When a couple gets married, especially a couple who is going through the immigration process, the process is unique. Some additional questions that couples tend to ask are, “How do I change my name? When do I change my name? Can I change my middle name? Do I have to change my name?”
Name Changing Process
When you are a United States citizen and you get married, you’ll receive a marriage certificate. When you receive that marriage certificate, you would go to the Social Security office and change your last name.
You aren’t required to change your last name when you get married. It’s a choice. Some individuals decide to change their last name, some individuals decide to hyphenate their last name. Name changes can occur for either men or women.
It’s the 21st century so either party can change their name or not change their name. But the point is that the process would be taking that certified marriage license to the Social Security office and updating your Social Security records. Then you can begin the process of updating your name on everything else in your life which is a cumbersome process.
If you’re an immigrant who’s going through an immigration process with your spouse or fiancé, once you’re married, the way that you would change your name is by providing it on your immigration application. You can do this because, in the United States, the certified marriage license is what allows you to change your last name.
If you’re doing an adjustment of status case, you would put your new married last name, if you have decided to change it as your last name on the application. Make sure you list your maiden name as under the other name used.
For K1 applicants, on your first application for the fiancé visa, you’re not married yet so you wouldn’t be able to put your new last name. But once you get married and you file for your green card, then on that application, if you decide to change your name, you can put that new married name as your last name and then list your maiden name as an other name used.
The other unique thing for immigrants that differ from an application by a United States citizen is by putting your name on the immigration application as your new married name, immigration will send you your work permit and your green card with that new married name so then you’re all set.
You’ll also receive your Social Security card in the mail with your new married last name. We see a lot of individuals who have done their own application and weren’t aware of that and so, they didn’t change their name.
If you don’t, then you’ll receive the green card in the mail and your legal documents as proof of your lawful status in the United States without your married name. If you happen to have done that or if you aren’t sure if you want to change your name, you can still change your name outside of the immigration process.
It’s just more complicated and more expensive because you have to pay additional fees and go through a legal name change process. If you didn’t change your name or if you’re not sure and you might want to change it later, there is a way to go through a formal legal name change process. You’d also have to update your immigration records and get a new green card so there would be additional government fees for that as well.
Do you have to change your name?
A lot of couples say, “If I don’t change my name, will immigration think that that is weird? Will they look negatively upon that? Will they frown upon that?” There’s no requirement that you have to change your name.
Sometimes, we’ve had immigration officers during the interview ask, “Are you going to change your name?” or sometimes they might ask why you didn’t but there’s no obligation that you do so.
We always try to encourage couples to “be you and do you”. If you weren’t planning on changing your last name, then that’s fine. You’ll just have plenty of other relationship evidence to show your relationship is real. There’s no requirement to change your last name.
Can I change my middle name?
Some couples ask, “I don’t want to highlight it. I don’t want to have two last names. Can I move my last name to my middle name to be able to have both?” You can’t change your first or your middle name on the immigration applications. The only name you could change based on the certified marriage license would be your last name.
The first name and the middle name would require a formal legal name change that would occur after the immigration process and then you’d have to update your immigration records No, you cannot change your first and your middle name but there is an option in the future when you naturalize.
When you become a United States citizen, individuals who receive their green card based on marriage would actually be able to naturalize after three years of being a lawful permanent resident based on their marriage to United States citizens.
When you’re applying for naturalization, there’s a part of that process that allows you to be able to change your name as part of the immigration process without a separate legal name change process and expenses on that front.
At that time, if you wanted to go ahead and change your middle name and add your your maiden name back in or maybe take your spouse’s last name as your middle name, you can make those changes at the naturalization process.
That’s usually the easier way to change other parts of your name in the immigration context if that’s something that you’re wanting to do.