At the hospital: The Indian Birth Certificate

You'll be overcome with all kinds of emotions when you see your baby.  But you need to stay grounded - you need to remember to get paperwork for the birth certificate moving.  You'll need the birth certificate before you are able to visit the U.S. Consulate to get a passport, and likely for other country's consulates as well.  And you need the passport before you can get an exit visa. 

In Indian surrogacy births, the names of the genetic or intended parents are currently put on the Indian birth certificate. There has been some discussion about whether it is legal to put anything other than the gestational carrier's name on the birth certificate, particularly from one of the Mumbai IVF facilities that does not offer surrogacy. While I'm not a lawyer, several things seem certain. First, with the Baby Manji case, India's courts have tacitly acknowledged and accepted surrogacy. Second, the hospitals are putting the genetic/intended parents names on the birth certificates today, and have been for many years. That being said, India is also developing its own legislation on surrogacy, called the ICMR Guidelines. While these haven't been adopted yet (Nov 2009), as currently drafted they will explicitly allow the genetic/intended parents names to be put on the birth certificate. Until these are passed, current practice may be a bit of a grey area.

The Birth Certificate is issued once the local municipality receives the registration from from the Hospital.  In Mumbai, birth certificates are issued by the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, also known as the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, or BMC.  At Hirinandani, on the day the baby is born, you will be asked to fill out a form in a giant book.  This is the form the BMC uses for the birth certificate.  Fill it out in capital letters and clearly - anything that causes confusion will delay the birth certificate.  The hospital will deliver this form to the BMC.  It is useful to get a copy of the form in case the BMC makes a mistake and you need to get the birth certificate corrected.   

You would expect that there would be a "normal speed" birth certificate, and an "accelerated speed" birth certificate, with published prices that you would pay extra to receive.  India doesn't work this way.  There is only a "normal speed" birth certificate which is quoted at 21 days, but is rumored to sometimes take longer.  To get the birth certificate accelerated, you pay "chai pani" (which is literally translated as "tea money").  This is a "facilitating payment" which some people also call a "bribe"; though there is a difference.  Facilitating payments accelerate an outcome while bribes change the outcome.  As a westerner, you don't know the right way to do this, so you hire someone to do it for you. 

Your choices to quickly get a birth certificate broadly include:

  1. Go through the public relations officer at the hospital.  At Hirinandani, the public relations office was working with a service and charged 5,000 Rupees (Aug 2009).  No guarantee on how long it would take to get the birth certificate, although they were expecting it would take around 7 days. 
  2. Go through a service/person who knows the process.  Many people seem to use Dilip, who was recently (August) charging 3,000 Rupees. 
  3. Goto the local municipal office (in Mumbai the BMC) and go through the process yourself. 

Several pieces of advice:

  1. Make sure you write all information very clearly on the hospital birth registration form and on the letter to the BMC so that the birth certificate is not printed incorrectly. It's an even bigger bureaucratic hassle to get it fixed.
  2. Make copies of the hospital registration form and the letter you send so that if there is an error, you can prove it wasn't yours.
  3. Don't ever base your plans on when you expect to get the birth certificate. Our experience is that India has not yet learned to “under-promise and over-deliver”, rather you are more likely to get “over-promised and under-delivered”. Leave some buffer time, you may need it.

 (This article was taken from a blog post on Peter's Surrogacy Blog)