How To Change A Name On A Passport

If you're planning to jet internationally now or in the near future, one thing's for certain: You can't afford any mistakes on your passport. TSA rules are notoriously strict, and one wrong move could mean being kept from your flight or worse, detained in an unfamiliar country. If you're planning on changing your name legally, you need to make sure and update all your legal documents long before you take off for lands unknown. While the process is fairly straightforward, it's always best to make sure you're getting everything in order ahead of time so that you can avoid and confusion or frustration in the airport. Ready to change your name on your passport? Here's what you should do. The information provided here is for general information only and should not be used as legal advice.

How To Change A Name On A Passport

  1. Get The Right Form. Whether you've gotten your name change due to a remarriage, a divorce, or changed it using an affidavit, you'll need to prove it legally before you apply for your new passport. By going to the government site for international travel, you'll be able to access the forms you need. However, it's important that you pay close attention to the different forms on offer. If you're requesting the change less than a year after your passport was issued, you'll need to fill out Form DS-5504. If not, you'll need either Form DS-82 or Form DS-11. If you're unsure about any of this and don't want to make a mistake, it's a good idea to consult with your lawyer to make sure all your paperwork is in order. Don't risk making a careless mistake that could delay the process indefinitely.
  2. Organize Your Documents. Once you've filled out the correct form, it's time to get your other paperwork together. To get your passport changed, you'll need to pay an application fee, your most recent passport, a photo, and your name change certificate or documents proving your name change was legal. Once you have everything together, you'll most likely be able to send it by mail. In some cases, you may have to head to your local office to do it in person.
  3. Send Everything By Mail. When you're getting ready to send off your application, make sure you protect your items by opting for a tracking number. Disasters happen, and it's not uncommon for important mail to get lost in the system. This could end up causing serious delays for you and your trip. Even if you're six months out from your flight, you need to make sure you're able to track and account for your materials once you've sent them off.
  4. Wait For Your Results. After you've sent your application out, you'll hear back between 3 and 8 weeks. If your request was accepted, you'll get a new passport in the mail. If rejected, you'll be given reasons as to why and you'll have a chance to mail in your work again with all the correct documents and forms.

What Happens After 8 Weeks?

If it's been more than 8 weeks and you still haven't heard back via mail, it's time to put in a call and ask to speak with someone who can help. Most likely, your mail has been lost or delayed, or there's been a backup with processing. If you can't get a satisfactory answer, try calling your local post office and giving them your tracking number to make sure everything is still on its way. You may even be able to do this online. If your mail has already arrived, call the recipient's office to confirm receipt right away.

Passports Issued Per Year, 1996 - 2018

Year Passport Books Issued Passport Cards Included
1996 5,547,693 N/A
1997 6,295,003 N/A
1998 6,539,864 N/A
1999 6,722,198 N/A
2000 7,292,182 N/A
2001 7,119,506 N/A
2002 7,001,482 N/A
2003 7,300,667 N/A
2004 8,825,410 N/A
2005 10,123,424 N/A
2006 12,133,537 N/A
2007 18,382,798 N/A
2008 16,132,536 189,560
2009 14,170,171 1,544,718
2010 14,794,604 1,556,392
2011 12,613,153 1,173,092
2012 13,125,829 1,300,145
2013 13,529,757 1,408,865
2014 14,087,341 1,463,191
2015 15,556,216 1,647,413
2016 18,676,547 2,110,555
2017 21,378,994 2,511,778
2018 21,103,475 2,812,691

What If I Don't Have My Documentation Yet?

If you've recently changed your name but you're waiting on a certificate or another type of documentation, you'll have to hold off on updating your passport. Luckily, if you're traveling within the country, all you need is a picture license in order to gain access to flights. However, if you're worried about not getting your passport updated on time once your certificate arrives, you can always pay extra for an extradited service. Just make sure your application fee is going to the right person. There are lots of misleading sites online that can trick you into paying money for a non-government related service.

The Growing Percentage Of American Passport Holders, 1989 - 2017

Year Percentage Of Passport Holders
1989 3%
1991 5%
1995 10.5%
2000 17.3%
2002 19%
2005 21.2%
2010 32.9%
2013 38%
2017 42%

In Depth

Whether you've just been married, have decided to change your name on a whim, or have become a superstar overnight, changing your name legally and on all your documentation isn't as simple as you might think. While getting your new name on your passport might not be as painful as a trip to the DMV, it still requires a lot of thought and a bit of jumping through hoops to get there.

It doesn't matter whether you're a huge celebrity like Prince, who had to deal with passport snafus after legally changing his name from the love symbol back to Prince again in 2006, or just someone who wants their name to reflect who they are today. You have a right to being legally recognized as the person you are on your passport. So how do you do it? One thing you want to avoid at all costs is delaying.

If you're planning a trip in the next year, you can't afford to sit on this important task. Don't be like the woman in Abu Dhabi who was denied passage on a flight all because her name as printed on her passport didn't have a hyphen. If you have an important flight, you can't miss it because of a careless mistake.

Don't be like the woman in Abu Dhabi who was denied passage on a flight all because her name as printed on her passport didn't have a hyphen.

Be sure to read our guide on changing your name on your passport without any room for error, found right on this page. Scroll beneath this video to connect with a lawyer who can help you expedite the process. Want to change your name on your passport for good? Here's what you have to do.

#1: Complete The Online Form. Whether you're a verified demigod like Kim Kardashian West or a mere mortal, you need to fill out the right form in order to get your name change to go through. If you go to the travel section of your state's website, you'll be able to download all the forms you need. Remember, there are different forms for different passports. If you've had your passport for over a year, you'll need a different form than you would for a newly-issued passport.

Airlines can face hefty penalties for letting people in without the right documentation, so don't assume that you can afford to make any mistakes. There are endless stories of people being stopped at the border for reasons ranging anywhere from failed child support payments to having the wrong gender marker on their passport, so you have to make sure everything is in order.

There are endless stories of people being stopped at the border for reasons ranging anywhere from failed child support payments to having the wrong gender marker on their passport, so you have to make sure everything is in order.

Don't be like Ashley Collins, the Toronto woman who was denied entry to her flight simply because her passport didn't have her middle name printed on it. If you're facing issues with your passport, you can't afford to end up like Collins did, stranded at an airport without any way to get where you're going. Be sure to read our exclusive guide on getting through airport security without a hitch, found on this page. Simply scroll beneath this video to link with a great lawyer who will make sure you don't have any issues with your legal paperwork.

#2: Get Your Documents In Order. After you've filled out your forms, you'll need to prove you've done all your homework. If you're Joaquin Phoenix and didn't want to deal with having the surname of Bottom, you probably wasted no time getting your last name legally changed. However, to prove it to the government, you'll need to mail a certified name change certificate in along with your filled out form DS-5504 or DS-82.

You'll also need to include your passport photo, applicant fee, and a marriage certificate or proof of divorce if your name change had to do with a marriage or separation.

You'll also need to include your passport photo, applicant fee, and a marriage certificate or proof of divorce if your name change had to do with a marriage or separation.

#3: Send All Your Materials Out. Now that everything's together, you can send it to your nearest processing facility. Make sure to double and triple check online to make sure you're sending your materials to the right place. We're not lawyers, and this isn't legal advice, but it always helps to protect yourself legally by mailing your materials with a tracking number so you'll be able to prove that you did in fact send everything out in a timely fashion should something go wrong.

#4: Wait For Your Result. Once you've mailed your materials, sit back and relax. Your new passport should arrive between 3 to 8 weeks. In the meantime, start packing for your grand voyage.

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