For purposes of processing Social Security Number (SSN) applications affected by the
Accuracy for Adoptees Act, you asked whether the State of North Carolina has the authority
to change a foreign-born individual’s date of birth through a court order.
North Carolina courts do not have the legal authority to change a foreign-born individual’s
date of birth through a court-issued adoption decree unless the exact date of birth
According to the information provided, the City Government of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia,
issued a birth certificate on December 12, 2011, indicating SSN Applicant E~ (Applicant)
was born on October 3, 2007, in Wolayta, Ethiopia. The Ethiopian birth certificate
lists Thomas and Dawn as Applicant’s adoptive parents. Applicant’s Ethiopian passport
and a visa issued by the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia show Applicant’s date of birth as
October 3, 2007. On February 21, 2012, the United States Government issued a Certificate
of Citizenship to Applicant, indicating she became a citizen of the United States
of America on February 4, 2012. The Certificate of Citizenship shows Applicant’s date
of birth as October 3, 2007. On June 14, 2013, the Clerk of the Superior Court of
New Hanover County, North Carolina, issued a Decree of Adoption ordering that Applicant
— now named Abbagail — would be declared adopted for life by the petitioners, Applicant’s
adoptive parents, and that her date of birth is February 5, 2009. On December 4, 2013,
the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, N.C. Vital Records (State
Registrar), issued a Certificate of Identification for Child of Foreign Birth for
Applicant, identifying her date of birth as February 5, 2009.
On April 1, 2014, Applicant’s adoptive parents, residents of North Carolina, applied
for a new SSN card for Applicant, indicating her date of birth as reflected on her
Certificate of Identification for Child of Foreign Birth. On the form, Applicant’s
adoptive parents indicated Applicant had previously received an SSN card indicating
her name and date of birth as reflected on her Ethiopian birth certificate.
Social Security regulations provide that an applicant for an original SSN card must
submit documentary evidence that the Commissioner of Social Security regards as convincing
evidence of, inter alia, age. See 20 C.F.R. § 422.107(a), (b) (2014); Program Operations Manual System (POMS) RM 10210.010. 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 (stating the best evidence of age is a birth certificate); POMS
RM 10210.265 (listing kinds of documents that establish age for an SSN card). The Accuracy for
Adoptees Act requires Federal agencies to accept U.S. issued documents as evidence
of date of birth for foreign-born adoptees who are adopted by a U.S. 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 provide that where an SSN applicant presents a document issued
by a State as evidence to establish a date of birth different from what is shown on
the child’s evidence of age document, 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
We looked to North Carolina adoption law to address the questions above because North
Carolina is Applicant’s post-adoption state of residence and the court judgment changing
Applicant’s date of birth was a decree of adoption issued by the Clerk of the Superior
Court of New Hanover County, North Carolina. In North Carolina, adoption is wholly
statutory, and therefore courts must give North Carolina’s adoption statutes their
“plain and definite meaning.” Boseman v. Jarrell, 704 S.E.2d 494, 498, 500 (N.C. 2010) (internal quotations omitted). North Carolina’s
adoption statutes state that when a court issues an adoption decree for an adoptee
born outside the United States, the court must “[e]nter the date and place of birth
as stated in the certificate of birth from the country of origin, the United States
Department of State’s report of birth abroad, or the documents of the United States
Immigration and Naturalization Service.” See N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 48-2-606(b)(1) (West 2013). Only if the exact date of birth is unknown may a court then look to other evidence
to determine a date of birth. See N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 48-2-606(b)(3). Thus, North Carolina does not give its courts
the authority to issue an adoption decree with a date of birth that is different from
the date of birth on the adoptee’s foreign birth certificate or one of the other specified
documents if the document already includes the exact date of birth.
You also asked about the legal requirements to change a date of birth in North Carolina.
Although North Carolina courts lack the authority to change a foreign-born individual’s
date of birth via an adoption decree, an individual may ask the State Registrar to
correct the date of birth on an item registered with the State. See N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 130A-118(a); 10A N.C. Admin. Code 41H.0903. As discussed below,
foreign-born adoptees may register with the State via a Certificate of Identification
for Individual of Foreign Birth. To correct a date of birth on a registered item,
the State Registrar requires a written request and at least one piece of documentary
evidence. 10A N.C. Admin. Code 41H.0903. “Examples of documentary evidence which may
be used to support vital record amendment requests are: early school records, census
records, marriage certificates, birth certificates of family members, rolls of federal
or state recognized Indian tribes, [and] baptismal records.” 10A N.C. Admin. Code
41H.0910(c). However, “[t]he existence of inconsistent or conflicting evidence may
be considered cause for denying any request for correction . . . .” 10A N.C. Admin.
Code 41H.0903. Corrections to a date of birth are at the discretion of the State Registrar.
See 10A N.C. Admin. Code 41H.0910(a).
Finally, you asked us to identify 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. Although North Carolina courts do not have the authority to change
a foreign-born adoptee’s date of birth via an adoption decree, the State does issue
a certificate of identification for foreign-born adoptees: “In the case of an adopted
individual born in a foreign country and residing in [North Carolina] at the time
of application, the State Registrar shall, upon the presentation of a certified copy
of the original birth certificate from the country of birth and a certified copy of
the final order of adoption signed by the clerk of court or other appropriate official,
prepare a certificate of identification for the individual.” N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann.
§ 130A-108(a). A Certificate of Identification for Individual of Foreign Birth shall
contain the same information that is required for a new birth certificate for a U.S.-born
adopted individual, which includes the adoptee’s date of birth. N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann.
§§ 48-9-107(a), 130A-108(a).
Because North Carolina’s adoption statutes specifically instruct the county superior
courts to enter on an adoption decree the date of birth from a foreign-born adoptee’s
foreign birth certificate, North Carolina courts do not have the legal authority under
State law to change a foreign-born individual’s date of birth through a court-issued
Mary Ann Sloan
Regional Chief Counsel
Assistant Regional Counsel