So you recently tied the knot. Congrats! Are you thinking about changing your name? For an expat, there's A LOT involved. That's because you need to change your name in the US and Australia. Plus, the order in which you update your name is crucial to make the process as efficient as possible. So before you get started, read this helpful guide on how to change your name in the US and Australia after marriage.
Here's everything you need to know to change your name in the US and Australia after you get married
- What Should I Do Before I Change My Name After Marriage?
- How Do I Change My Name After Marriage in the US and Australia?
- 1. How to Change Your Name After Marriage on Your Australian Passport
- 2. How to Change Your Name After Marriage on Your Social Security Card
- 3. How to Change Your Name After Marriage on Your US Driver License
- 4. How to Change Your Name After Marriage on Your Australian Driver License
- 5. How to Change Your Name After Marriage on Your US Visa
- 6. How to Change Your Name After Marriage on Your Green Card
- 7. How to Change Your Name After Marriage on Your US Citizenship Card
- 8. How to Fly and Book Flights With Name Change After Marriage
- 9. How to Change Your Name After Marriage on Other Documents
- Be Aware of Name Change Rules in Australia and the USA
- For Help With Visas or Immigration
- Thank You for Contributing to this Article
Do I Need to Change My Last Name After Marriage?
No! You can forgo tradition and keep your last name as is.
In most US states and Australia, you can legally use whatever name you wish for non-legal matters, so long as it's not for fraudulent purposes.
What Should I Do Before I Change My Name After Marriage?
Preparation is key! Get the following ducks in a row before you start changing your name in Australia and the US:
1. Clear Your Calendar
Set aside six months to update your name on all US and Australian documents. Some name changes require lengthy processing times, e.g., on your passport. Some authorities accept name changes via mail/online, while others require an in-person visit.
2. Find a Notary Public
When you change your name after marriage, you're generally required to submit certified copies of documents. A Notary Public is similar to a Justice of the Peace in Australia. They're authorized to authenticate documents and verify your signature. So do the leg work now, and track down a Notary Public near you.
Most banks have a Notary Public on staff (though some banks only offer the service to their customers). If you're in or around New York City, our very own Josh Pugh is a Notary Public.
3. Obtain Your Birth Certificate
You need this as proof of your birth name and identity.
If you don’t already have your original, you can apply to the Registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages (RBDM) in the Australian state/territory (or overseas vital records office) where you were born. Australian certificates are mailed to you overseas.
4. Obtain Your OFFICIAL Marriage Certificate
An official marriage certificate is different from the commemorative (ceremonial) certificate you received from your celebrant or minister at the ceremony. It's typically available several days after the wedding because the officiant must register your marriage first. Plus it will take a few weeks to arrive in the mail.
Apply to the RBDM in the Australian state/territory (or US/overseas vital records office) where you were married. Australian certificates are mailed to you overseas.
Consider requesting duplicates of your marriage certificate. Some organizations require you to send the actual certificate you received from RBDM (rather than a notarized copy) when you switch to your married name. Better to have a few on hand in case it gets lost or delayed in the mail or if you need it in the interim!
5. Get Evidence of Your Name Change After Marriage
Here is where it gets complex, so read this section carefully!
Your evidence of name change after marriage is THE most important document you need to update your name in the US and Australia. You can't update your name in the US or Australia without it.
However, what constitutes acceptable evidence of name change is entirely up to the specific organization with whom you update your name. The country you were married in also affects what they will accept as proof of name change.
If you were married IN Australia, your official Australia marriage certificate will (generally) suffice as proof of change due to marriage.
That's because Australian and standard US authorities, e.g., Social Security Administration, accept an official overseas marriage certificate as evidence of your name change after marriage. Provided, of course, it was a legal marriage.
But if you were married OUTSIDE Australia, you need to register a name change in Australia as proof of your name change after marriage.
An overseas marriage certificate is NOT recognized in Australia as proof of your name change due to marriage. So you will need to register a name change in Australia.
How to register a name change in Australia:
- Register your name change online at the RBDM in the Australian state/territory where you were born. The exact process is state/territory specific.
- Depending on which state/territory you apply to, you're issued an annotated birth certificate (showing your birth name and name after marriage) or a change of name certificate. Some give you the option of both for an additional fee.
- Some states/territories automatically issue your certificate when you register your name change. Others require you to apply separately and pay an additional fee for the certificate.
- You're generally required to turn in your original birth certificate.
How Do I Change My Name After Marriage in the US and Australia?
Follow the steps below in the order listed. Updating your name first on your Australian passport and US social security card will make it easier to update your name on all subsequent documents.
1. How to Change Your Name After Marriage on Your Australian Passport
Your Australian passport is the first critical document you must update with your name change after marriage. Many Australian (and some US) organizations require your updated Australian passport as proof to update their records to your married name.
Unfortunately, it can be a lengthy process because you must apply for a name change to your passport in person.
The process is similar to applying for a first-time passport. Do not use the standard passport renewal form; otherwise, your new passport will be issued in the same name as your existing one.
If you have more than two years validity remaining on your existing Australian passport, you can get a free replacement displaying your married name. The expiry date of the replacement passport will be the same as the one being replaced. Alternatively, you can pay the full fee to renew your passport.
How to update the name on your Australian passport if you're overseas:
- At a minimum, you need your official Australian marriage or name change certificate (as well as the specified identity and other documents).
- Complete the passport replacement application online.
- Schedule an interview at an Australian passport office to lodge your application in person.
2. How to Change Your Name After Marriage on Your Social Security Card
Your social security card is the second critical document you must update with your name change after marriage. Many US authorities will not approve your name change unless your social security card displays your married name.
The SSA recognizes all legal marriages conducted abroad. So theoretically, your official marriage certificate should suffice as proof of name change. However, some Aussies report that the SSA wouldn’t accept their Australian marriage certificate on its own and required them to show their updated Australian passport. Like the unlucky few that trod before you, you might need to make a second visit once you've received your Australian passport in your married name.
How to update the name on your social security card:
- Submit the SSA “corrected card” request online.
- Visit your local SSA office within 45 days.
- Bring original documents showing proof of name change, identity, immigration status, and work authorization. Copies, including notarized copies, ARE NOT accepted.
3. How to Change Your Name After Marriage on Your US Driver License
You need a marriage certificate and social security card in your married name to change your name on your US driver license. All the information on your SSA record must exactly match the name change for your driver license.
Theoretically, the DMV accepts overseas marriage certificates as evidence of name change. However, some Aussies report that the DMV instructed them to reapply after receiving their Australian passport in their new name.
How to update the name on your US driver license:
- The exact process and documents required are state-specific, so download and complete a name change application form from your state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) website.
- If you have an Enhanced (EDL) or REAL ID (which you should obtain by 2023 if you intend using your US driver license as ID to fly domestically within the US), you need to visit your local DMV for a new photo.
- If you have a standard license, some states accept name change applications by mail.
- Documents required as a minimum include your new social security card, your existing license, and proof of name change.
4. How to Change Your Name After Marriage on Your Australian Driver License
Update your Australian driver license with your married name at the transport department in the state/territory where your license was issued.
How to update the name on your Australian driver license:
- In-person: Visit a service center when you're next in Australia.
- From overseas: Contact the relevant state/territory department. There's limited information published, so it's best to get specific instructions directly from them.
- As a minimum, you need an Australian marriage certificate or name change certificate, identity documents, and your existing driver license.
5. How to Change Your Name After Marriage on Your US Visa
When you update the name on your Australian passport, the passport under your maiden name will be voided and returned to you. But, your visa in that passport won't be canceled.
Officially, the US Department of State “recommends” you apply for a new visa. But is this mandatory?
Immigration Attorney Zjantelle Cammisa Markel clarifies that this recommendation is based purely on simplicity and logistics since it's easier to carry around one document.
She confirms it's acceptable to travel with your new passport in your married name. But you must always bring your old passport (containing your visa) in your maiden name plus your original change of name document (marriage certificate or change of name certificate).
6. How to Change Your Name After Marriage on Your Green Card
If you plan on pursuing your Green Card, you can apply under your married name.
Zjantelle emphasizes that it's acceptable to travel with a passport under a different name to your Green Card, e.g., passport in your maiden name and Green Card in your married name. But you must ALWAYS bring your original change of name documentation, plus your Green Card and passport. If you forget any of these documents when you travel, it can cause difficulties with re-entry to the US.
Similarly, if your Green Card is in your maiden name, but your passport is under your married name, you must travel with an original change of name document. In this case, Zjantelle advises filing for a new Green Card so that it displays your married name and matches your passport.
7. How to Change Your Name After Marriage on Your US Citizenship Card
If you become a US citizen, you can legally request a name change at your naturalization interview. You'll receive a certificate verifying your name change during your swearing-in ceremony.
You can change your name after your swearing-in ceremony. However, this requires a replacement of your citizenship document. Consult with your immigration attorney for further instructions.
8. How to Fly and Book Flights With Name Change After Marriage
Passengers traveling to/from the USA should have a passport that matches exactly the name on their airline ticket.
However, if you already booked your tickets in your maiden name before changing your passport to your married name, you can still use the tickets. When you fly, you must bring the original copy of your official marriage or name change certificate and your old passport showing your maiden name (along with any applicable travel documents such as your visa).
ALWAYS book airline tickets under the name exactly as it's displayed in your passport.
9. How to Change Your Name After Marriage on Other Documents
Once you've changed your name after marriage on your Australian passport, social security card, and driver license, it's generally straightforward to change your name with other Australian and US organizations.
How to update your name:
- Make a list of other organizations you need to notify of your name change, including bank accounts, credit cards, health insurance, medical providers, memberships, etc. Then contact each of them to change your name after marriage.
- Alternatively, there are name change kits designed to streamline the process for a fee.
- Sometimes, you can notify an organization of your name change during your next interaction with them, such when you file your tax return.
Be Aware of Name Change Rules in Australia and the USA
On a final note, if you're changing your name to something OTHER THAN your spouse's last name or hyphenated surnames, e.g., creating a brand new surname, extra steps may be involved.
If you were married in Australia:
- You'll also need to register a change of name in Australia. Check the name change rules with the RBDM in the state you were married for what you can—and can’t—legally change your name to.
If you were married in the US:
- Check the name change rules for the US state where you were married.
- In some states, there's already extra scope for name changes by marriage. For example, in New York, you can change your middle and last name (but not your first name) to specific combinations of your or your spouse's last name.
- You'll already need to register a name change in Australia (since your overseas marriage certificate isn’t accepted in Australia for the “name change due to marriage” route). As long as your new name complies with the Australian name change rules, you shouldn't need to do anything else.
For Help With Visas or Immigration
The article is for general information purposes only. Consult with an immigration professional if you need specific advice.
Thank You for Contributing to this Article
Zjantelle Cammisa Markel, Owner, Cammisa Markel PLLC Immigration Law Firm
Founded in 2003, Cammisa Markel is a New York City based immigration law firm that represents both organizations and individuals from all over the world and has helped numerous businesses with their expansion into the US market. Cammisa Markel is dedicated to making the US immigration process as simple and painless as possible and pride themselves on building long-term relationships with their clients.
Get in touch with Zjantelle here.