Deadline For Puerto Rican Birth Certificates Nears
By MARK SPENCER
September 15, 2010
BRIDGEPORT — With the Sept. 30 invalidation deadline for all old birth certificates issued by Puerto Rico, community leaders have started a final push to educate island-born residents of Connecticut about how to get new ones.
The Puerto Rican government extended the original deadline of June 30 because of widespread confusion about the program, designed to improve the security of its birth certificates. State Rep. Andres Ayala, D-Bridgeport, said that Connecticut has done a better job of disseminating information than most states, but that more needs to be done.
"Our community is confused," Ayala said at a press conference Wednesday at the Bridgeport City Hall Annex.
The state Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission has led the education drive, including a television and print campaign this summer. Efforts to reach people still unaware of the change now focuses on community outreach through schools, towns, advocacy groups and churches, said Werner Oyanadel, acting director of the commission.
"If I walked down Park Street [in Hartford] and asked people, I'm sure I'd meet people who haven't heard about it," Oyanadel said.
The law requiring the new birth certificates was adopted in December after the U.S. departments of State and Homeland Security told Puerto Rican officials that stolen birth certificates were being used for identify theft or to fraudulently obtain documents such as passports. The commonwealth was slow to publicize the law, particularly on the mainland.
Some government agencies in other states misunderstood the new law and immediately stopped accepting Puerto Rican birth certificates as official identification. In Connecticut, agencies such as the Department of Motor Vehicles will accept old documents until Sept. 30, but will require new birth certificates after that date.
To avoid a deluge of applications that could cause delays, Puerto Rican officials have urged people to apply now only if they have an immediate need.
Ordering a birth certificate through VitalChek, a private company, will take five to 14 business days, depending on the method used. Ordering through the government now takes at least several months. The company can be contacted at http://www.vitalchek.com, or at 866-842-6765, a 24-hour, bilingual call center service.
Online applications for new birth certificates may be made through the government at http://www.pr.gov. Information in English and Spanish about the new law is available at http://www.prfaa.com/birthcertificates.
In Connecticut, the Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission can be reached at 860-240-8330. The commission offers assistance with filling out birth certificate application and can make referrals to other organizations, including State Farm agents who have been trained to help, and members of the Connecticut Hispanic Bar Association.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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