Anyone wishing to change names in Australia must lodge a legal name change application with Births, Deaths and Marriages. Foreign-issued documents are not accepted as proof of a new name.
- Born in Australia? Apply in the state where you were born and get an amended birth certificate.
- Born overseas? Apply in the state or territory where you live. You must have resided continuously in that state for the past 12 months (except NSW, you must reside in the state for three years). Once approved you’ll receive a legal name change certificate.
When do I need a legal name change?
The same cost and process apply no matter how big or small your change. A legal name change application is necessary for the following situations:
- You want to change any part of your given name/s, all names, the spelling of your name or the order of your names.
- You want to formally register a name that you have been using for years. You may even have some records in that name but it does not match your birth certificate or Australian citizenship certificate. For example, you have been using the name Liz for 30 years and you want to get a passport or credit card in the name Liz, but your birth certificate has the name Elizabeth.
- You were married overseas and want to take your spouse’s surname.
- You became an Australian citizen in your married name. You are divorced or separated and want to go back to your former name.
- A legal name change is NOT required to take or remove your spouse’s surname, providing you were married in Australia and your former name is on your Australian birth certificate or citizenship certificate.
When changing your name, you have two options:
1) Name change by association. Notify family, friends and colleagues of your new name and start using it immediately. Your name change will have taken effect by reputation in the community and you can use your new name without taking any formal steps. Organisations WILL NOT issue official documentation under your new name (such as the passport office and banks), so you will still have your old name on legal documentation but have a new name in the community by association. An example is someone who has been called Bob all their life, but all their ID and records are in the name Robert.
2) Legal name change via Births, Deaths and Marriages (BDM). Bank accounts, superannuation and organisations that issue identification insist the name on your record matches your birth certificate. If born overseas, it must match the name on your citizenship certificate. To have any other name recorded on your accounts or ID these organisations will insist on a legal name change certificate or amended birth certificate from Births, Deaths and Marriages.
The fine print
Applicants must provide a sound reason for wanting a new name. Reasons like ‘my mother remarried and I am taking my step-parent’s name’ or ‘changing names to suit my new religion’ are considered appropriate. Reasons like ‘a dare’ or ‘personal reasons’ could be rejected. You can’t have a prohibited name (one that is offensive or against the public interest) or a name that is impractical for daily use in the community (eg: a name containing symbols, that are misleading or difficult to pronounce). If you are in the custody of corrective services you need approval from the Chief Executive. You can’t change names more than once in a 12 month period and usually no more than 3 times in a lifetime.
Who can change their name?
Any Australian citizen or permanent resident aged 18 years or over can apply for a legal name change at Births, Deaths and Marriages (BDM). You don’t need a legal name change if you were married in Australia and you are taking or removing your spouse’s name.
How long does it take and what is the cost?
If you purchased an Easy Name Change kit, you can have your notifications sent off within a few days. Companies generally update your record a few working days after receiving your request. The ATO and Medicare can take 4 weeks to update your record. Processing times for passports can vary considerably, so check the passports website for current processing times.
There is a separate fee payable directly to BDM in addition to any Easy Name Change kit purchased. Fees vary significantly from state to state. If successful, expect to pay between $131 (Vic) and $270 (SA). For more information on current name change fees and to get the form for your state, choose ‘legal name change’ for your state when building your kit or visit your state BDM website.
Here are the main steps in legally changing your name and approximate timings:
- 0 days Easy Name Change kit delivered via email (allow 6-10 business days for delivery of printed kits).
- 1-2 weeks Gather required information, complete and lodge name change application with BDM.
- 4-12 weeks BDM sends legal name change certificate to successful applicants.
- 1 week Easy Name Change notifications sent to your listed organisations and your records are updated.
If you plan on researching each company’s name change process and preparing your own name change notifications, allow 2 to 4 weeks. Companies can take weeks to confirm their name change process and provide any special forms.
How do I inform companies of my new name?
Once you have legally changed names you need to start using your new name immediately and you must notify all organisations of your new name as soon as possible. Our customers typically need to notify 20 – 25 companies of their new names. Although not necessary, it’s a good idea to prioritise your photo ID (such as your state driver’s licence).
You can request your state or territory legal name change application form as part of your kit. We also include information on how to complete the form and lodgement details. Our personalised kits provide comprehensive name change procedures plus ready to send forms, letters and emails for over 800 Australian companies. Simply sign, add the documents listed and send! Where any of your companies don’t allow name change in writing we provide full instructions.
If a protection order has been made to protect you and/or your children from domestic violence you may lodge your application without having to meet birth state or residence requirements.
What is a deed poll?
Many Australians incorrectly refer to legal name change as a deed poll. Up until 1986, Australians wishing to change names would lodge a deed poll drafted by a solicitor to the Land Titles office. Since 1986 legal name change has been managed by the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages at a state level. Any adult or child wishing to change names can only do so by successfully lodging a legal name change application with their state BDM office.