been working to make the often frustrating process of obtaining birth certificates easier for anyone born here, and I’m thrilled they can now get the documentation they need quickly and efficiently right here at City Hall.”
State Senator Sandra Cunningham explained that it was a long time coming, noting that she and her predecessor tried to bring the issuance of birth certificates back to Jersey City. She was glad that it was finally coming to fruition.
Saving time and money
Assemblywoman Angela McKnight said the trip to Trenton could be burdensome for seniors and often cost more than the $25 fee for the certificate.
“We’re making it right for our residents who now don’t have to spend extra time and money to obtain documents that could be critical in affecting their quality of life,” McKnight said.
In 2017 McKnight sponsored legislation that would have allowed the city clerk to issue birth certificates, but then-Governor Chris Christie vetoed the bill.
“The Legislature cannot override the existing policy of the U.S. Department of State,” said Christie in his veto statement at the time, “and absent federal action, birth certificates issued out of Jersey City would remain invalid. Thus, if this bill became law, persons born in Jersey City would get nothing more than a useless piece of paper.”
McKnight said that when the legislation was vetoed it served as the catalyst that started the conversation among city officials, senators, and state and federal government officials to enable Jersey City to issue birth certificates that all agencies would accept.
Cunningham said residents have wanted to be able to get their birth certificates locally for a long time. She herself had to drive to Trenton with her daughter when her grandchild was born to get copies of the birth certificate, so she knew how difficult and time-consuming it could be.
City Clerk Robert Byrne said he has received numerous complaints from people seeking their birth certificates and recalled a time when someone from Massachusetts had to make the trek to Trenton for his or her birth certificate.
Byrne said he, the deputy city clerk, and city clerk staff will help residents get their certificates as soon as the state provides the city clerk’s office with the records this month.
For those born between 1918 and 2015, Jersey City will issue birth records from a database provided by the state’s registrar’s office.
For those born in 2016 and after, Jersey City will use the State’s Vital Record Platform.
Residents seeking to obtain a birth certificate from the City Clerk’s Office at 280 Grove St, will need to provide identification and complete an application for certified copies that can be found on the city’s website at www.JCNJ.org/BirthCertificates.