Southwest Floridians from Puerto Rico worry about recent rule requiring new birth certificates

Apply online

Those who are interested in applying online in English or Spanish can visit the following website:

https://serviciosenlinea.gobierno.pr/SALUD/Login.aspx?ReturnUrl=/salud/

Apply through mail

To print out and mail a paper application in English, visit the following link:

http://www.salud.gov.pr/Programas/RegistroDemografico/Documents/Birth%20Certificate%20Application.pdf

Send a completed application to the following address:

Demographic Registry PO Box 11854,

San Juan Puerto Rico 00910

Rush mail applications must be sent to the following address:

171 Quisqueya Street,

Hato Rey, PR 00917

The Collier County School District will notify school staff of the birth certificate rule, Dee Whinnery, executive director of student services, said in an e-mail. The district will follow the procedure outlined in the District Guidelines for Registration and Enrollment of Students.

Parents or legal guardians who do not have new birth certificates for their children may provide other valid documents, such as certificates of baptism or an insurance policy in the child's name.

Parents or legal guardians can also submit a sworn affidavit of age that must be accompanied by a certificate of age signed by a public health officer or a private physician. The physician's certificate must indicate that he or she has examined the child and believes that the age stated in the parent or legal guardian's affidavit is substantially correct.

For more information, visit the Enrollment Information page of the district's website: http://www.collier.k12.fl.us/parents/enrollmentinfo.asp

— The birth certificates of Americans who were born in Puerto Rico will be null and void July 1.

In an effort to end the rising number of identity fraud cases, Puerto Rico’s Governor Luis Fortuño signed a law that requires anyone born on the island before July 1 to apply for a new birth certificate.

About 40 percent of the passport fraud cases investigated by Diplomatic Security Services involved Puerto Rican birth certificates, according to the Puerto Rican Federal Affairs Administration. Because of the rising number of incidents, the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security aided the Puerto Rican government in developing the new law.

About 4 million people live in Puerto Rico. There are an estimated 4.2 million people of Puerto Rican descent in the United States 1.3 million of which were born on the island, according to Pew Hispanic Center. That means an estimated 5.3 million people will need new birth certificates after the cut-off date.

Marina Rivera, 72, was born in Hatillo, Puerto Rico but moved to New Jersey when she was 16 and now lives in Collier County. She heard a little bit about the new rules from television, but hadn’t received any official notification from the government.

She is not in a hurry to get a new birth certificate.

“I don’t think I’ll need it, but its good to have,” she said.

Bureaucracy is the biggest concern for Juan Alvarez, a Puerto Rican national who lives in Southwest Florida. He doubts the Puerto Rican government can process so many requests at once.

“I don’t think they are capable of handling this all of a sudden,” Alvarez said.

Julianna Rojas, a Puerto Rican-born immigration lawyer in Fort Myers, shares his concerns. Although she commends the government for being proactive, she said there is no timeline that states how long it will take a person to receive a new birth certificate once the government receives an application.

Worse still, there is no information on how to expedite applications in case of emergency.

“People who have plans, there’s no way they can circumvent the process,” she said.

Rojas thinks Puerto Rican nationals who live outside of Puerto Rico should use the online application instead of mailing paper copies.

“If you go and send things in to Puerto Rico, it tends to be a little bit slow,” she said.

She also recommends waiting a couple of months before filling out a request to avoid the rush.

Despite these concerns, Rojas thinks the measure is necessary for public safety. Fraud is a problem in Puerto Rico because birth certificates are used as a primary source of identification in the country. Criminals can break into places with low security, such as schools, to steal personal information, Rojas said.

Each stolen birth certificate can be sold for $5,000 to $10,000 on the black market.

Rojas, who lived in Puerto Rico until she was 21, said the problem with identity theft was not highly publicized until now.

“It is a serious problem and it has to be solved somehow,” she said.

E-mail Maryann Batlle at maryannbatlle@gmail.com

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