It depends on who you ask. If a jurisdiction issues two forms of certificate, then which ever is bigger may be called a long form.
Take for example my state of South Carolina. They offer two types of certificate a “birth card” and a “long form.” The South Carolina “long form” 1 is a computer-generated abstract containing:
- state file number,
- name of registrant,
- date of birth,
- county of birth,
- place of birth (city),
- father’s name (if listed on the original birth certificate),
- father’s place of birth,
- mother’s maiden name,
- mother’s place of birth,
- date record filed, and
- the date issued.
The South Carolina definition is a more modern one, taking in to account that most births are now registered electronically. Other states take a more traditional approach.
Indiana defines the “long form” but then distinguishes between it and a “standard size” birth certificate:
What is a Long Form?
A Long Form is a certified 8.5” X 11” photo copy of the original birth certificate.
What is a standard size birth certificate?
A standard size birth certificate is a certified 8.5” X 5.5” copy of identifying information extracted from the original birth certificate.
Louisiana says its “long form” includes hospital information.
What is the difference between a Short-Form Birth Certificate (Birth Card) and a Long-Form Birth Certificate?
Both certificates are certified copies of birth records and have a raised seal.
Short-form birth certificates (birth cards) are $9.00 and include the name at birth, date of birth, parish of birth, father’s initials, mother’s last name and first initial, file date and issue date.
Long-form birth certificates are $15.00 and include the name at birth, date of birth, parish of birth, hospital of birth, mother’s residence at time of birth, mother and father’s full names, parent’s place of birth, age of parents at the time of birth, file date and issue date.
The District of Columbia has this definition of a long form:
The long form is a certified copy of the original birth certificate in its entirety.
Tennessee provides a discussion of the question:
What is the difference between the long form birth certificate and the short form birth certificate?
The long form certificate is a printed image of the original certificate of birth. In addition to the child’s name and date of birth, it contains information such as the name of the hospital, address of parents, parents’ dates of birth, etc. The “short form” certificate is a computer generated extract of the information listed on the original birth certificate. The short form is not available for births prior to 1949. If the date of birth on the certificate is 1976 or later, the information included on the short form is:
- mother’s maiden name
- father’s name (if present on long form)
- date of birth
- county of birth
- date issued
- date filed.
The short form certificate does not include parents’ names on births prior to 1976. Both short form and long form certificates issued by the Tennessee Vital Records Office contain a raised seal which denotes certification. If the date of birth on the certificate is prior to 1976, you probably want the long form, since the short form does not include parents’ names. If you were born in 1976 or later, a short form may be adequate, but would depend on the anticipated use(s) of your certificate.
Note that because the parents’ names are omitted prior to 1967 the Tennessee short form would not be acceptable to obtain a U. S. Passport.
A certified copy or “long form,” the most readily recognizable birth record, is an exact copy of your birth certificate as prepared by the hospital.
Texas provides additional explanation:
- Standard size (short form or abstract): The most commonly issued format because it satisfies most purposes, including registering a child for school or sports, obtaining a passport for a person born after 1963 if born in a hospital and obtaining a driver license in most states. If the birth record is not available in this format or if the state you live in requires the full size for a driver license, a full-size birth certificate will be issued instead.
- Full size (long form): Used most often to obtain a passport for a person born at home and/or before 1964. It’s also typically required for purposes of dual citizenship, Indian Registry and immigration. Because this format contains information that can facilitate identify theft, we recommend that you order this format only when it is required.
While the collection, verification and storage of vital statistics is an important function of the civil government, vital statistics agencies are also businesses that fund themselves by selling certificates to the public, something to keep in mind when considering how they label their products.
My conclusion from this exercise is that those states that talk about “long forms” on their web sites (and the list above is all I found) usually mean a photocopy of an original certificate, but not always. Most of the information above is oversimplification, dealing only with hospital births and ignoring what records are available for what range of years. I don’t see how one gets a legal definition from what I found. I think any state could reasonably label any certificate a “long form” so long at is contains the information required by the Department of State for a passport.
1 Click on the “What types of birth certifications are issued?” to expand the definition.