How To Get A Birth Certificate Reference Number In The UK?


How To Get A Birth Certificate Reference Number In The UK?

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you needed to prove your identity or access important records, but couldn’t because you didn’t have your Birth Certificate Reference Number (BCRN)? For those of us living abroad or with ties to the United Kingdom, having this crucial number can be a real lifesaver.

Imagine trying to apply for a passport, open a bank account, or enroll your child in school without it, it’s a bureaucratic nightmare! But don’t worry, this comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know about getting your hands on that all-important BCRN, even if you’re thousands of miles away from the UK.

What is a Birth Certificate Reference Number (BCRN)?

A BCRN is a unique identifier assigned to every birth certificate record in the United Kingdom. It’s a long string of letters and numbers that helps the General Register Office (GRO) track and maintain accurate personal information. Unlike your National Insurance number (which is for tax and social security purposes), a BCRN is specifically linked to your birth certificate.

Its main purposes are:

  • Preventing fraud and identity theft by confirming you are who you say you are
  • Allowing access to crucial personal records and information
  • Maintaining data integrity within the GRO’s national database

Having your BCRN handy is like having a powerful key that unlocks a world of possibilities when it comes to proving your identity and accessing important services.

Why is a BCRN Important?

Why is a BCRN Important?
Why is a BCRN Important?

In today’s world, where personal data is king, having a BCRN is more crucial than ever before. Here are just a few reasons why this number is so vital:

  • Applying for Passports: Good luck trying to get a new passport or renew an existing one without your BCRN. It’s an essential requirement.
  • Enrolling in Schools: Whether you’re a student yourself or have kids, most educational institutions will ask for your BCRN during the enrollment process.
  • Legal Proceedings: Need to provide legal proof of your identity or birth details? You guessed it BCRN required.
  • Genealogical Research: For those interested in tracing their family tree, a BCRN can be instrumental in accessing ancestral records.
  • Accessing Government Services: From healthcare to social security, many government benefits and services require this identifier.

Without a BCRN, simple tasks can become arduous obstacles. It’s the key that keeps the door open to a world of opportunities.

How to Locate Your BCRN on an Existing Birth Certificate

If you already have a physical or digital copy of your UK birth certificate, finding your BCRN should be a piece of cake. Just follow these simple steps:

  1. Locate the Top Right Corner: Your BCRN will be printed in the top right-hand corner of the certificate, above the registration number and date.
  2. Identify the Long String: Look for a long string of letters and numbers this is your unique BCRN.
  3. Note it Down Carefully: Make a note of the full BCRN, being careful not to make any mistakes. It’s an important number, so handle with care!

If you’re having trouble locating the BCRN or it seems to be missing, don’t panic. Contact the GRO directly and they’ll be able to assist you.

Example BCRN:

2014/Q2/ABCD/1234 (This is a made-up example, but gives you an idea of what to look for)

Common Uses of a BCRN

Common Uses of a BCRN
Common Uses of a BCRN

As mentioned, your BCRN is a versatile little number with plenty of important uses. Here are some of the most common scenarios where you’ll need it:

  • Proving your identity when applying for a passport, driving license, or other ID
  • Opening a bank account or applying for loans/financial products
  • Enrolling yourself or your children in schools and educational programs
  • Accessing legal services like applying for marriage licenses
  • Genealogical research into your family history and ancestry
  • Obtaining copies of certificates (birth, marriage, death) from the GRO
  • Ensuring accurate record-keeping and preventing identity fraud

Real-Life Story:

I’m an American citizen, but my parents were born in the UK. When I wanted to look into my family’s history, not having access to my parents’ BCRNs made the process incredibly difficult. After finally getting the numbers, I was able to request records from the GRO that helped me uncover fascinating details about my ancestors!

Sarah, Family Researcher

Step-by-Step: Obtaining a BCRN from the General Register Office

If you don’t have access to your physical birth certificate and BCRN, don’t worry the process to get it is straightforward:

  1. Visit the GRO Website: Head to the official website ( and use their online search facility to locate your birth record.
  2. Request a Certified Copy: Once you’ve found your record, you can order an official certified copy that will contain your BCRN.
  3. Choose Delivery Method: The GRO offers various delivery options like standard post, secured delivery or PDF download. Pick based on convenience and urgency.
  4. Wait for Delivery: Processing times can vary, but you should receive your certified copy within 5-15 working days typically.
  5. Locate the BCRN: Once you have the copy, locate the BCRN printed on the top right corner, just like a standard certificate.

The current fees for ordering a certified copy are:

  • Standard Delivery (4 weeks): £11
  • Premium Delivery (8 days): £35
  • PDF Download (5 days): £7


  • Have details like your date of birth, place of birth, parent names etc. handy to speed up the search
  • For older records, you may need to order by post/phone. The GRO has instructions on their website.
  • PDF downloads are the fastest option but physicals copies provide greater security

There is a small fee involved for ordering copies, but it’s a small price to pay for such an important document. The current costs are listed on the GRO website.

Uses of the reference number

Your Birth Certificate Reference Number (BCRN) is an incredibly versatile identifier with numerous important uses throughout your life. Here are some of the most common scenarios where having your BCRN handy is essential:

  • Applying for a passport or renewing an existing one
  • Enrolling yourself or your children in schools/educational institutions
  • Providing proof of identity for legal purposes like marriage licenses
  • Opening a bank account or applying for loans/financial products
  • Accessing government services and benefits
  • Ensuring accurate record-keeping to prevent identity fraud
  • Conducting genealogical research into family history and ancestry
  • Obtaining copies of birth, marriage, and death certificates from the GRO

The following table summarizes some key uses and why the BCRN is required:

UseWhy BCRN is Needed
Passport ApplicationProves citizenship and identity
School EnrollmentVerifies personal details and birthplace
Legal ProceedingsConfirms identity for official matters
Banking ServicesPrevents fraud when opening accounts
Government BenefitsEnsures you receive proper entitlements
Genealogical ResearchAllows accessing ancestral records

As you can see, having this crucial number basically keeps the door open to important life events, services, and your own history. It’s well worth taking the time to obtain your BCRN.

Tips for Safeguarding Your BCRN

Tips for Safeguarding Your BCRN
Tips for Safeguarding Your BCRN

Now that you know how crucial your BCRN is, it’s important to keep it safe and secure at all times. Here are some tips:

  • Physical Security: Store any physical copies of your certificate/BCRN in a secure location like a safe or lockbox.
  • Digital Security: For digital copies, use encrypted storage and strong passwords. Avoid emailing/uploading it unnecessarily.
  • Limit Sharing: Only share your BCRN when absolutely necessary with trusted parties on a need-to-know basis.
  • Check For Accuracy: Double check that any BCRN you provide or receive is accurate to prevent fraud.
  • Regular Monitoring: Periodically review where/how your BCRN is being used and stored to identify any lapses.

Treating your BCRN with the same care as passwords or banking PINs is crucial to preventing identity theft.


Where can I find my birth certificate reference number?

The BCRN is typically located on the top right corner of your UK birth certificate, above the registration details.

Where is the GRO index reference number on a birth certificate?

The GRO index reference number and the BCRN are one and the same thing.

How long is a birth certificate reference number UK?

There is no fixed length, but BCRNs tend to be long strings around 12-16 characters containing letters and numbers.

Can you view UK birth certificates online?

No, you cannot view the actual birth certificate online. You must order an official certified copy from the GRO.

Is the BCRN the same as the National Insurance number?

No, the BCRN and National Insurance number are separate identifiers with different purposes.


Your Birth Certificate Reference Number may seem like an easily overlooked collection of letters and numbers, but it holds immense power. From proving your identity to unlocking crucial personal records, having this number gives you a verifiable key to your history and citizenship.

Even if you live abroad, taking the time to properly obtain your BCRN from the General Register Office is absolutely essential. The tips and step-by-step guide here will make it a smooth and stress-free process.

After all, preserving and protecting such a core part of your identity is an investment that will pay dividends throughout your life. So order that certified copy, locate your BCRN, and never let such a vital identifier slip through the cracks again!

Have any other questions about obtaining or using your BCRN? Drop them in the comments and let’s continue the conversation!

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