Your legal name in the USA is the one shown on your immigration document, such as your green card. The three most common ways to change names are;
- Name change from marriage. Simply show your marriage certificate as proof of your new name. You may add your spouse’s surname to your own or swap your surname with your spouse’s surname. You may move your current surname to become a middle name. We explain in more detail here.
- Naturalization. When you complete your application to become a US citizen you have the option to nominate a new name. This name will be printed on your citizenship certificate. Use your citizenship certificate as proof of your new name.
- Legal name change. This option is available to all US permanent residents with the application costing under $250 in most states. There could be up to $750 in additional fees, as explained below. Follow the same legal name change process which is explained in more detail here.
Can I change my name by court order?
If you’re a legal permanent resident in the USA you may apply to change your name via the courts. The process and fees vary between states and counties. The court filing fee typically costs between $50 and $250. Expect to pay up to $450 if you live in IL, UT, GA, MN, AZ, NY and over $500 in FL, TX, CA or LA. Check with your county court to learn the exact process, fees and turnaround for your state. With legal name change you may change any part of your name, all of your names, the spelling or order of your name. Follow the same process as a US citizen applying for a legal name change.
Name Change before citizenship
Legal Permanent Residents (LPR’s) hold an Alien Card which is also referred to as a green card. This card lists your name as registered with immigration. This is one of the most important documents you hold. If you change your name by court order you must apply to get your green card changed into your new name however there is a considerable expense. We explain green card name changes further on in this article. You may instead choose to delay changing names until you become a citizen as names change can be a free option as part of the citizenship process and you will no longer need your green card.
If you hold a Social Security Number, then the IRS, DMV and other government agencies will only change their records to reflect the name you currently have on file with the Social Security Administration. Ensure you change names with the SSA first. Next take steps to get your green card updated as it is essential when opening bank accounts, applying for a job and more.
How to change the name on your Green Card
Once you have a court order granting your new name complete form I-90, Application to Replace a Permanent Resident Card. The form is available as part of your Easy Name Change kit.
At the time of writing it will cost $540 to replace your green card ($455 filing fee plus $85 biometric fee). Note that this fee is in addition to court filing fees for your name change and it is a separate process. 80% of applicants will have their replacement green card processed within 15 months (yes, you read that correctly!). You can read more about a court ordered name change on our site.
If you have had your name changed by court order, you may still travel on a foreign passport issued under a different name, or a LPR card (green card) in the former name, but you should carry your court ordered name change document with you as you may be asked to prove your identity.
Unless you have a green card in your new name, you may encounter challenges when passing through US customs and immigration, opening new accounts or changing your accounts into your new name. Most companies will insist on seeing updated government photo ID along with your court order (or acceptable name change document) before allowing changes. A delay in changing your green card may result in having different names in different places, which makes proving your identity difficult. There is also a lengthy wait to have the green card reissued from when you file your request.
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What about my name in my country of citizenship?
Passports are issued by over 160 countries worldwide, so we are unable to provide information about name change for foreign countries. We recommend contacting your embassy or high commission before applying to legally change names in the USA to ask further advice.
The laws for name change while living abroad varies between countries. Generally speaking, your country of citizenship may;
- accept your US court order as evidence of a new name and allow you to change your passport while living in the USA.
- insist you also go through the same name change process as other citizens from your country. This may be possible while living in the USA, or you may need to wait until you return to your country of citizenship. Even if you can change names whilst residing in the USA, you may find some organizations in your home country, such as banks, insist you change names in person, so you may be unable to get everything consistently updated.
Once your foreign passport is updated you are usually able to change names with any organizations from that country. Keep in mind there are millions of companies abroad and all have their own unique procedure for name change, so the only way to know for sure is to contact each one.
The information above is of a general nature and your situation may be different. With the infinite combinations of countries and companies you may need to update, we can’t tell you for sure what process you will need to undertake. The only way to know for sure is to do some research in advance of changing names and arrive at your own decision.
Easy Name Change operates in Australia, Canada and the UK. If you have a number of records to update in one of these countries an Easy Name Change kit will provide you with the paperwork and procedures necessary. Just click the country name link above to visit our regional sites for comprehensive name change paperwork.
Name Change as part of citizenship
If you expect to become a naturalized citizen in the foreseeable future it may be best to delay your name change. There is no additional charge to have your name change processed as part of the naturalization process. You may save around $1,000 in fees from court filing and replacing your green card.
When completing form N-400, Application for Naturalization, simply tick the box where you are prompted if you legally want to change names. Complete the name in full exactly as you would like to be known in the future. Take care that the names appear in the correct order and the spelling is correct. Check with your immigration professional that your ceremony is conducted in a location where legal name change is facilitated. If so, when your citizenship certificate is issued, it will reflect the name change.
Once you have a naturalization certificate in your new name get your SSA records updated first, then your state driver’s license or photo ID card if you have one. US Passports can take a while longer, so if you only have one original citizenship certificate, ensure you have changed your name in all other important places before applying for a US passport as your certificate may not be available for a month or two.
Full details on changing your name with the SSA and on your US driver’s license is included in our Easy Name Change kit, so you don’t need to hunt around for the latest forms. If you have other companies to update, select to receive their name change forms, or ready to send letters and emails as part of our personalized kit. If any of your companies have a different name change procedure we’ll let you know exactly what to do so you don’t spend hours waiting on hold.
Ready to change names now?
If you want to legally change names by court order, get started by reading through our section on legal name change. Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the process in your county, including the costs and how long you can expect the process will take, you can file your legal name change petition. When you receive a court order with your name change, Easy Name Change is here to help you get all your identification, accounts, memberships, and records updated.