You’re prepared to change the name on your social security card by mail. Your forms filled out and signed. And you’re ready to rock-and-roll. But there’s one snag. You’ve got to mail in your original ID too. Or do you?
This can't be happening! It's ridiculous!
The prospect of mailing out your driver's license (or even passport) may evoke a swirl of anger, anxiety, disbelief, indignation, and questions:
- Will they return my ID?
- Do I dare risk driving without a license?
- Can I mail a photocopy instead?
- Are folks doing this for real?
Will I get my ID back? If so, when?
If you end up mailing out your driver’s license or other identification, they’ll mail it back. But the turnaround time could be long; maybe one week; maybe two months. Parting with your primary form of ID for any length of time is stressful and impractical. The uncertainty of its return heightens the anxiety.
Can I mail a photocopy of my ID?
Sending a photocopy or notarized copy of your driver’s license or any other ID won’t work for name changes. They’ll reject your application and return your documents. Original or certified copies are a needed to combat fraud and identity theft.
Can I drive without a license?
Driving without a license because of your pending name change is ill advised. Read further and you'll realize you shouldn't have to resort to this.
Come on! Do I really have to mail out my driver's license?
Well, you may not have to mail out your driver’s license. You’re not foolish for assuming that’s the case. Many folks we come across figure mailing out their ID is part of the name change by mail. Burdensome, yet unavoidable. But this assumption is often false.
Name change by mail vs. in person
Should you reconsider submitting your application by mail? Is it more trouble than it's worth? Let's discuss the pros and cons real quick.
Name change by mail
Changing your name by mail can save time and avoid the horde. But it requires you to send original proof of ID, which can be a major sticking point or non-starter.
Name change in person
If you're changing your name in person, you must still show ID, but you don't have to forfeit it. You can put it back in your wallet and walk out. Downside: crowds.
COVID-19 has shrunk your options
Name change by mail versus in person is a worthy debate. But COVID-19 has rendered a verdict on the side of mail, whether you're an advocate or detractor.
Local Social Security Administration offices no longer accept appointments or walk-ins for name changes because of Coronavirus restrictions. You must complete the name change process by mail, by hook or by crook.
Guess what? You may not have to mail ID
How about this for a solution? Don't mail out your driver's license with your name change forms. Just skip that part. You think it's necessary, but maybe it's not.
Bottom line, you don't have to mail your original ID if:
- Your name change event took place within the past two years.
- Your name change document confirms your identity.
- Your name change document shows both your old and new names.
In layman's terms, your name change document acts as substitute for your driver's license, passport, or other ID. You're sending it anyway, so let it perform double-duty.
Make sense? Or still murky? Let's clarify further.
1. The SSA two-year rule
Did your name change event—marriage, divorce, court petitioned name change—take place within the past two years? If so, you've met the first condition.
If you're on the edge of getting locked out, get your paperwork mailed soon, lest the countdown ends before your packet gets delivered.
Note: The two-year rule extends to four years if you're below the age of 18.
2. Matching biographical info
Does the original or certified copy of your name change document include biographical information that matches what the SSA has on file for you?
Your name change document could be a marriage certificate, divorce decree, or court order. Biographical data means age, date of birth, birthplace, or parents' names.
If you've met this second condition, you're near the endpoint.
3. Your old and new names are identified
Does your name change document show your old name and new name? If so, you've met the third and final condition.
Your document doesn't have to point blank say your new name will be X Y Z. You're covered so long as they can derive your new name from your spouse's name.
What if I can't use my name change document as ID?
If you don't qualify to use your name change event document as ID, you're back to square one. You've got three options left: send in current, expired, or duplicate ID.
1. Mail your current ID
You may need to mail out your driver's license after all. It's unfortunate, but sometimes your options run out. If you have a passport or state-issued ID, that'll work too.
2. Mail any old expired ID
The SSA accepts expired identification for name change purposes. You can send an old expired driver's license, passport, or state-issued ID card.
3. Order a duplicate driver's license
Instead of mailing out your original driver’s license, you can order a duplicate from your state’s DMV (or equivalent driver services department). Many states allow you to buy copies online. When it arrives, attach the copy to your name change forms instead of your original.
Note: You can't use the same rationale to order a duplicate passport. That's reserved for limited circumstances, such as urgent international travel.
Did you hit the name change by mail jackpot?
As you’ve learned, you can use your name change document, such as a marriage certificate, as identification if it occurred within the past two years, shows identifying data, and it shows your old and new name (whether derivable or outright).
Perhaps your name change falls into this bucket, assuming you didn't dither and wait too long. Otherwise, you've missed this convenience name change deadline.
If you've got any name change by mail or identification questions, ask them in the comments section below.