You've just survived childbirth and get to take your newborn baby home. You'll already have to start dealing with the authorities. One of the most important documents you need to take care of is the official birth certificate issued by the registration office (Geburtsurkunde). To be able to apply for it, you need the initial certificate issued by the hospital, birth centre or doctor, which, in Germany, is something like an initial birth certificate.

You will get the initial birth certificate from the hospital where you gave birth. If you gave birth at home or in a birth centre, your midwife will issue this document. You need the initial birth certificate for various important formalities. First of all, it is a prerequisite for you to be able to apply for the official birth certificate (Geburtsurkunde) at the registration office (Standesamt). Secondly, you need the initial birth certificate to register your child with your health insurance company. You should also do this as soon as possible after the birth. You also need the initial birth certificate to apply for child benefits (Kindergeld) or parental allowance (Elterngeld), or if you want to have your child baptised. The registration office will issue you a special, certified birth certificate for each of the different purposes. This service is free to you.

You must register your baby at the registration office within five working days of the birth. Your child's first name and surname will also be entered. The period begins the day after the birth. By registering, you will receive the official birth certificate (Geburtsurkunde) and several certified copies. You must pick them up in person and pay a processing fee. You will need these copies for many other applications and formalities where you have to prove that you have had a child. For example, when dealing with your health insurance company, your pension insurance and your place of work. Many hospitals offer to take care of the registration. You can pick up the official birth certificate at the registration office or it will be sent to you. It is best to ask the registration office directly how it is handled. The registration office of the municipality or town in which the hospital or birth centre where you gave birth is located is always responsible. In addition to the first name, surname, date and place of birth, the official birth certificate also states the sex of the child. Until the end of 2018, you could only specify ‘female’ or ‘male’ here. However, there are cases where assignment to one of these two sexes is not possible or desirable. Thus in certain circumstances, you can now indicate the sex designation of ‘other’ (personal status law §§ 22 para. 3 and 45b para. 2).

In order to apply for an official birth certificate (Geburtsurkunde), you will need to provide several documents. What those are depend on whether you're single or married. In any case, you will need your identity card and your baby’s initial birth certificate. If you are married as parents, you must present your birth certificates. You will also need your marriage certificate or a certified copy of it from the marriage register. If you were married but the marriage was dissolved, you must provide both the marriage certificate and the divorce decree. You will also need your official birth certificate and that of your child's father if he has acknowledged paternity. Additionally, the registration office requires his notarised declaration of paternity recognition (Vaterschaftsanerkennung) as well as a notarised declaration of alimony and joint custody. For same-sex partnerships and marriages, slightly different rules apply. Then only you will be entered in the register of births as the biological mother. More detailed information on the current rights of LGBTQIA parents can be obtained from the registration office or groups such as the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany (LSVD).

In the case of what’s known as a confidential birth in Germany, only the mother's pseudonym and her proposed first names for the child need to be given to the registration office. In addition to the sex, place and exact time of birth, the registration office enters only the baby’s first names and names given at birth in the register of births. The data or the pseudonym of the mother are not given.