TN 11 (12-15)

PR 02805.012 Georgia

A. PR 15-190 Authority of the State of Georgia to Change a Foreign-born Individual’s Date of Birth Through a State Court Order

Date: September 14, 2015

1. Syllabus

Accept a date of birth determination shown on a U.S. State-issued court order or Certificate of Foreign Birth issued by the State of Georgia as evidence to either establish or change an individual’s date of birth in our Numident record if the individual is a foreign born adopted child.

2. Opinion

QUESTION

For purposes of changing the date of birth in Social Security Administration (SSA) records of a foreign-born individual affected by the Accuracy for Adoptees Act, you asked whether Georgia has the authority to change a foreign-born individual’s date of birth through a court order.1

OPINION

Georgia courts have the legal authority to change a foreign-born individual’s date of birth through a court-issued adoption decree.

BACKGROUND

According to the information provided, the Civil Registry Office of Tsentralny District, Ukraine, issued a birth certificate on April XX, XXXX, indicating M~, the number holder (NH), was born on October XX, XXXX, in Odessa, Ukraine. The Ukrainian birth certificate lists A~ and J~ as NH’s adoptive parents. NH and his adoptive parents are residents of the State of Georgia. On April XX, XXXX, the Superior Court of Gwinnett County, Georgia (Court) issued an Amended Final Judgment and Decree of Adoption (Decree) granting NH’s adoptive parents’ petition to adopt him.2 The Decree indicated NH’s adoptive parents sought to adopt him based on a foreign adoption decree and a visa granted to NH by the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service. The Decree stated NH’s date of birth as listed on his Ukrainian birth certificate was incorrect and that February XX, XXXX, should be entered as the date of birth on the soon-to-be-issued Certificate of Foreign Birth.

On April 27, 2005, the Georgia Department of Human Resources – Vital Records Services (Vital Records Services) issued a State of Georgia Certificate of Foreign Birth for NH that shows his date of birth as February XX, XXXX. The Certificate of Foreign Birth recites, “Data shown above based on evidence presented to the Gwinnett Superior Court, dated 04-18-2002.” On March XX, XXXX, the United States Government issued a Certificate of Citizenship to NH, indicating he became a citizen of the United States on April XX, XXXX. The Certificate of Citizenship shows NH’s date of birth as February XX, XXXX.

On August XX, XXXX, NH’s adoptive father asked SSA to change NH’s date of birth, currently reflected in SSA records as October XX, XXXX, to February XX, XXXX, the date of birth listed in the Decree, NH’s Certificate of Foreign Birth, and NH’s Certificate of Citizenship.

DISCUSSION

Social Security regulations provide that an individual may request a change in the personal identifying information previously submitted in connection with a Social Security Number (SSN) application. See 20 C.F.R. § 422.110 (2015).3 An applicant requesting a change in his or her date of birth must submit documentary evidence that the Commissioner of Social Security regards as convincing. See 20 C.F.R. § 422.107(a), (b); Program Operations Manual System (POMS) RM 10210.010(A). Examples of the types of evidence that an applicant may submit to establish age are a birth certificate, a religious record showing age or date of birth, or a passport. See 20 C.F.R § 422.107(b); see also 20 C.F.R. § 404.716(a) (stating the best evidence of age is a birth certificate, hospital birth record, or religious record recorded before age five); POMS RM 10210.265(A)-(D) (listing kinds of documents that establish age for an SSN card). A delayed birth certificate (recorded after age five) may constitute convincing evidence. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.716(b); POMS RM 10210.265.C. A final adoption decree that shows the child’s name and date of birth may also constitute convincing evidence. See POMS RM 10210.265.C.

The Accuracy for Adoptees Act requires Federal agencies to accept United States issued documents as evidence of date of birth for foreign-born adoptees who are adopted by a United States citizen parent. See Pub. L. No. 113-74, 127 Stat. 1212, amending Section 320 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1431. Acceptable documents include a state court order, birth certificate, certificate of foreign birth, certificate of birth abroad, or a similar state vital records document issued by the child’s state of residence in the United States after the child has been adopted. See id.

SSA has issued instructions for processing SSN applications affected by the Accuracy for Adoptees Act. See EM-14023 – Enumeration: Processing Name and Date of Birth Determinations for Foreign-Born Adopted Children under the Accuracy for Adoptees Act – One Time Only Instructions. These instructions also apply where an individual is requesting to change his or her date of birth in SSA records. See EM-14023.F. Where an individual presents a document issued by a State as evidence to establish a date of birth different from what is shown on the child’s foreign birth certificate, as is the case here, SSA adjudicators must determine:

  • whether the State has the authority under state law to change a foreign-born individual’s date of birth through a state court order;

  • the State legal requirements to change a date of birth;

  • whether the court order needs to list the supporting documentation of the change of date of birth on the state court order;

  • if the State has the authority to change a date of birth, the documents the State issues as proof of the change of date of birth; and

  • whether the State issues a Certificate of Foreign Birth, Certificate of Birth Abroad, or other Bureau of Vital Statistics (BVS) document as proof of change of date of birth. If the State issues the document under a different title, identify the name of the document.

See EM-14023.F.1.

We looked to Georgia adoption law to address the questions above because Georgia is NH’s post-adoption state of residence and the court judgment changing NH’s date of birth was a decree of adoption issued by the Superior Court of Gwinnett County, Georgia. Georgia’s adoption statutes give exclusive jurisdiction of adoption matters to its superior courts. Ga. Code Ann. § 19-8-2(a) (2015).4 Superior court judges must conduct full hearings on petitions for adoption, examining the parties under oath and making appropriate findings of fact and conclusions of law, and issue a ruling on the petition for adoption. Ga. Code Ann. § 19-8-18. The judges are vested with a broad range of legal discretion to make these findings. See Madison v. Barnett, 601 S.E.2d 704, 705 (Ga. Ct. App. 2004). Thus, a Georgia superior court has authority under state law to change a foreign-born individual’s date of birth through a court order based on receipt of satisfactory documentary or testimonial evidence.

Georgia regulations provide Georgia’s legal requirements to change a date of birth. Ga. Code Ann. § 31-10-23(a) (governing the amendment and correction of vital records, including birth certificates). Georgia regulations indicate Vital Records Services may change a date of birth by no more than one year with supporting evidence created prior to the registrant’s seventh birthday. Ga. Comp. R. & Regs. 511-1-3-.30 (2015). For Vital Records Services to change the year of birth by more than one year requires an order from a superior or probate court. Id. The regulation does not state the kinds of supporting evidence required to change a date of birth. See Ga. Comp. R. & Regs. 511-1-3-.30. This regulation, however, does not apply to this case because NH’s Certificate of Foreign Birth was not amended; rather, it reflects the date of birth established in the Decree.

Georgia adoption law does not require an adoption decree to list supporting documentation used to determine the date of birth for an adoptee born outside the United States, but the required contents of such an adoption petition are set forth in Ga. Code Ann. § 19-8-13. An adoption based on a foreign adoption decree and a visa granted by the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service, as here, requires the following documents: (1) a certified copy of the final decree of adoption from the foreign country of the child’s birth and a verified English translation, (2) a verified copy of the visa granting the child entry to the United States, (3) a certified copy along with a verified translation of the child’s amended birth certificate showing each petitioner as parent, and (4) a copy of the home study completed for the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service. See Ga. Code Ann.§§ 19-8-8, 19-8-13(a)(6). The original petition and all amendments and exhibits thereto must be placed under seal and locked following the issuance of the decree. See Ga. Code Ann. § 19-8-23(a).

After a superior court judge issues an adoption decree, the adoption statutes mandate the preparation of a report of adoption to be certified by the clerk of court and submitted to Vital Records Services.5 Ga. Code Ann. § 31-10-13(a), (d). For an adoptee born outside the United States, Vital Records Services must prepare and register a “Certificate of Foreign Birth” that reflects the adoption and proof of the date and place of birth of the child established by the Decree. Ga. Code Ann. § 31-10-13(f)(2). Vital Records Services issues a Certificate of Foreign Birth in response to the clerk’s notification of an adoption of a foreign-born individual. Id. This document reflects the date of birth indicated in the adoption decree. Id.

NH’s adoptive father presented NH’s Certificate of Foreign Birth and the Decree as evidence in support of his request to change NH’s date of birth in SSA records. These documents comply with all requirements of Georgia law and constitute convincing evidence of NH’s correct date of birth. Pursuant to EM-14023, SSA should accept these documents as evidence of NH’s correct date of birth.

CONCLUSION

Because Georgia’s adoption statutes permit its superior courts to make findings of fact and conclusions of law in adoption decrees, Georgia courts have the legal authority to change a foreign-born individual’s date of birth through a court-issued adoption decree.

Sincerely,

Mary Ann Sloan

Regional Chief Counsel

By: _____________________________

Megan E. Gideon

Assistant Regional Counsel


Footnotes:

[1]

You also asked for Georgia’s legal requirements for changing a date of birth; whether a Georgia court order changing a date of birth needs to list the supporting documentation of the change; what documents Georgia issues as proof of the change of date of birth; and whether Georgia issues a Certificate of Foreign Birth, Certificate of Birth Abroad, or other Bureau of Vital Statistics (BVS) document as proof of change of date of birth. We address these questions below.

[2]

The Court apparently entered a Final Judgment and Decree of Adoption on April XX, XXXX, that did not correct NH’s date of birth, necessitating the parties’ return for an amended Decree.

[3]

All citations to the Code of Federal Regulations are to the 2015 version.

[4]

All citations to West’s Code of Georgia Annotated are to the 2015 version.

[5]

The statute directs the clerk of court to send the report to the “state registrar,” which is the title of the head of Vital Records Services. See Ga. Code Ann. § 31-10-13(a).


To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/1502805012
PR 02805.012 - Georgia - 12/07/2015
Batch