My immigration clients often end up with documents that have different names on them. They will have a passport with one name and a driver’s license with another. When it comes time to apply for a green card, they want to change their name to match the name on their driver’s license but USCIS will not let them and in fact, the USCIS officer will insist on using the name that is on the passport or birth certificate. In order to avoid this problem, it is best to change your name prior to applying for a green card. Or, if you already have a green card, it is best to change your name before applying for naturalization. If you do so, you will then be able to receive your naturalization certificate and your US passport with your new name. Of course, it is possible to change your name after becoming a citizen but if you can do it before, you will have all of your documents in order and with the same on them.
This is the first of several blog posts on successfully filing for and receiving a name change. I will be explaining the process that one would go through in Solano County so if you live somewhere else, you should check on the Superior Court’s website of your county to verify the procedure.
For general information on how to change your name, including links to the forms as well as a way to file it online, start with California Courts website: File a Petition to Change Your Name
The basic requirements involve preparing the forms, filing them, publishing notice of the name change in a newspaper and attending a hearing. The name change procedures are specific to the county in which you live. Some counties require hearings and some do not. Once you are ready to file the forms, you will need to contact the clerk of the superior court to find out where to go to file your forms and whether a hearing will be scheduled. Below is a list of several northern California counties and the websites for the county clerk
For courts not listed here, you can search for your count’s website here: find your court
Who is eligible to file a name change?
This blog post (and subsequent blog posts on this topic) apply to adults over the age of 18 who wish to change their name only because they wish to have a different name. There are different rules and procedures for children. Likewise there are different rules and procedures for victims of domestic violence or people in the state witness program. Please check your county clerk’s website for instruction on how to change a name in those situations.
Any adult may file for a name change and have their name changed. You can do it because you wish to have your name the same on all immigration documents or you want a new name all together. The only reasons why a judge might deny your petition are if the judge finds that you are changing your name to commit fraud, or if the judge finds that you are changing your name to hide from the law or the police or for some other illegal reason.
How long does it take to change my name?
The process of changing your name can take up to three months. It depends on how busy the court is in your county. In my experience in Solano County, it is even faster than that.
My next blog post will discuss the specific forms that you will need to file and how to complete them.