How to change California Birth Certificates

California Birth Certificates – Accent Symbols on the Horizon

In February 1, 2017

In California, a new legislative session is challenging the status quo specific to California birth certificates and diacritical marks. Diacritical marks or accent symbols, are used to indicate the appropriate stress, pronunciation or sounds associated with the Roman alphabet letters. Currently California, like most  other states, disallows the use of accent symbols on birth records and any other vital record documents. Some citizens and lawmakers are in opposition of this ruling, stating that being unable to utilize accent symbols is unconstitutional. If you or your child were born in California or you are planning a family and you have a California birth certificate, this legislation may directly affect you.

Why aren’t accent symbols allowed on a California birth certificate?

For legislation, and all matters of federal documentation and official pronouncements, the official language used by the United States of America is American English. Despite the U.S.’s great ethnic and cultural diversity, accent symbols in federal documents are not allowed; however due to this diversity, the English language is a compilation of a variety of languages. American English combines or changes words from different languages to create new words. This resulted in English accents being auditory; in order to understand their pronunciation, the words must be heard. Other languages, like French or Spanish for example, spell words exactly as they sound. This requires the use of diacritical marks and accent symbols to add the correct pronunciation to letters.

For individuals with a California birth certificate, or any other state that does not allow accent symbols on vital documents, this can be a frustrating discovery. California is home to such a high population of diverse ethnic groups, the accent symbols mean the difference for example, between “Jose” and “José”. If the legislation passes, knowing how to change a name on a birth certificate will be very handy. This will give California birth certificate holders the option to amend their, or their children’s birth certificates.

Will California be the only state affected?

While the current piece of legislation is only on the table for California birth certificates, many concerned parties feel the current law is outdated and absurd. States like Maryland, Delaware and Illinois already accept accent symbols. This new bill may help lead the way for other states in allowing people who feel strongly about cultural influences while naming their children to utilize diacritical marks on birth records. At the federal level, however, the accent symbols are still not allowed – for instance on passports and security cards.


While many hope to have the opportunity to start naming their children with their culture’s appropriate language and symbols, many opposed to the bill are concerned about the potential cost. No matter what the outcome, If you were born in  California and you’d like to know how to amend a California birth certificate to reflect a name change, VitalChek can help you obtain certified copies once you’ve completed the process.

Leave A Comment