A name change does not happen all at once, but is a process. Regardless of your reasons for changing your name, the process of taking all the necessary steps to ensure that your new legal name is reflected on all documents and accounts can often be a confusing and arduous one. This is no less true in the case of a passport name change.
Your passport is one of the most important documents you will need to make sure your name change is reflected on. This is in part because your passport is not yours. It remains the property of the U.S. State Department, and thus possessing a passport is considered a privilege, not a right.
It’s also for this reason that a passport name change—or any changes to your passport, for that matter—will not be not as easy as visiting the local Federal Court House. Even if there is a Federal Court House in your area, a State Department office will be required to help you perform the name change.
Except for some emergency cases, as well as for requests of expedited handling, all passport names change and update requests must use the U.S. Mail. If you need to make a passport name change, you can visit the U.S. State Department website to find the proper forms—but you will head to mail those forms once you’ve completed them.
You will need to understand which forms to complete in order to begin the process of a passport name change:
- Form DS-5504 – You should only use this form if your passport was issued less than a year ago.
- Form DS-82 – If your passport is more than one year old and you are eligible to renew your passport, you can use Form DS-82.
- Form DS-11 – If for some reason you are not eligible to renew your passport, you must use Form DS-11. Making a name change when you are not eligible to renew your passport is a more complicated process and will require an in-person visit to a state department office.
- Form DS-60 – In some cases, you may want to change your name without a court order or a marriage license. Use this form.
Detailed information about these forms is discussed below. There you will also find some hints on how to make the passport name change process much easier…
Are You Eligible to Renew Your Passport?
If your passport was issued more than one year ago, and if you meet specific other requirements, the easiest way to make a passport name change will be to simply renew your current passport and include the proper passport name change documentation. The following are the requirements for renewing your passport:
- You must submit your most recent passport with the application to renew
- The passport must be undamaged other than from normal wear and tear of travel and handling
- You must have been older than 16 years of age when the passport was issued
- The passport must have been issued no more than 15 years ago
- Your current name must be on the passport. Otherwise, you must submit documentation to support the name change, such as:
- An original or certified copy of a marriage certificate
- A certified copy of the court order
Form DS-5504 – Passport Name Change on Passport less than a Year Old
If your passport was issued less than one year ago, the process for making a passport name change is relatively simple. You will need to gather a few documents and other items to accompany your Form DS-5504.
- Your current passport
- Your name change document – a marriage certificate, divorce decree, or other court order. The documents must be an original or a certified copy.
- A color passport photo.
If your passport is less than one year old, there are no fees for submitting a Form DS-5504.
You should mail the Form-5504, supporting documentation, and a passport photo to the address shown in the instruction for Form-5504. The forms must go via the United States Postal Service. Most other courier services will not deliver to a post office box.
Form DS-82 – Passport Name Change and Renewal
In cases where your passport is more than a year old and you are eligible to renew your passport, making a passport name change will require you to submit a renewal application along with the supporting documentation for your name change. The proper form for requesting a renewal from the State Department is Form DS-82. You will need to supply the following with the application form.
- Your most recent passport
- The documents to support your name change request. The documents that are acceptable include
- A certified copy or original copy of your marriage certificate
- A certified copy of a divorce decree or a court order supporting the name change
- A color passport photo
- The appropriate fees ($30 – $140 depending on the circumstances)
- Passport book – $110
- Passport Card – $30
- Both passport book and card – $140
Again, the United States Postal Service is your best bet for getting your documents to the appropriate State Department officials. The addresses are on the DS-82 form and, in some cases, are PO boxes. UPS and FedEx will not deliver to post office boxes.
Form DS-11 – An Undocumented Passport Name Change
If you don’t have a current passport—or if you want to change the name on your current passport without a marriage certificate, a divorce decree, or a court order—you will have to start from scratch and begin a new application. A passport name change with no documentation will require an in-person appearance at a passport acceptance facility.
Many post offices have passport acceptance facilities. The U. S. State Department has a handy locator that will direct you to the closest passport acceptance facility. You can find the passport acceptance facility locator here.
Before you go to the passport acceptance facility, you should have all the necessary documentation. This documentation may include:
- If you have one, your current passport
- Form DS-11 properly completed and signed
- Evidence of U.S. citizenship
- Valid and current ID
- One color passport photo
If you are requesting a passport name change and do not have the qualifying original or certified copies of documents to support that name change, you will need to provide a Form DS-60: Affidavit Regarding A Change of Name. This form requires:
- Completing by two people who have known you by both your old name and your new name
- Three certified public records that show you have used the new name for more than five years
The fees for submitting a form DS-11 for adults are:
- Passport Book – $110
- Passport Card – $30
- Both a Passport book and a passport card – $140
Children under the age of 16, the fees are:
- Passport book – $80
- Passport card – $15
- Both a passport book and a card – $95
When submitting a Form DS-11, you will also be charged an Execution Fee by the passport acceptance facility. This is a separate charge from the fees for the passport application itself. The Execution Fee is $35.
(As you can see, costs can easily begin to stack up!)
Do I Have to Change the Name on my Passport?
There is no legal requirement to complete a passport name change. However, the implications of trying to travel with a passport that has a different name than your ID can pose serious problems. Some of the possible issues you may face are:
- Air Travel – When you try to go through security at U.S. airports, you must show an ID and all relevant travel documents, such as boarding passes or airline tickets. If you use your old passport with your old name and have booked your airline tickets with your new name, airport security may not allow you to enter the secure areas of the airport.
- Hotel Booking – Many foreign countries require you to present your passport when you arrive at your hotel. If you have booked your hotel room using your new name, and your passport still has your old name, the hotel may refuse to honor your reservations.
- Entering Foreign Countries – The immigration officials of the country you are visiting will want to see your passport and your travel documents as well as an ID. If all the names don’t match exactly, they may refuse you entry into the country.
A passport name change may be a hassle now, but doing so can help you avoid potentially disastrous results when you try to travel with mismatched identification.
What if I Need a Passport Name Change Immediately?
If you are in an emergency situation, or if you are dealing with time-constrained travel such as for the imminent death of a close relative, you can apply for expedited handling of your passport name change request. In some cases, you can get a 72-hour turnaround on your passport application through this process. The procedures and requirements are very specific and you can find more information about expedited services at the State Department Website.
NOTE! At the time of this writing, the State Department has suspended all expedited passport services except for life-or-death emergencies. More information about these changes, as well as the schedules for return to routine services, can be found available here.
Our Advice about a Passport Name Change
Our advice is short and simple: start early and be patient. As with anything that involves dealing with a government agency, time will be a significant factor in your passport name change process. If you can help it, do not wait until the last minute and expect to get a quick turnaround. Any number of factors can add delays to the process.
Here are some tips to make sure that your passport name change process goes as smoothly as possible.
- Make sure you are using the right forms. Submitting the wrong form will get the entire package sent back to you.
- Follow the directions on the forms. Failing to fill in the form correctly or to provide the proper documentation will put the brakes on your application.
- Submit everything to the right place. The correct mailing address is in the instructions that come with the form. Remember that UPS and FedEx won’t deliver to a post office box. The United States Postal Service is your best bet for sending in your application package.
- Pay for tracking on your application package. The postal service offers tracking services on all classes of mail. Using mail tracking will let you be sure that your application got to the right place promptly.
- Start early. If you are planning to travel, give yourself plenty of time to get the name change process completed.
- Make sure all your travel documents have the exact same name. Even the slightest difference can hold you up at security in the U.S. and abroad.
Advice for Newlyweds – Put It Off Until After The Honeymoon!
If you are getting married, you won’t be able to complete a passport name change until you have the signed and recorded marriage certificate in your hands. If you’re planning your honeymoon before the wedding, our advice is that you make all of your travel arrangements using your name as it now appears on your passport.
Wait until after you return from the honeymoon to begin the process of a passport name change. Using your old name will save you the hassle now, and will help you to avoid running into any name change problems while you are on your honeymoon.
Get It Done and Get It Right
Getting your passport name change completed can be a daunting task, but if you follow the steps outline and heed our advice, the process will go smoothly. Once you have your new passport in hand, you will be ready to travel the world!