Changing one’s name due to marriage is common. However, it can be complicated and there is the issue of timing. Lets start with a hypothetical:
Mary Elenor Lopez entered the US on a tourist visa. Mary married John Smith in the US after dating for 6 months and they are expecting a baby in a few months, yay babies! Marry wants to take the married name: Mary Elenor Smith. But, where to change the name?
Normally, a US Citizen would go to Social Security Administration and change the Social Security Card and then the Driver’s License, and then any other government-issued ID. However, Mary doesn’t have that and Mary can’t get a Social Security Card since SSA wants the Immigrant to have:
- A Green Card or Lawful Permanent Resident Card or I-551;
- An Employment Authorization Card or EAD or I-766; or
- An I-94 that permits employment
Mary entered with a tourist visa. Tourists cannot work since they are here on vacation. Tourists do not have an employment-authorized I-94, and Mary hasn’t started the Green Card Process to get any card in her hand. What to do?
If she starts her Green Card filing, she can ask USCIS to give her the married name. When Mary does the USCIS Biometrics in the AOS Process they will perform her background under the maiden name. Once the filing process further, a card should arrive for Mary to take to SSA to then get a Social in the married name. Afterward, comes the Driver’s license, DEERS (if military), and foreign passport.
Do I have to change my name on the Green Card Application?
No, it is voluntary to change your name. Some people like to be called Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Some people think it “helps” their immigration case. In reality, the Green Card Application or the Green Card Interview are ideal times to change the name, since SSA copies the name on Immigration Documents, so too does the NC DMV.
To change the name after a Green Card is issued would require a court order and another USCIS Filing, the I-90, that could take 1 to 2 years to process.
What if I already have a social changed to the Married Name?
Great! then you already have the desired name and it makes it easier to take the name in the Green Card Process and other government-issued documents.
Can I change my Middle Name?
No, only a US Judge can change the first name or middle name. This question is common for people from the Philippines and Brazil. Since it is cultural to keep the maiden name to show who the Father was, and then to take the Husband’s Name to show who they are married to.
Let’s look at the above example: Mary Elenor Lopez (married to John Smith) wants to be called Mary Lopez Smith.
This cannot be done at Social Security Administration, and USCIS should not perform this name change on their document. If this error does occur, it is usually corrected in the USCIS N-400 Nationalization Process and a Federal Judge would perform the name change.
What if we married overseas and I changed my name on my passport?
USCIS should then rely on your passport’s name in a Green Card filing since you’d have a foreign government-issued ID. If the foreign ID has a new name, then that should be your legally-recognized name.
But, the USCIS Officer has discretion surrounding someone’s name to match US Law and Policies, such as “rejecting middle name changes without court orders.”
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