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A new law announced by the Puerto Rican government will invalidate all birth certificates issued before July 1 and will mandate that citizens of the commonwealth apply for new documentation in order to crack down on identity theft.

Pentagon officials said this week that Puerto Rican troops and family members who used the old birth certificates for military identification cards and other paperwork before July 1 won’t have to produce new documentation.

But starting July 1, a new birth certificate will be required for Puerto Ricans using a birth certificate as proof of identity for their first military ID card or to renew an existing card, said Army Maj. April Cunningham, a Defense Department spokeswoman.

A new birth certificate will be required as well for those enrolling for the first time in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System, or DEERS, she said.

Those who have not received a new birth certificate but need to enroll in DEERS or get an ID card around July 1 can get a temporary 90-day card until they receive the required documentation from the Puerto Rican government, Cunningham said.

Anyone needing a temporary card should see the sponsor’s Service Project Office, she said. The request for a temporary card must be forwarded via fax or e-mail to the office and must include a copy of the old birth certificate and a copy of the completed application for a new birth certificate.

About 30,000 members of the active-duty Army, Army Reserve and National Guard are Puerto Rican, according to the Army. Roughly 2,000 members of the Air Force are Puerto Rican, officials said. Numbers for the other services were not available.

The new law, passed in collaboration with the U.S. federal government, aims to stop the black market buying and selling of Puerto Rican birth certificates used to illegally obtain U.S. passports, Social Security benefits and other federal services, according to the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration.

In the past, many common transactions in Puerto Rico required a birth certificate, according to a PRFAA fact sheet. As a result, hundreds of thousands of original birth certificates were not stored securely and were easy targets for theft. Many were stolen from schools and other institutions before being sold on the black market for up to $10,000 each, according to the fact sheet.

“The common Hispanic names of most individuals born in Puerto Rico made the birth certificates highly desirable on the black market,” the fact sheet states.

Forty percent of the passport fraud cases investigated by the State Department in recent years involved Puerto Rican birth certificates, according to the PRFAA.

The Puerto Rican government recommends that people who have only a specific, official need for their birth certificate request a new one at this time to prevent a rush of applications. The new documents will cost $5.

Geoffz@estripes.osd.mil

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