The naturalization application allows you to legally change or shorten your name for no extra cost. You can also change your name after you become a citizen, but it will cost $100 to $500, depending on where you file.
Why would I want to change my name?
Some naturalization applicants may choose to add or drop a name, Americanize their name or have a new name altogether. For example, an applicant born "Maria Palma Galvez Perez" may choose to be known going forward as "Maria Galvez Perez". Doing so, as long as the new name is a legal one (not used for illegal purposes or to intentionally mislead) is surprisingly easy and does not require a court order or special fee.
How do I request a name change during naturalization?
When an applicant for citizenship files Form N-400 Application for Naturalization, the applicant completes part 2, number 4 "Would you like to legally change your name?"
This part states that a court can allow you to change your name when you are naturalized. This means that your naturalization ceremony will take place at a court, so a judge can legally change your name. This process, however, can take longer as court ceremonies are not held as often as those at USCIS offices and elsewhere.
When does the name change occur?
A name change becomes final upon naturalization with the Certificate of Naturalization issued in the new name. The name is changed automatically through operation of law rather than through a court order. The name on the certificate of naturalization supersedes the name on all other documentation. It is up to the individual to change their documentation with agencies such as the Social Security Administration, Division of Motor Services, etc. However, such agencies cannot require a court order for names changed upon naturalization in the court context.
Name changes could arise outside of the naturalization context. For example, a Lawful Permanent Resident who has no intention of naturalizing may decide to change their name. Likewise, an already-naturalized citizen may choose to do a name change. In such cases, a court order would be required. For naturalized citizens, the court order would be required to receive an amended naturalization certificate which requires Form N-565 Application for Replacement Naturalization/Citizenship Document and a filing fee of $345.00 payable to USCIS.
Name change through usage (where a person uses another name than their legal name without going through a legal process to do so) or under common law are discouraged as doing so can cause difficulties with government agencies and for intestacy purposes. A name change does not absolve debt or liability. Regardless of how a name was changed, it is important to note that in some instances, it may be required to report all previous names.
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