144 Comments

Before you can do much to change your name, you need to get your name changed with the Social Security Administration. That social security card is the key to getting through other name changes (like at the DMV, your bank, etc) smoothly and with as little hassle as possible. So how do you ensure that changing your name with social security is as painless as possible?

Before You Do Anything Else

You'll need to complete the SS-5 application, which is a form made freely available from the Social Security Administration. A social security card name change begins at this document.

Now What?

Updating your social security card through the mail

Okay, you've got your form filled out and in front of you. Now what do you do?

This is where you make a very important choice. See—you can easily drop your form and supporting paperwork (marriage certificate, etc) into an envelope and mail it off. Then you just sit back and wait for your new social security card to show up. The Social Security Administration will mail you your new card as well as your supporting documents back to you… in about two to six weeks, or so. Yes, how long it takes for your name to change can vary a considerable amount, depending on how heavy their queue or backlog is.

Remember, the Social Security Administration is a huge, sprawling organization that deals with a multitude of issues, of which name change is just a part. If you don't mind waiting up to six weeks to really dig in to changing your name, this is the way to go.

Changing your name, in person, at your local Social Security office

If you don't want to wait that long and would rather (for lack of better terminology) bang it all out in a day or two, there is another route you can take: you can actually gather up your forms and pay a visit to your Social Security Administration Office. You'll get a temporary card that you can then take with you to the bank, the DMV, etc.

But isn't the Social Security office a nightmare?

You probably have visions of Joe-vs-The-Volcano like lines of people all trudging forward an inch at a time to take care of their business. This is certainly the stereotype and, if you've been down the Social Security Google rabbit hole, you've undoubtedly read a few horror stories about what visiting the office was like.

Here's some good news: it doesn't have to be that way. In fact, if you approach it well, the entire process shouldn't take much time at all.

Here is how to ensure that your visit to the SSA goes smoothly and is incident free.

1. Make sure you have all of the proper forms filled out

The primary form the SSA provides (Application for a Social Security Card) is there specifically to have your name changed with social security. Use that. This way you won't have to worry that you've found an old form or, worse, a totally wrong form. Also, don't sign nor date the form just yet. If you're going in person, it's better for you to apply your signature when you're in front of the clerk who's working on your application, so that he/she can witness the act.

2. Get all of your supporting documentation together

You are going to need to have the following documents with you:

Legal documents proving your name change: This is almost always going to be your marriage certificate (or divorce decree). This point requires repeating—you need your marriage certificate. Specifically, a certified copy of your marriage certificate, and not your marriage license.

Marriage license or Marriage certificate? What's the difference?

There's been a longtime point of confusion, that's been going on forever, regarding these two documents. The Internet is littered with various articles, Q&A help sections, and forums conflating the two by telling folks a marriage license is an acceptable document to serve as proof of name change. That's false. A marriage license is the document you receive before you get married, which provides you legal authorization to get married. The marriage certificate is a document you receive after you are married, and it's what the Social Security Administration is expecting in order to change your name after marriage.

You'll also want to make sure it's a certified copy. Whether you're mailing in your name change forms or doing it in person, if you end up bringing in a photocopy of your marriage certificate made on your home office copy machine, you'll be laughed right out of the building. Well, you may not face ridicule, but you'll be politely told to supply an authentic, certified copy before you're sent packing.

You lie! I used my marriage license to change my name

Ok, you're right, and you're wrong. And it's not what you think. There are some counties and states where the marriage license and marriage certificate are actually one and the same. The heading's the same. Whoever officiates the marriage will file it with the county recorder's office. The only difference is, the status changes. Once you're married, the document is now considered your marriage certificate. Like a caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly.

But I got a certified copy of my marriage license?

Ok, we're getting deep into the rabbit hole, but there is such a thing as a certified copy of a marriage license. It's typically referred to as a marriage record, which isn't the same thing as a marriage certificate. Marriage records (photocopy and certified) are typically issued by a county clerk's office (where you apply for a marriage license), while a certified copy of a marriage certificate is gotten from the county recorder's office.

Just get a certified copy of your marriage certificate and all will be well. Moving on…

Non-marriage-related name change, for you other folks

If you're changing your name for reasons that aren't marital, you'll need the paperwork from the court that approved your name change. If you want to change your name in a way that your state doesn't recognize as part of the marriage name changing process, you'll need to petition the court. For instance, if you want to also change your first name, you'll have to get a court order granted by a judge.

Identity documents—Are you who you say you are?

Your current driver's license, state ID or passport should be sufficient.

Still, not everyone has a driver's license or state ID or passport. If that's who you are, don't fret, the door isn't going to close on you. The SSA will work with you by asking for alternative, secondary documents, such as a health insurance card or Medicaid card. Or even a school ID or employee badge.

Sometimes military IDs and other forms of identification will work, but before you visit the office it's a good idea to call ahead and make sure they will accept what you want to use.

Your citizenship

This can be your birth certificate or your passport.

If you aren't a citizen, you'll need to provide proof of your immigration status.

3. Grab a folder

This will help you save time. No, really—it sounds stupid but think about it: do you want to be the person who finally gets up to the window only to have to dig through her bag for a half an hour because she didn't keep all of the things she needed together and half of them have been buried or lost or, worse, left in the car (or even worse—at home)? Nobody wants to be that woman. Or guy… everything we're talking about works for you too, if you're changing your name.

The folder will serve as the catch all location for all of the things you'll need to provide when you want to change your name: the forms you've printed or picked up and the supporting documentation you've gathered. Keeping everything in one location saves everybody time.

Put all of your forms and the supporting documentation mentioned above in the folder. Put the folder in your bag (or your briefcase—which is totally gender neutral, btw).

4. Visit your local Social Security Administration office

Yes, this is a silly bullet point with a microscopic accompanying paragraph, but it's one of the most important, because it give us the opportunity to point to the handy Social Security office locator that'll pinpoint exactly where you'll need to go.

5. Be prepared to wait

Sadly there is no real way to help you avoid a long wait. The SSA office is like most other places: traffic ebbs and flows. It's a good idea, though, to avoid going at lunch time, first thing in the morning or right before the end of the business day. Mid morning and mid afternoons are typically the best time to go. Mid week is also a good bet.

It's a good idea to bring a book or magazine with you to read as most SSA offices frown on people using their cell phones or using handheld gaming devices (as these can be loud and wearing earbuds could cause you to miss your turn).

You could try to phone them in advance to determine if you can make an appointment. The SSA does provide appointments for various services, but name change may not be a sufficient enough rationale for them to allocate you an appointment spot. It certainly doesn't hurt to ask, especially if there are extenuating circumstances (e.g., health-related, disability).

6. Access your reservoir of patience

Remember that the line at the Social Security office is not usually the fault of the people working behind the window. Many offices are understaffed these days and the employees are just as stressed out about the number of people who are waiting as the people waiting themselves. The calmer you are, the less irritating your visit is going to be.

You can be sure that you will spend more time waiting than you will actually working with someone. The time you spend in front of an employee will probably only be a few minutes. Your case worker needs to only verify the authenticity of your documents, enter in the new information and then print out your temporary card. If you have everything prepared ahead of time, you shouldn't have to worry too much about the process taking an extended period of time.

7. Take your "temporary card", thank the person who worked with you and go!

You are now all set up to change your name everywhere else… which, if you stick with in person visits, should only take the rest of the day (maybe part of the second if the wait at the SSA office was extraordinarily long)!

You'll get your real card in the mail about a week after you visit the office. Sign it and store it somewhere safe!

Next stop: Changing your name at the DMV

Going to the driver's license office right after getting your name changed with the Social Security office is the typical, next go-to route for most folks. You may want to do yourself a favor and wait 24 hours before doing so. Reason being, the DMV may query the SSA database to confirm your name change, and if there's a name mismatch (due to the SSA database not having been updated yet) they may not be able to process it… yet. It's a quirk of timing, but something to keep in mind for the impatient amongst you.

If you've got a great, or awful, social security story, share it in the comments section. If you've got any questions or need some help making heads or tails of name change, feel free to ask. We're here to help.

Good luck. And happy name changing.

144 Comments

  1. Terri

    When I went to the SSA it wasn't "that bad" a wait. I had to wait but it was less than I thought. Had I thought about it I should have tried to make an appointment first but I have a feeling it's one of those things where it probably wouldn't matter if I had an appointment or not. I have a feeling I was gonna end up waiting anyway.

    By the way where I went there wasn't a line of folks standing around. They had chairs so you're not on your feet the whole time. But they were pretty filled up.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Terri. Thanks for sharing your experience. You're right, the SSA isn't quite the slog many folks make it out to be. If you get there at a good time, you can be in and out relatively quickly.

      Reply
  2. Deanna

    When I got married I put the name I wanted to change to on my marriage license. I havent changed it yet and now I'm having second thoughts. Am I required to change my name now?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Deanna. No, you're not required to change your name. You can wait to do it later, or not at all. Just because you specified the intent to change your name when you applied for your marriage license doesn't obligate you to follow through. Simply doing nothing will keep your current name as-is, and unchanged.

      Reply
  3. Gregory Cupoli

    While at the Social Security office, we tried to change my spouse's name on his newly issued Social Security card. We had our certified marriage certificate but were told that they don't except marriage certificates from LA county (the county we were married in and where this Social Security office was) and that we'd have to get remarried in another county, like Orange County, in order to have the name change processed. Have you ever heard of such a thing?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Gregory. Did your spouse specify the "change to" name on the marriage license application, prior to getting married?

      Reply
      1. Gregory

        Yes, we did the name change on the marriage application. We ended up going to a different Social Security office who put the name change through no problem. Apparently the initial office had the procedure wrong. Thanks for responding!

        Reply
  4. Kg

    I married in 2013 – I have changed my name from

    Married to maiden on both my SS card and with the dmv. I am now entering into a personal business and using my maiden name. My concern and question is – if I can legally do this ? Or how will I file taxes? Under maiden or married?

    In addition I'm Now worried that although I was married in 2013 – I did not alert the IRS in my taxes of the marriage or the name change. I just changed name with as and dmv in 2015. What should I do? And my last question is about Social Security benefits obtained under my maiden name. Will they carryover to my married name in order that I may use them when necessary?

    Reply
    1. Kg

      Correction to my first sentence above …. I meant to say I changed my Social Security card and DMV name from "Maiden to married"

      Reply
    2. Valera

      My concern and question is – if I can legally do this ? Or how will I file taxes? Under maiden or married?

      Look into registering your maiden name as a DBA.

      In addition I'm Now worried that although I was married in 2013 – I did not alert the IRS in my taxes of the marriage or the name change. I just changed name with as and dmv in 2015. What should I do?

      When you change your name with the SSA the IRS is notified of it. If there were name mismatch problems, you should have been alerted of it. When you file your taxes, you'll need to use the name that matches your social security record.

      And my last question is about Social Security benefits obtained under my maiden name. Will they carryover to my married name in order that I may use them when necessary?

      Yes.

      Reply
  5. Mackenzie

    After scouring boards and websites and blogs, I feel like I have finally found the right place to ask this question!!

    My fiancé and I are getting married in a few weeks in Maine. We currently live in Chicago. When we get married we are hoping to change our last name to his current middle name. Do we need to put this new name on the marriage license to have it be valid at the social security office? Will there be an issue because it's not his current surname? I guess we could just attempt to send in the documents and hope for the best? Or would you recommend going into a SS office?

    Any guidance would be grand!!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      When we get married we are hoping to change our last name to his current middle name.

      This wouldn't be possible without a court order document.

      Reply
  6. Marie

    Hi,

    If I indicate the name change from maiden surname to married on the marriage license and have a marriage certificate does that "legal" change affect any of my current government issued IDs? I will be travelling internationally and was hoping to change to my married name with the SSA, passport, etc. when I return. I just want to be sure that when they scan my passport it won't somehow pick anything up about the legal change. Will I be okay to travel as long as I do not change anything with the SSA and my passport and travel documents both have my maiden name?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      If I indicate the name change from maiden surname to married on the marriage license and have a marriage certificate does that "legal" change affect any of my current government issued IDs?

      Specifying a name change on your marriage license doesn't result in your name legally changing. You have to update your records with the necessary government entities to effect a name change.

      I will be travelling internationally and was hoping to change to my married name with the SSA, passport, etc. when I return.

      That's reasonable; to wait until later.

      I just want to be sure that when they scan my passport it won't somehow pick anything up about the legal change.

      It won't pick up anything.

      Will I be okay to travel as long as I do not change anything with the SSA and my passport and travel documents both have my maiden name?

      Yes, you'll be fine.

      Reply
  7. Patricia Caldwell

    Social Security Administration is Federal. Is there a Federal Law requiring you to change your name after you get married, or is it optional, due to your AS Number never changes?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Is there a Federal Law requiring you to change your name after you get married, or is it optional,

      It's optional.

      Reply
  8. Keri

    Hi,
    When I got married last year I changed my last name to my husband's. On my SS card I had the option of keeping my maiden name for my middle name or dropping my maiden name altogether. I went with the latter. However now I regret it. I wish I still had my maiden name as a legal part of my name. Is it possible to change it now?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Keri. You would have to get a court order to restore your middle name.

      Reply
  9. Neil

    I recently got married in DC. My wife and I chose an entirely new last name, and for practical reasons she legally changed her name prior to our wedding. On our marriage license, her name is on there with our new last name, but we wrote my current/unchanged name (not with the intended new last name) on the marriage license. Is this going to create a problem changing my name to our new last name at the SSA going to be a problem (since I never put down my intended new last name)?
    (The other complication is obviously that I'm a guy (sort of) taking my wife's last name, which I've heard can be more problematic and may not even be possible in some states. …And I want to keep my current last name as an additional middle name.) Any help would be immensely appreciated!

    Reply
  10. Jenny

    I got married in court 5 years ago and have legally changed my maiden name to my married name. The problem i had after that, was that i'd lost my (original/maiden) SS Card before getting married. So after filling out forms to obtain a new social security card with my married, the SSA finally gave me a new card (and of course with the same number). The thing is, when i have applied to a couple other jobs, they did background checks on me but for some weird reason, they couldn't pull up any record on file but they went ahead and hired me anyway. It also happened when i had to apply for a car insurance. They couldn't find anything but i got the insurance. What am i missing? When i went to the SSA office, i thought it was obvious that i needed a name change along with getting a new card to replace the lost one. What should I do?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Jenny. As you know, when you change your name your SS number stays the same. Name changes should bubble up to the credit bureaus, but it's possible it didn't fully propagate in your case. You can contact the credit bureaus to see if their records have been updated. Inquire about sending documentation confirming your name change. You may have to do it in writing. You can also order credit reports to see what they have on file.

      Reply
  11. Julia

    IF I change my name on my SSC by mail what documents do I need to mail along with the form?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Julia. A document detailing what prompts the name change (e.g., certified copy of marriage license or divorce decree, or court order) and supporting document verifying your identity.

      Reply
  12. Tori

    Hi. I was wondering if you could tell me if when you change your name on your SS card (recently married) do they notify everyone for me? Ex: post office, creditors, IRS, etc…
    I have seen websites where you can pay them to do this but I didn't feel like I could trust that nor do I want to pay for that service if I don't have to. Thanks !

    Reply
  13. jessica perez

    I successfully changed my name with SSA and kept my maiden name and middle name as a middle name and took my married name as last name. Went to the DMV yesterday with new SSC and marriage license. They changed my name on my Drivers license to just my original middle name and now married last name, They said they couldn't include my maiden name as middle name because they said it wasn't written as is on the marriage certificate. But now my SSC and Drivers Licence don't match. I am annoyed. Are they right?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Jessica. SSA's federal. DMV's state. They have separate standards. It's not unheard of.

      Reply
      1. Krystalle

        This really is annoying and no ine at the DMV could help. My husband has 2 last names, I only took on the first one with SSA, but DMV put the 2 last names. It made no sense, how will this affect me? Another question no one could answer, I was told to go change my name again. If I'm going to carry 2 last names I want my husbands and mine not both my husbands. Do I need a court order to fix this?

        Reply
        1. Valera

          Hi Krystalle. Yes, you would need a court order to change it again.

          Reply
  14. Angela

    I went to the SSO last week to change my name dropping my maiden name, keeping my middle name and took my husband's last name, got my new SSC and realized I really want to keep my maiden name too. Is it to late to have this corrected?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Angela. You wouldn't be able to go back and change your name again with just your marriage certificate. You'll need another document showing a new name change event, such as a court order.

      Reply
  15. june

    I just get married and want to change my name to my husband name.I have ssc already n my JA passport, marriage certificate what else I need plz .

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi June. JA passport? I assume you're referring to your Jamaican passport? You'll also want to update the following, if they exist:

      U.S. passport, driver's license, state and/or military ID. Contact your place of employment to make sure your name is updated in their records and tax filings. Make sure your taxes are filed in the proper name. If your address has changed as well, notify the IRS and USPS. Finally, any non-government organizations, such as doctor's offices, online accounts, reissue of credit cards and checks in your new name. And on and on.

      Reply
  16. Hailey

    Hi,

    I have a few questions. I got married 6 months ago and wrote my intended name change on my marriage certificate but have not changed it legally yet. My husband will be moving to a different state soon and I will follow him about a year after that, so at first I was thinking of putting off changing my name until we move so that I can get a new drivers license with my new name at the same time I have to get one for the new state anyway.

    1. If I change my name through the SS office do I have to immediately change it at the DMV as well?
    2. What happens if I wait more than 2 years after our marriage to change my name?
    3. If I change my name through the SS office do I immediately have to have my job change my name for IRS purposes as well? Then do I have to file taxes from the 1/2 of the year I was my maiden name and the 1/2 I was my married name? Or would it still be one tax document?
    4. If I choose to mail my application to the SS office do I also need to send them my drivers license or just my marriage certificate with the SS5 form?
    5. Are there any cons of not legally changing my last name for ~1.5 years? It seems like it would be easiest to do it after I finish my time at my current job and when I am required to get a new state drivers license anyway.

    Thank you so much for all of the above answers. I have been stressfully procrastinating my name change for the last 6 months and I feel like you are finally giving me peace.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      1. If I change my name through the SS office do I have to immediately change it at the DMV as well?

      Some states mandate that your driver's license be updated within X days of updating your SS card. The consequence of not doing so can be vague to nonexistent, so it can act more as a motivator rather than a penalty.

      2. What happens if I wait more than 2 years after our marriage to change my name?

      Nothing happens, assuming you've not changed it with any institution. If you've updated with SS but not with the DMV, then when it comes time to renew, you'll have to renew it in your new name. If you lose your driver's license or need one reissued, you'll need to do so in your new name. If your state requires your name be updated with the DMV within a certain period of time following the SSA, then you'll have to deal with whatever consequence arises from that delay.

      3. If I change my name through the SS office do I immediately have to have my job change my name for IRS purposes as well?

      Yes, update your employer. You want what they report to match with what's on file with the IRS.

      Then do I have to file taxes from the 1/2 of the year I was my maiden name and the 1/2 I was my married name? Or would it still be one tax document?

      One tax document using your legal name; the name that's on file with the SSA/IRS. When you update with the SSA, they'll auto-notify the IRS of the name change.

      4. If I choose to mail my application to the SS office do I also need to send them my drivers license or just my marriage certificate with the SS5 form?

      First, I'll assume you're a U.S. citizen and your citizenship is sufficiently established with the SSA. If that's not the case, you'll have to confirm your citizenship by providing a supporting document, such as an original or certified copy of a birth certificate or U.S. passport.

      You'll have to send in a certified copy of your marriage certificate no matter what. The question is, do you need to send in your driver's license as well?

      Let's assume that your marriage certificate provides enough information for the SSA to identify you in their records and you ultimately change your name within two years of marriage: In that case, you wouldn't need to provide your driver's license or another supporting identity document.

      If you only send in your SSA application and a certified copy of your marriage certificate and the SSA is not able to identity you in their records, you will be contacted to provide an identity document, such as driver's license, state ID, or U.S. passport.

      5. Are there any cons of not legally changing my last name for ~1.5 years?

      No, but if you wait more than two years, you must provide a supporting identity document.

      Reply
  17. Rachel

    Will they mail my documents back to me? And how long does that usually take to receive them back?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Rachel. Yes, they should send them back. Turnaround time can range between 2-6 weeks.

      Reply
      1. Rachel

        If they don't return my items to me, and I don't receive any information after 6 weeks, what should I do then?

        Reply
        1. Valera

          Hi Rachel. You can phone the SSA to inquire where things stand. You don't have to wait 6 weeks. You can call anytime to try and get an update.

          Reply
          1. Rachel

            Ok, thank you. They will be able to tell me if they received my items? I am just worried since I mailed them in, and haven't received any information yet.

          2. Valera

            Hi Rachel. Yes, they should be able to provide a status update.

  18. Daphne Cox-Lassiter

    I am divorced and have been since 1997, I didn't change my name at the time of the divorce because at that time my daughter was young 6 yrs. old and I wanted my name to stay the same as hers. Now my daughter is 28 years old and I would like to go back to my maiden name. Can I just go to the SSA with my divorce decree, ID and birth certificate and have it changed back to my maiden name?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Can I just go to the SSA with my divorce decree, ID and birth certificate and have it changed back to my maiden name?

      Scenario 1: Your divorce decree has an order restoring your maiden name, even though you have opted not to use it since 1997:

      Then, yes, you can use your divorce decree to change your name back to your maiden.

      Scenario 2: Your divorce decree does NOT have an order restoring your maiden name.

      No, you'll have to petition the court and get a court order.

      Reply
  19. Rick kelly

    if a same sex couple gets married and are not changing any names, do you need to report the martial status change to the Social security office?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Rick. Reporting marital status and name change isn't really related. The pertinent form to report name changes doesn't ask for the marital status.

      Reply
  20. Mary

    I just received my new SS card with my name change due to marriage. Now I want to inform my payroll dept to match my SS card. My question would be … can I use a middle initial or do I have to have it match entirely?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Mary. That's up to payroll, but in all likelihood they'll report the full name in order to prevent a name mismatch with the IRS.

      Reply
  21. Karla

    Hi,

    I just got married in Cancun, Mexico and realized after returning back to the US, that my name stayed the same on our marriage license, even though I was planning on taking his last name. The certificate and license are both in Spanish, so I'm in the process of getting them translated and notarized before I head to the Social Sec. Office. Will I have any issues changing my last name to his, even though my full name is listed on these documents?

    Reply
  22. Johanna

    Quick question: do you know if I have to bring my old SS card with me to the SSA when I change my name due to marriage? I cannot find my card for the life of me and I am panicking. I have a license and my US passport (with my maiden name) to show identity. Just not sure if they will ask for the old card or not. Thank you!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      do you know if I have to bring my old SS card with me to the SSA when I change my name due to marriage?

      No, you don't.

      Reply
  23. Lauren

    When I send in my passport as proof of identity is it ok that it expired October 2016 (it is currently January 2017). I don't want to send my drivers license as I don't want to be without it for 6 weeks.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      When I send in my passport as proof of identity is it ok that it expired October 2016

      Any identity document you submit must be current/unexpired. You may want to consider ordering a duplicate ID from you driver's license office. Some allow it to be done online or at various kiosks.

      Reply
  24. Sahrah

    I am in a same sex marriage me and my wife recently got married in Vegas on our marriage license we put our full name I had every intention on adding my wife's last name to mine my intended name change is not on the marriage license and the certified marriage certificate will I have a problem with changing the last name without this being written on both those documents at the Social Security department

    Reply
  25. Heather Rubio-Meier

    I got married a yr ago and still haven't changed my name yet.. I am pregnant and is due in March. If I dont change my name on my SSC will my last name remain the same on birth certificate while my sons last name will be his dads even if our marriage certificate shows my nrw last name?My insurance and a couple of other places (banks) have my married name and even when I sign docs I use my married name is that legal?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      If I dont change my name on my SSC will my last name remain the same on birth certificate

      Yes

      while my sons last name will be his dads even if our marriage certificate shows my nrw last name?

      You, the mother, will be the one who fills out the birth certificate paperwork, so it will be whatever you choose to write down: your maiden name only, dad's last name only, hyphenated name (yours-dad's), flipped hyphenated name (dad's-yours).

      My insurance and a couple of other places (banks) have my married name and even when I sign docs I use my married name is that legal?

      If you haven't changed your name yet, then your legal name remains your maiden name. That's what should be used. Other institutions, like banks, insurances companies, may allow greater flexibility because they can, for the most part, set their own internal rules.

      For legal/government documents, use your legal name.

      Reply
  26. Pam

    Hi!

    My husband's last night is hyphenated. I want to take his last name but drop the hyphen (Smithjones instead of Smith-Jones). Is this still a simple trip to SSA with the right form or is this a larger issue? I appreciate the help!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Pam. That sort of name change would entail petitioning the court instead of just using your marriage certificate.

      Reply
  27. Jennifer Y.

    I got married in September and I was told by ssa I could go to the dmv to change my dl to my married name before I could go to get a new ss card as long as i had my birth certificate, so i did. Now I'm being told my new dl won't work as a valid proof of identity but I don't have anything else other than proof of marriage and proof of birth. What do I do???

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Jennifer. If you explain to the SSA your lack of identity, they'll propose alternatives, such as passport, state ID, student/employer ID, etc.

      Reply
  28. Vianey olmedo

    Hi i went to get my last named changed on my ssn since am married . They told me i had to use both of my husband last name . And not one f mines . They explain but i did not understand much . He sad something about being to long my name is 6 letters and my last name also 6 letters. My husband first last name is 8 letters and his second last name is 6 letters can some one explain to me please.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Vianey. How were you trying to change it. Hyphenation? Or using just a part of his last name?

      Reply
  29. Sandee

    I was wondering I been married a year March 22nd I'm from Louisiana and i still wasnt able to change my last name to my married name on my social security card or identification card will I get in trouble for that and being I wanted so long can I still do it ?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Sandee. No, you won't get into trouble for not changing your name. Name change is optional.

      Reply
  30. M

    My husband had his name changed through a court order, and we're now trying to get his name changed on his social security card but we've run into an issue: the only proof of identity he has is his driver's license, and he really can't go without that for more than a day. He doesn't have a passport, school ID, or medical insurance card. If he goes in person to the SSA office will they process the name change that same day and give him his DL back?

    Reply
  31. Hannah

    Hello,
    I was married in 2009 in Canada, where I currently live. The province I live in does not allow women to change their name upon marriage.
    I have been hoping to get my name changed in the United States and then use that document to change the name on my Canadian passport, thereby bypassing the province of Quebec.
    Today on a visit to South Carolina I went to the SSA office to change my name. I took my U.S. birth certificate, U.S. passport, Canadian marriage certificate and Canadian act of marriage and official translations of these. I was told that I cannot do it anymore because it has been over two years.
    I question this because this amount of time appears nowhere on the Internet including the SSA pages, and also because the clerk tried to direct me to the DMV to get a South Carolina ID card first, when in actuality the DMV would have first required a name change at the SSA.
    Is there anywhere where this "unwritten law" appears in writing? Is there anything else at all I can do?
    Thank you!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Hannah. It's not that you can't change it due to marriage after two years, it's that you'll need an additional identity document in your new name, which is why they directed you to get a state ID. Also, a SC state ID is not the same as a driver's license. Both are issued by the DMV, but they're different documents.

      Reply
  32. Ellen

    Hello, I was married in NYC in 2008. At that time I did not select to charge my surname and kept my maiden name. I now wish to change my surname and take my husbands last name. Since 2008 we have moved to PA and I am wondering if I have to take care of this in NYC or can this be handled in PA? Per NYC website, it is saying that to do this I would have to get remarried. Is this the only way and if so does this have to happen in NYC or can it happen in PA. Is there a simpler solution?

    Reply
  33. Inetta

    I have been divorced over 15 years now and I never changed my married name to my maiden name on my social security card, I never really had a problem until recently. I have been using my maiden name on everything. Is it illegal to use the name on my ssc until I get it changed.Confused please help

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Is it illegal to use the name on my ssc until I get it changed.

      As you describe it, the name on your SS card is your legal, married name, so it wouldn't be illegal to use it. If you meant is it illegal to use your maiden name when you should be using your married, than that's a different story. Generally speaking, using the wrong name can get someone into legal trouble if they're doing it to avoid debts or commit fraud.

      Reply
  34. Krystina

    Hi
    I got married in Hawaii on 5/15/15. On our marriage certificate it has my full maiden name (first,middle,last)- as brides name; and my declared middle name (maiden middle name) & declared surname (maiden last name).
    I would like to actually have my husbands last name and keep my maiden first & middle, but since I did not declare it on the certificate when we got married does that mean I will have to do a name change petition and appear in front of a judge?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Krystina. It depends on the state. It's a good idea to contact your local DMV and SSA office to determine if they'll accept your certificate. Some states require the name on the certificate match what you'll be changing it to, while some states are non-binding.

      Reply
  35. Ann

    Hi, my maiden name was Aaa B. Caa but I changed my name to my husbands as Aaa B. Waa…Now I wanna use my maiden name as my middle name like Aaa Caa Waa…Is it possible?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Ann. Yes, it's possible, but you'll have to get a court order to change it again.

      Reply
  36. Rose Walker

    Bow can i change my marry name back to my maiden name if im a widow at th SS office

    Reply
  37. Diana

    Hi, i just have a question i got married in 2009 but i did not change my name then i filled everything out under my maiden name. How do i go about changing it to my married name now if i do not have any paperwork showing my married name?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Diana. Same as the usual way, by acquiring a certified copy of your marriage certificate as proof of marriage.

      Reply
  38. Leslie

    Hi!

    Thank you for the great advice on your page. I recently got married this week and plan on going to the SS office to change my name. I also plan on completing my 2016 taxes next week. Should I hold off on the name change until after my taxes are submitted in order to avoid any confusion? Thanks in advance!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Leslie. Even though the SSA will notify the IRS of a name change, it certainly wouldn't hurt for you to hold off until your tax filings are submitted, accepted, and resolved.

      Reply
  39. Brianna

    When changing my name with Social Security, how does this affect my birth certificate? I work for a company that requires 2 proofs of identity for example Drivers License and Certified copy of Birth Certificate – to become badged I currently have a badge but with my maiden name — and it states on our application that our "legal name" is what is listed on our birth certificate so I am just trying to clarify how when I change my name with Social Security how it will affect my birth certificate.

    Thanks in advance.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Brianna. It doesn't affect your birth certificate. It doesn't change the name on your birth certificate. Identity verification doesn't necessary mean the names have to match. People undergo name changes for a variety of reasons (e.g., marriage, divorce, adoption) and the bulk of those name changes doesn't alter the original birth certificate.

      Reply
  40. Karimah

    I can not get my social security card because my identity doesn't match …I've never been married , but somehow I'm married (confusing yes it is to me also )… the last name on my card has been the same for 43 years , I recently lost all of my documents (birth certificate , social security card , etc …) I tried to get a replacement card , but I can't ..how do I rectify this …it's very frustrating

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Karimah. I'm not sure what you mean by you're not married but you are. As for identity, the SSA can accept alternative identity documents if the primaries are unavailable. You'll have to contact them to 1) determine which secondary documents are acceptable, 2) how many such documents you must provide, and 3) how to resolve your overall situation.

      Reply
  41. raina

    hi so I have been married for 5 years. I changed my name with ssa but not my DL. should I do it anyway or will I get in trouble with Maryland for not changing my ID.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      I changed my name with ssa but not my DL. should I do it anyway or will I get in trouble with Maryland for not changing my ID.

      Maryland law says that the MVA should be notified of name changes within 30 days. Some other states have similar statutes. Finding information about raising awareness of this requirement and how it's enforced (if at all) doesn't turn up much. The penalty for not doing so seems to range between the vague and non-existent. The question is, what happens if you don't do it? These statutes appear to exist partly as motivators to get people to update their records so that their own database can be kept in sync.

      MVA may query the SSA database when you ultimately attempt to renew your license. When the name mismatch occurs, you'll be told you'll have to renew your license in the name that matches what's on your SS card. That shouldn't be a surprise when that time comes, as you were just delaying the inevitable. The question is, what happens when you're a few months away from having to renew your license or registrations? Does the MVA query the SSA database during those times? If so, what happens if there's a name mismatch?

      Will not updating your driver's license potentially cause you problems? Possibly. Is it advisable for you to update your driver's license to reflect your new name? Yes.

      Reply
  42. Eri

    I just got my new SS card, but in the office the lady put my name and middle name together. She had my passport and my resident card with her my name is very clear there they are separated. She should do the same was there. Should I call or I have to go back to the office?

    Reply
  43. Jamie Booker

    Hello,
    I was married in 2015 for the second time. I had my first husbands last name. I now just changed it to my second husbands last name just on my SS card (have not changed any other documents) But now I have found out that it will cost $2000 to change my name on the deed to my house and other difficult issues with credit cards and titles to my car. Now I want a redo and hyphenate it. first husbands name-second husbands name. Is it possible to do that?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Jamie. Yes, it is possible, but you'll have to get a court petitioned name change in order to do so.

      Reply
  44. Ashley

    I have an interesting question. The SSA knows me by the last name I was born with (Kueny), which is different than what I go by (Wick). What I put as my last name on my marriage license (Wick), is not my legal name (with the SSA), but it is the name that is on all other documents aside from my SS card. So, my birth certificate, my passport, and drivers license all have Wick, which technically is not legal. How this happened, I do not know. It happened during childhood somehow. So, anyways, the marriage certificate has a non-legal name on it. When I send it in, the supporting documents all have different last names. Make sense? Am I even going to be able to change my name to my husband's last name with the huge mix up?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Ashley, yes you should be able to change it fine. At worst you'll be requested to provide some secondary identity documentation.

      Reply
  45. Elizabeth

    Are there any issues hyphenating ones name after marriage? Basically I want to take my maiden last name and hyphenate with my husbands last name. I haven't changed my SS card yet, but need to do so. Do I still just go to SSA with my certified marriage certificate and they will do that, or is there something special that needs to be done when hyphenating a name?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Are there any issues hyphenating ones name after marriage?

      No, there are no issues.

      Do I still just go to SSA with my certified marriage certificate and they will do that, or is there something special that needs to be done when hyphenating a name?

      No, nothing special or extra to do. The process is the same whether or not your hyphenate.

      Reply
  46. Ceira Ackerman

    Just to clarify, If I just got married, the only documents I need to change my name (by mail) on my Social Security Card is going to be the SS-5, certified copy of marriage certificate, and copy of birth certificate?

    Reply
  47. Dreca

    I'm getting married in NY, but I live in KY. Can I start the name change process while I'm there or do I have to start it when I get back home? I'll have all my documentation and the time to do it there.

    Reply
  48. Melissa

    I got married in Cancun Mexico in Nov 2016. The documents were in Spanish so we got them translated to English but the translator didn't certify the Wedding Certificate with the raised seal only the circle and writing that looked liked the seal but wasn't raised. My question is can I use my marriage certificate to change my last name at the SSA, DL and my Bank ? It's certified with the seal but it's not the rIsed seal.

    Reply
  49. Christy

    I recently moved to Texas from Wisconsin after getting married. I currently have a Wisconsin Drivers License that will expire on my birthday. I just changed my last name with the social security office but they said it could take up to two weeks to get a new social security with my husbands last name. My current out of state Drivers License will expire prior to these two weeks. Do you know if I go to a Texas DMV to get my id switched, will they allow me to do it prior to getting my new social security card with my new last name?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Christy. They should be able to change it beforehand, as they can likely query the SSA database remotely.

      Reply
  50. Chelsea

    On my marriage certificate, I put down for two middle names (my previous middle name and maiden name as middle names). Now I am thinking I just want to have one middle name (my maiden name). I haven't made any changes yet at social security. Will I be required to change my name exactly as written with two middle names on my marriage certificate or can I decide to just use my maiden name for my middle name when I make the legal change? If I want to just use my maiden name as middle name, will that require a court order?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Chelsea. You'll likely need a court order. They'll want your name to match what you specified on the certificate.

      Reply
  51. Khadji

    I'm married but I got my social security card change but it got both of our last name with his name last name last but I haven't changed my I.d and I still go by Maiden name at my job do I need to change it and go by my husband last name

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Khadji. By ID, are you referring to your driver's license? Some states require you update your license in the event of a name change within X number of days. It's not clear what their enforcement mechanism or penalty for not doing so in a timely manner is. If you don't update your ID soon, you'll eventually have to do it later, such as renewal time.

      As for your job, you'll want to make sure they're using the name that matches what's on your social security card for tax purposes. You don't want a name mismatch there.

      Reply
  52. Kelly

    Hi, I've been married to my second husband since 2001. I have my drivers license, all my bills, bank account…everything in my second husbands name. So for 18 years I have had my seconds husbands last name except on my social security card. My last name is still my first husbamds name on my SS card. I've even filed my taxes with my second husbands name. I now want to legally change it to what it should be on my social security card. Is this going to be a problem?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Kelly. It shouldn't be a problem since you have multiple supporting identifications in your second husband's name. You'll still need to have a certified copy of your marriage record to effect a name change.

      Reply
  53. Julie

    I recently got married and kept my maiden name as my middle name. I had no problem at the social security office and on my social security card it reads: my first name, middle name (which now is my maiden name) and my new last name. However, at the DMV in NJ they told me they could only change my last name and not my middle initial. So right now my SS card states First, Maiden, New Last Name and my license states First, Old Middle initial, New last name. How can they not change this when it's already changed on my SS card? I feel like they were wrong here?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Julie. What you were told is accurate. New Jersey doesn't permit middle name changes as a result of marriage. It's further discussed in the maiden to middle article. See the last two paragraphs.

      Reply
  54. Megan

    Hi, I have two questions:

    – Will a U.S. passport be sufficient for my U.S. citizenship? My birth certificate is with my mom out of state.
    – Will the SSA keep my certified marriage certificate? I only have the original and not a certified copy.
    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Will a U.S. passport be sufficient for my U.S. citizenship? My birth certificate is with my mom out of state.

      Yes.

      Will the SSA keep my certified marriage certificate? I only have the original and not a certified copy.

      They should return it. If you're concerned this might not be the case, then you can order a certified duplicate copy from the office that houses your certificate. Then you can use the duplicate and keep your original at home.

      Reply
  55. Bea

    Are they supposed to give you a temporary card? They didn't give me anything. It's been a month since I applied and I have yet to receive my new card. Is there a way to check what's going on?

    Reply
      1. Elle

        I'm having the same issue as Bea. No temp card, just a "receipt" with my new name on it. I applied in-person 8 business days ago and still haven't received it. I've been to the DMV already (7 business days ago) and am also waiting for my new license to arrive. What is taking so long? The SS guy put my campus address on the receipt and I wish he hadn't because the DMV lady used it as my address (campus address = I can't use it in a month). Water under the bridge until I move, I guess. Is the Post Office holding my mail or something?

        Reply
        1. Valera

          Hi Elle. At this point, you'll have to contact your local SS office to get a status update.

          Reply
  56. Kate B

    Hi! I just got my certified marriage certificate this afternoon and then headed to the Social Security Card Office that was down the street (thankfully both are walking distance to my office). I told my boss I may be a few hours at the Social Security Office, because when I drive by in the morning there is a line 100 people deep waiting to get into the Social Security Office. I had tried to call to make an appointment, but I was told that location wasn't taking appointments.

    I walk into the social security office 30 minutes before it was closing and there wasn't a single other person there waiting! They had 9 windows open and not a person in the waiting room. I was in and out in 5 minutes! They didn't even ask to see my license, my marriage certificate was proof enough of my identity. I did find out my mother's maiden name is misspelled in the SS computers, but they won't change it without a certified copy of my birth certificate which I didn't have with me. Thankfully that shouldn't affect me at all for awhile. Even though their waiting room was empty, the clerks still had zero sense of humor. Oh well that's what government work will do to you.

    Now the big hassle will be the DMV. They aren't taking any appointments until May, so I am going to risk it and go when they open tomorrow. Thankfully it is next to my house. I am impatient so hopefully the SS system updates overnight, otherwise I will have to try again. Also, the social security office did not give me a temporary card when I went in person, just a "receipt" with my new name and my address recognizing I applied for a new card and that it should arrive in 2 weeks. Wish me luck!

    Reply
  57. nick

    Would my social security amount change if I get married & my future wife does not want to change her name , cause she would loose her deceased husbands money how would it work out with SSI .. would anyone be in trouble

    Reply
  58. BW

    Hi I have a question.

    I am a man taking his wife's last name as her dad has no other grandchildren than our son.
    We are going to change both of our names (myself and son) to his so he can have someone to carry on his name. My father has 15 other grandchildren and I discussed it with him.

    My father in law is a veteran and it is just the right thing to do.

    If I were to simply file the ss-5 with the supporting docs and then go to the DMV would this work?

    I think it is discriminatory to make a man pay to have this done.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi BW. It depends on the state. Most states do require the husband pay to do this through the court system.

      Reply
  59. Karina

    Hi,

    On a DC Marriage application we have to put our names as we are identified before being married. I did that and my maiden name is on the certificate because that's who I was when I applied for the license.

    My maiden name is hyphenated. Can I change my middle name on SS application SS-5 to only part of my hyphenated maiden name and last name to my Husbands last name?

    What are the restrictions (within SSA) for name change in Virginia after being married in DC?

    Reply
  60. JG

    I need to find out when my aunt changed her name due to marriage, this is to settle her estate. Can the social security office provide me with this information

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi JG. Yes, they would have a record of when the change was processed.

      Reply
  61. Lori

    I am married but I am not using my husband last name which is Andrew. I put Wells on my son who is five months birth certificate but I want it to be Andrew. I contacted vital records and they said I could add Andrew but to remove Wells I would have to do a legal name change. If I add Andrew to my son's name does he have to go by wells-Andrew or can he go by just Andrew. I want us all to match because I'm going to turn in my marriage license to SSA and start going Lori Andrew. Can you please assist? Thank you

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Lori. If you just add a name to your son's, he can go by just Andrew informally, but his legal name will be Wells-Andrew. If you don't him to have to deal with juggling these names, you'll have to petition the court to have his name changed.

      Reply
  62. Pamela Rae

    I have been divorced from my 3rd husband since 2007. I still have his last name. I am currently planning on getting married soon (to my first ex-husband) and would like to take his last name, but wonder if I will have to change my current name on my house deed, my bank documents, my passport, etc. to my new spouses last name if that's what I put on the marriage certificate. (I was married 25 years to my recent ex and actually cannot remember how the process works.) All of my children are grown, so the last name is not an issue regarding them, but I'm nervous about all of my legal documentation. I haven't had to file income taxes in several years as I've had no income other than personal loans and my savings to live on. Once married, will my new spouse and I file jointly with the IRS with me as his dependent whether I change my name or not? Will him carrying me on his health insurance policy need me to have his same last name? Help! Thanks so much!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      would like to take his last name, but wonder if I will have to change my current name on my house deed, my bank documents, my passport, etc. to my new spouses last name if that's what I put on the marriage certificate.

      You'll only have to change them if you update your SS card.

      Once married, will my new spouse and I file jointly with the IRS with me as his dependent whether I change my name or not?

      Your name doesn't affect how you file. You can file as married filing jointly or married filing separately.

      Will him carrying me on his health insurance policy need me to have his same last name?

      No.

      Reply

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