Starting July 1, 2010 any one with a Puerto Rico issued birth certificate will have to apply for a new birth certificate. Puerto Rico’s governor, Luis Fortuño, recently signed a law making all old birth certificates processed prior to December 2009 not valid in any federal agency. It is the government’s effort to reduce and prevent all identity theft cases reported by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the past year.
According to the governmental agency, a Puerto Rican birth certificate can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 on the black market. Given that anyone born in Puerto Rico is also a United States citizen it is no wonder that there have been high incidences of fraud reported. Many Puerto Rico birth certificates have been stolen and sold to individuals seeking to obtain social security numbers, U.S. passports and other United States benefits.
MyFoxNY.com reports that the government admits that hundreds of thousands of original birth certificates were stored without adequate protection, making them easy targets for theft. About 40 percent of the passport fraud cases involve birth certificates of people born in Puerto Rico.
The Vital Statistics Record Office will begin issuing new birth certificates incorporating what it calls “state-of-the-art” technology to limit the possibility of forgery. The new birth certificates will cost $5. Citizens born in Puerto Rico but residing elsewhere may obtain a copy of the new birth certificate by filling out a Birth Certificate Application form from the Puerto Rico Vital Statistics Record office on or after July 1, 2010.
In my opinion, not much awareness has been given to this new change in law and considering that there are about 300,000 Puerto Ricans residing in New York alone this law may very well impact a great number of individuals. For those residing on the island this may not be a big issue for them as they may have been aware of the new law as soon as it took effect.
The thing that I’m curious to know is how will this new law prevent fraud? I took a look at the website of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration to see what the requirements were and this was what was listed:
- Applicants residing outside of Puerto Rico may mail the completed application to the following address: Puerto Rico Vital Statistics Record Office (Registro Demográfico) P.O. Box 11854 San Juan, PR 00910
- Include a photocopy of a valid government issued photo identification document. A passport or drivers license may be used; all other forms of government issued photo I.D. will be subject to approval.
- Include a $5.00 Money Order payable to the Secretary of the Treasury of Puerto Rico.
- Include a self-addressed envelope with paid postage.
So according to the requirements above, one would need to submit a copy of their photo i.d. (drivers license or passport may be used) in order to be issued a new birth certificate. Hmmmmm. If the passport copy that is submitted as proof of id was one that was previously obtained fraudulently and a “new” birth certificate is issued what will happen when the real person submits an application for a new copy of their birth certificate?
Will they be denied a birth certificate or will they be targeted as trying to commit fraud because a birth certificate would have been already issued? Will the real person be subjected to now having to “prove” that they are who they say they are just because some other individual slipped through the system again and beat them to getting the new birth certificate? There are a lot of things that need to be considered. Maybe the government has all of this worked out but it seems to me that it can create some bigger issues if not handled correctly. I can understand if the new birth certificate technology is used as of July 1, 2010 for all new births going forward but to make all birth certificates invalid as of that date doesn’t really deal with all of the fraudulently obtained passports that were issued prior to the new law taking effect.
In any case, if you want more information on the new birth certificate law, call (787) 767-9120 ext. 2402 or visit the Web site of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration at www.prfaa.com
What are your thoughts on this?