193 Comments

So you are in line to go to paradise by plane and… what? The employee is starting to look at you weird when they see that your airline ticket and passport does not have the same name posted on them. Next you are taken to an office and questioned by a scary tall looking official. The thought of paradise fades into the horizon as your life turns into a nightmare. Okay, Okay… that is the worst case scenario, but problems can arise if your name does not match your passport. If you plan to travel, you need those names to match.

Passport Background Information and the Law

Did you know that the vast majority of the countries in the world require that you have a passport for entry? That means more than likely, the place you are traveling to, you will need a passport.

Even going to a country such as Canada requires you to have a passport due to the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA). Mexico is restricted by the law as is Canada and the Caribbean. This most pertinent component of the law is known as the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative or commonly referred to as WHTI for short. WHTI requires citizens of the United States, Mexico, Canada, and Bermuda to have a passport or other accepted document that establishes the person's identity and nationality to enter or leave the United States from within the Western Hemisphere.

Although the law was passed in 2004, it went it effect in phases. Air travel requirements kicked in January 1, 2007. Enforcement for land and sea travel went into effect June 1, 2009.

Difficulties of Changing Your Passport Name Before you Travel

As you may already know, getting or renewing a passport can sometimes be a frustrating and drawn out experience. However, getting your name changed on it can be even more frustrating.

Depending on the status or age of your passport, the application you must fill out will vary. The fees (assuming they're applicable to your situation) can also vary. If you plan to use the expedited service to get your passport quicker than normal, there will be an additional fee of $60 on top of the other fees. This can be a good option if your travel plans are just around the corner.

As you can see, your passport can be difficult to change for a variety reasons, such as:

  • The worst difficulty can be that you put the wrong information on the application, leading to a mistake or the application to be deemed invalid due to incorrect information. This leads you having to re-do the application and send it off again, furthering the amount of time it takes for you to get your new passport. This can be problematic because you may be hoping to get your passport the first time around, because you are on a time crunch, just to learn that you will have to wait longer, disrupting your plans.
  • You can print out and send the wrong application.
  • You can forget to send the payment for the fee, or send the wrong fee.
  • You may forget to include the appropriate photo format for the passport I.D.
  • You provide insufficient documentation detailing your change of name event (e.g., marriage certificate, divorce decree).

Difficulties of Changing Your Name on an Already Acquired Airline Ticket

Notice: This following information is usually applicable for the airlines of American, Continental, Delta, Jet Blue, Northwest, United, U.S. Airways, and many other airlines.

When going on your honeymoon or another type of vacation, you most likely choose to buy a round trip ticket. A round trip ticket consists of two things: The going part of the ticket (a front portion) and a coming back part of the ticket (a return portion). Many airlines treat a round trip ticket as a two portion ticket (the front portion and returning portion) and thus, these airlines make it difficult to change your name on your ticket.

When you change your name of your ticket, this changes both the front and return portion of your ticket. If you change the front portion, airlines consider this as rebooking your ticket. This means you have to pay the cost of the ticket and an additional change fee of $50 to $100. If you change the returning portion, you also have to pay a changing fee of $50 to $100. So you end up paying more than you can imagine.

What you can do is call the airline and explain your dilemma to them, you never know, they may accommodate you and not make you pay so much or change your ticket for free. Just make sure that you have your ticket confirmation number, if required, be able to verify your identity, and explain to the agent that your name has changed due to a marriage or other valid reason. The agent will guide you through changing your ticket.

Possible difficulties you may experience include:

  • The worst difficulty can be a rude agent that does not understand and makes your life a little more strenuous when you try to explain your situation. The agent may rebook your ticket incorrectly and you end up with a headache and airline ticket with the wrong information and having to pay for a wrong airline ticket and an expensive fee that you should not be paying because you do not even have the right airline ticket.
  • You have to book another ticket with your changed name and you have to pay both fees which can lead to you paying $100 to $200.
  • An airline that does not allow you to change your name.
  • An airline that only allows you to change your airline ticket's information within a certain time frame and you have passed that deadline so they either refuse to change the information without charging you a lot of money or make you buy another ticket with the right information.
  • You have lost your ticket confirmation number or cannot prove your identity.

Preparing for International and Domestic Travel

You must consider the impact of changing your name before or after traveling because the TSA is strict about your name matching on both your airline ticket and passport. They examine your name for security screening purposes. Prior to your flight, passenger names are made available to the TSA to be checked against the "No Fly" list. Only names that are cleared are given a boarding pass upon check-in to board the plane.

The discussion thus far has focused on passports, which are specific to international travel. But the same rules apply when traveling domestically. If you're traveling on a domestic flight, you'll use an alternative form of I.D. (such as driver's license or state/government issued I.D.), but it's important for the name on such identification to also match your airline tickets.

If you choose to change your name after your travels are complete, you will not have to go through the process of having to explain to the TSA why your names aren't the same from your passport and airline ticket. You would not be required to wait for your passport name to be updated in order to go on your honeymoon, or other travel destination. All you have to do is keep your maiden name until after the honeymoon.

However, you can pay a expedited fee of $60 to have your passport name change processed quicker (which can definitely be a worthwhile option)—but think about it, you are already paying out a lot of money and $60 can be a nice dinner or saved to help pay some of the cost of the vacation, honeymoon, or the cost of the wedding.

Planning Ahead to Avoid Chaos

So you are in line to that trip to paradise and… what? The employee is smiling and telling you "Have a nice flight and an even better vacation." Because guess why? Your passport and your ticket have the same name! That means no more thinking about the worst case scenario, which is not being able to broad your flight.

Yes, there may be difficulty in changing the name of your passport because there are different applications to choose from and you have to remember when you got your passport and for some of the applications, you have to pay a fee. However, changing your ticket information can be even more expensive and frustrating. That is why your need to go ahead and plan ahead.

If you wait to change your passport, you most likely have not changed your ticket name because you are thinking ahead. This means your paradise does not fade into the horizon as the airplane leaves without you and your life turn upside down for the day.

If you wait until after your honeymoon or vacation, you can deal with the passport frustration when you get back and not have to feel like you are rushing. Plus, you have all those other things to worry about if you are getting (or have gotten) married. This also means that you do not have to spend forever on the phone with an airline agent to change your ticket just to learn that you have to get another ticket and pay a changing fee. If you just plan ahead, there is no need to worry about all the money you will be paying out to just change your name.

So now, smiling employee and a trip to paradise vs not being able to broad your flight and having to watch as the airplane to your paradise leaves without you? It is your choice, choose wisely.

193 Comments

  1. janey

    It is time for me to now renew my US passport. I remarried shortly after I received my last passport and although I changed my name to my new married name on my DL, SS and most bank accounts, I did not change my name on my passport. My question is, do I have to legally renew my name on my passport to my married name or can I renew in the same name on my soon to expire passport. I would like to keep my previous name on the passport as it is the last link that I have to my sons last name from my deceased first husband. I do not want to break any laws by doing so.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Janey. That may be problematic, as renewals require you to present identification, which will likely be in your new name.

      Reply
      1. Linda b

        Incorrect information Valera. Renewals are done by mail. The only ID presented is the old passport. If you want to change your name you enclose your marriage certificate and fill out the app with your new name. If you want to keep your maiden name, don't send in the MC and just fill out the app with the old name. (I'm a passport acceptance agent at the Post Office)

        Reply
  2. Shimmy

    Thank you so much for your information! This is super helpful. I do have a question that I hope you would be able to help me with.

    I recently got married at the end of January in CA and have moved my maiden name to my middle name and took my husbands last name as my new last name. Now that I read thru some of your posts I really should have just hyphenated his last name onto mine so that I dont have to do anything!

    I have no plans to change my other documents. Exactly how pertinent is it to change all my legal documents (SS, DL, passport, employer)? How bad is it if I just don't change anything? I have properties and a bunch of professional license that I don't want to get caught up with the name changing. Is it bad if I wait a couple of year (or maybe never) put my legal name in effect?

    Since DL and tax are tied in with SS if I don't change SS is that ok? Is it ok to not change my passport and just bring a copy of my marriage license (not certified though) with me since I just renewed it this past year (ugh)?

    Thank you in advance.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Exactly how pertinent is it to change all my legal documents (SS, DL, passport, employer)?

      It's only vital if you really intend to change it. Specifying your intend to change your name when you got married doesn't obligate you to follow through.

      How bad is it if I just don't change anything?

      It's a non-issue.

      Is it bad if I wait a couple of year (or maybe never) put my legal name in effect?

      Not at all.

      Since DL and tax are tied in with SS if I don't change SS is that ok?

      Yes.

      Is it ok to not change my passport and just bring a copy of my marriage license (not certified though) with me since I just renewed it this past year (ugh)?

      If you're not changing your name, you don't need to bring proof of marriage (e.g., marriage license, marriage certificate). Your passport is fine as-is.

      Reply
  3. MJClassy

    My husband and I got married in California 2013. We got a confidential marriage license and plan on having a big old wedding this September. We’ve hid it from our family and while I have changed my last name to his name last name on the confidential marriage license I have not changed it anywhere else. Social security, banking, driver license everything still has my maiden name which I still use 100% of the time.

    I am applying for a brand new passport this week, I want to continue to use my maiden name as everything else I have is in my maiden name. This is a brand new passport. I’m nervous about the section which asks if I have or ever had been married which I indicated as YES and put my husband’s name, will they deny my application by accessing my confidential marriage license and stating my legal last name is different if I apply for the passport using my original maiden name?

    I will change my name at the end of the year (after the wedding) but am nervous for the passport to be declined. Can I still apply for the passport using my maiden name even though my marriage license says his name? Thank you so much in advance, I have my passport appointment in 2 days and have been worried about how to approach this. We leave for our trip in 60 days so I know I will have to certainly expedite but don't want anything else to jeopardize the timing.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi MJClassy. You're fine. You won't be declined. You can apply using your maiden name just fine and change it later when you're ready.

      Reply

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