Most foreigners living in France are asked at some stage to deliver a full birth certificate that is less than 3 (and sometimes 6) months old. Why three or six months?
If you’ve even seen a French birth certificate of someone who has been married, you will understand why.
French birth certificates are “annotés” which means that any change in civil status is recorded on the birth certificate itself – marriage, civil union, separation, divorce, remarriage, death … It’s like a personal history rather than a record of a single event. This is also the purpose of the livret de famille*.
As a result, the French authorities always ask for a recent certificate, which is defined as less than 3 months old in the case of French certificates. Birth certificates are obtained from the town hall of the place of birth and are free of charge. You simply send a photocopy of your identity card and a stamped addressed envelope with a cover letter saying who you are and what you want and they usually arrive in a few days. You can also go to the town hall in person. Since February 15th 2019, birth certificates can also be obtained in multilingual versions (i.e. all the languages of the European Union).
French birth certificates are annotated
In most countries other than France, birth certificates are not annotated. As a result, there is no reason to submit a certificate of less than 3 months, nor a translation of less than 3 months even if the time frame is sometimes extended to 6 months. Unfortunately, a lot of authorities are not aware of this. I am a sworn translator (Orléans Appeal Court) and have just translated a UK birth certificate for a British citizen who is getting married in a neighbouring town in the Loire Valley because the local town hall simply knows nothing about the regulations and my client doesn’t want to mess around.
I have personally used the same Australian birth certificate for countless cartes de séjour, two marriages, one divorce and a successful application for French citizenship. Each time, I explained that “les actes de naissance en Australie ne sont pas annotés.”
On the French official website service-public.fr, it says:
Un acte de naissance, de mariage ou de décès demeure valable tant que les éléments qui y figurent n’ont pas été modifiés. https://www.service-public.fr/particuliers/vosdroits/F10449. i.e. a birth, marriage or death certificate remains valid as long as the information given in the certificate has not been modified.
So that, theoretically, unless your name has been officially changed, all you have to quote to an authority that asks for a certificate less than 3 months old. Good luck!
*livret de famille: this is a little booklet you are given when you marry. It is added to each time you have a child. It also records divorces and deaths.