Deadline Extended For Invalidation Of Puerto Rican Birth Certificates
By MARK SPENCER
September 29, 2010
The date that all old birth certificates issued by Puerto Rico become invalid has been extended from this Friday to Oct. 30, the second extension of a process intended to improve the security of the documents.
Puerto Rico has been issuing new birth certificates since July 1, the original date the old ones were to be rendered invalid. The date was extended three months, to Friday, because the process had not been well-publicized and there was widespread confusion, particularly in the large population of island-born Puerto Ricans living on the mainland.
In Connecticut, the Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission has led the drive to publicize the change, including a print, radio and television campaign this summer. Werner Oyanadel, the commission's acting director, said grassroots efforts continue, such as distributing information at community events.
"We are obviously very happy because we feel we need additional time informing people about the change," 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.
Luis Balzac, director of the New York regional office of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, which represents the island's government on the mainland, said Connecticut has been more thorough about disseminating information than any other state in the country.
Oyanadel said the commission continues to get dozens of telephone calls a week about birth certificates, but now many are from people who have applied and are frustrated by how long it takes to get the documents. He said the processing times for applications submitted by mail is up to four months, by the Internet up to four weeks and by VitalChek, a private company that charges higher fees for the service, up to 1 1/2 weeks.
Balzac said several new offices have been opened and additional employees hired so applications can be processed 24 hours a day. He encouraged people who don't have an immediate need for a birth certificate to wait to apply.
"They should ask themselves, when was the last time they used their birth certificates?" he said.
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.
VitalChek can be contacted at http://www.vitalchek.com, or at 866-842-6765, a 24-hour, bilingual call-center service.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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