In my country, it happens quite often that a citizen needs a service from a government agency, but there's no exact form for the service that the citizen wants. In such case, in Serbia, we'd write a letter type which we call молба. The direct translation would be "request". It usually looks something like this:

I kindly request that the Agency for Y issues me а certificate of YY. I need the YY certificate due to J, K and L reasons. Attached are the proofs of my YY-ness. Best regards, Andreja

I've been trying to find a name for such a letter type in English, but I can't seem to figure out how it could be called.

  • The term in your native tongue is very generic if it can be translated as "request", but your question assumes it is a specific term, and so your question is not making much sense to me.
    – TimR
    Feb 16, 2017 at 21:13
  • @TRomano Well, the issue is that I'm not aware of any better term in English that I might use. It is a very specific term. Perhaps a better translation would be "kind request"? It implies that the letter writer is not in a higher position than the letter recipient, however the writer is also not in a desperate situation.
    – AndrejaKo
    Feb 16, 2017 at 21:23
  • Your sample letter is also very generic. Is it a "certificate request"? What kind of certificate? Birth certificate? Certificate of occupancy? Death certificate?
    – TimR
    Feb 16, 2017 at 21:25
  • I'd call it an application. Feb 16, 2017 at 21:33
  • @TRomano Actually, we use the same terminology for any type of certificate, so it's not clear to me what the difference would be. The "template" I posted is from a letter I used to get the "Harmonized Amateur Radio Examination Certificate", if it matters, but I'm looking for a name which is not specific to the type of document requested, if that's possible. The important point is that I either need a document or a specific service.
    – AndrejaKo
    Feb 16, 2017 at 21:37

1 Answer 1


As far as I'm aware, as a native citizen of the USA, there is no term for this.

Generally, if we need something from a government agency, there's a form we fill out and submit (likely with some required documentation). That's it. We don't necessarily need to write a letter to go along with it and, if we do, that letter doesn't have a specific name.

For example, when I recently needed a copy of my son's birth certificate, I found the form on the city's website, filled it out, and then had my husband turn it in at their office in person. I could have submitted it digitally or by mail but that would have taken longer (and cost more). If I'd mailed it, I wouldn't have enclosed a letter. The website linked above details the necessary enclosures:

  • Effective immediately, all mail-in requests require notarized proof of identification.
  • A completed application (download and print one in English or Spanish)
  • A check or money order payable to the Office of Vital Records ($23 for each copy of a birth certificate; $21 for each death certificate plus $4 for each additional copy)
  • A copy of your current government-issued photo identification A copy of proof of residence, such as utility bill, voter registration, etc., if different than the address on your photo ID
  • A copy of a current government-issued identification of the person who signs the check (if different from the requestor)
  • A stamped self-addressed envelope (use an express mail envelope for express mail delivery).

None of the things listed above include any sort of letter, though the entire submission is referred to as a "request".

So, if you're filling out a form, that's called an "application" and if there's not a form, you're just sending a "request". There's no specific word.

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