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How to Change the Name on a Passport without a Court Order

Documents in file folder
Documents in file folder by ml12nan/DepositPhotos

Getting a passport is usually a simple process; however, some individuals may need to take extra steps due to complications like a change of name when getting a new passport or renewing an existing one.

Most name changes require legal proof from the courts such as a marriage certificate or divorce decree, but a name change on your passport can be done without court records. This is known as a customary name change; passport agencies are more lax in the formality of a surname change.

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Typically, an individual will need to have been known by the name in question for a minimum of five years to allow a customary name change. An applicant will be required to show identification acceptable to passport agencies proving they used the name.

If they do not have an acceptable ID, they can bring in three or more certified or original copies of public documentation that prove they have been going by that name for at least five years.

The documentation brought in to prove a person has been going by a different name needs to show the acquired name as well as one alternative piece of identifying information. This can be their date of birth, age, place of birth, social security number, and so on.

Some of the possible choices of documentation are tax records, driver's license, military records, employment records, school records, a baptismal certificate, or a hospital birth record.

If a person is having trouble coming up with three public records that substantiate that they go by the surname they desire, they can use affidavits from at least two people.

These must state that they have known the person applying for the passport name change for at least five years, and they vouch that the person has gone by the name he or she claims.

This substitution can only be used for one of the three necessary documents showing proof. If the person has to resort to this option, having more than two affidavits is to their benefit.

The collection of documentation needed to complete this process may be the biggest obstacle, but once you've assembled all the data, a passport specialist can assist you in turning everything in to the proper passport agency.

For those that have gone by a different surname for fewer than five years, there are still options. Getting a "known as" name added to your passport is how you can go by your desired surname without the required five years.

Your "known as"  will be included with the legal name you were given at birth. The process has some similarities to the customary name change, but also requires a few extra steps. If this is the course you need to take, your passport agent will be able to explain what is needed from you to get it completed.

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About the Author: For over 20 years, the U.S. Passport Service Guide team has helped hundreds of thousands of travelers with their travel document questions and shared advice about how to make traveling abroad simpler, safer, and more enjoyable.

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