How to Change Your Last Name

Changing your name is probably one of the most annoying part about getting/being married (if you’re deciding to change your name). Friends made it seem quite easy, but it can be an extremely confusing and potentially long process. So here’s the 10 steps I used to change my name! This post is written for anyone who might be changing their name due to marriage. Hopefully this makes the process quicker, easier, and less stressful.

Disclaimer: This is me changing my name in California during the summer of 2015. My process, timeline, and fees may be different and vary in other states, seasons, or years. Also, make sure you read all the instructions on all those government websites. 

Friends1

friends 2

Friends 3

friends 4

STEP 1: THINK ABOUT CHANGING YOUR NAME

Firstly, you should really think about whether or not you want to change your last name. Some families don’t care, some do. Some spouses care, some don’t. Some cultures change their name and some don’t. Think about it. You should really know what you want to do with your last name before you apply for your marriage license. If you don’t, this is an even longer process…so make your decision.

Why did I change my last name?

  1. I wanted 1 less keystroke while typing my name
  2. Wong is pretty much the most common Chinese name out there
  3. Hyphenating Wong and Ong looks and sounds funny
  4. I didn’t feel like laughing at the future receptionists, future store employees, and future bank tellers’ jokes about the similarity of our last names.
  5. My identity is in Christ, not in any earthly name

STEP 2: GET YOUR MARRIAGE LICENSE WITH YOUR NEW NAME

When you apply for your marriage license, make sure you write your new name on the license. You can always ask the staff at the clerk’s office to make sure you’re writing your new name in the right spot. If you don’t write your new last name on it, you’ll have to fill out another form and get it notarized (and pay more fees). Depending on your county, you might be able to request additional marriage certificates at this time. I’d suggest you to request 2-4 marriage certificates so you don’t have to go through this process again, in case it gets lost, or in case you have to send your certificates anywhere. A copy of your Public Marriage Certificate from the San Francisco Office of the Assessor-Recorder costs $15 per certificate.

STEP 3: RECEIVE YOUR MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE

You should your receive your official marriage certificate that will include your old and new name on it. If you had a civil ceremony, some county offices can print it the same day or you might have to wait a few days or 1-2 weeks to pick it up. Otherwise, your officiant or pastor will send in your license and you will receive your marriage certificate in the mail a few weeks following your ceremony. Once you’ve received this certificate, you can actually start this arduous process.

NOTE: (Step 4 & 5 can be done simultaneously if you ordered more than one marriage certificate and done as necessary. I needed my passport done as soon as possible so I actually did Step 5 first.)

STEP 4: UPDATE SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER CARD

You will need to update your Social Security Card. To do this, you will need to go to your nearest social security office. Try to go early. The lines will be long. Apparently there was an appointment line when I arrived to the office, but I couldn’t figure out how to do that. I waited about 1.5 hours on a Monday morning at the Hayward-Southland Social Security Office. Bring a book.

When you go to the Social Security Office, you need to bring the following documents:

After visiting the Social Security Office, you should receive your social security card in 10 days. I received my new card in 7 days.

STEP 5: UPDATE YOUR PASSPORT

You will need to update your passport. I did this by mail. I didn’t use expedited service so I’m not sure how that process is, but this description is for standard service if your passport is more than one year old and not expired. Make sure you read the website to make sure you’re following the instructions and doing everything correctly (For example, if your passport is less than one year old, the process is different).

To update your passport, fill out Form DS-5504, get a color passport photo, and write a check for $110 (make sure your fees are correct by checking the fee information on the website)

When you send your package, make sure it includes the following documents:

  • Completed Form DS-5504
  • 1 2×2 color passport
  • a $110 check written to the U.S. Department of State
  • your old passport
  • your marriage certificate
  • For Routine Service, send to National Passport Processing Center Post Office Box 90107 Philadelphia, PA 19190-0107

The website said that it takes 4-6 weeks to process a new passport, but it took 6 weeks and 3 days for me to receive my new passport after knowing that it arrived to the office. This can take a while, so be prepared for that. I’ve also heard that it could take less than 4 weeks for standard processing. I received two separate mailings back. One had my new passport and another had my old passport and marriage certificate.

SPECIAL NOTE: If you are traveling out of the country anytime soon after your wedding, you should book your airline/travel tickets under your maiden name and not start the passport name change process until after your travels. It can take a while for your passport to be processed so it’s better to not take that risk of not having your passport when you need to travel.

STEP 6: UPDATE YOUR DRIVER’S LICENSE

After you receive your new Social Security Card, you will need to update your name on your driver’s license. Definitely try to get an appointment. You can make an appointment online. If you don’t make an appointment, you’ll have to wait. I was lucky and able to get an appointment on July 3rd (a holiday at work!) so I didn’t have to take off from work or wait in that super awful line.

At my appointment, I told the DMV staff that I just needed to change my name due to marriage. They told me to fill out a form (DL 44), return the form, and pay a $27 duplicate license fee. Then, a staff person helped me change my name. When you change your name at the DMV, your license will still expire at the same time as your old one. If you know that your license will be expiring soon and you’ll be needing to retake the written exam, I would suggest reading the DMV handbook as a refresher so you can also take the written exam on the same day. As I was changing my name with the DMV staff, the helpful lady reminded me that I would still need to retake the written DMV test since my license would be expiring the next year so I took the written exam without re-reading the handbook. Thankfully the lady reminded me of a few law changes so I passed and was able to take a terrible picture of myself for my new license.

When you go to the DMV, bring the following documents:

  • Driver’s License
  • Marriage Certificate
  • $27 in cash
  • Social Security Card (with your new name)

I received my new driver’s license 2 weeks after my visit to the DMV.

STEP 7: UPDATE YOUR BANK ACCOUNTS & CREDIT CARDS

So I actually only changed my name for one account so far because we’ll be moving abroad and I didn’t want to wait to receive new credit cards, but it is fairly simple at Chase. I went to the bank and brought my old and new drivers license. In about 1-2 weeks, I received all my new debit cards and credit cards.

STEP 8: UPDATE YOUR NAME AT WORK

Change your name at your work. You might need to bring your driver’s license and marriage certificate. Luckily, I don’t need to do this. 🙂

STEP 9: UPDATE EVERYTHING ELSE

I haven’t done this, but one day, it will be done. Insurance companies, post office, schools, doctor’s offices, pharmacy, library, gym, and any other accounts or membership at will eventually need to be change.

STEP 10 (Optional): PRACTICE YOUR NEW SIGNATURE

My name change is not that dramatic, so I’m not doing this. But for all you lovely people changing your name, you finally have the opportunity to change your signature. How awesome is that?

I hope this post was helpful if any of you are in the process of changing your name or thinking about changing your name. It’s a lot of paperwork, 2 weekdays to go to the offices, and costs about $152 (not including postage or additional copies), at least in San Francisco, CA.

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