Changing your name

Changing your name

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Contents

Use this section to find out how to change your name. Below you will find a summary on the topic.

Overview

Provided a person does not wish to deceive or defraud anyone, they may call themselves by any name they choose. They may change their name informally and later swear a statement confirming the new name or they may change their name formally by a deed poll. If they wish, they may register the change of their name but there is no obligation. Certain people have an obligation to tell the immigration authorities if they change their name.

There is no requirement for a person to adopt any formality in changing their forename or surname. However, all UK government departments (including the Home Office Passport and Identity service), the DVLA and other official bodies won't recognise a name change unless a formal process is followed, so it is far better to change your name formally. You can do this in several ways:

  • Statutory declaration
  • Deed poll
  • Royal licence
  • Coat of Arms (only Scotland)
  • Act of Parliament

These different methods of changing your name are described below.

Changing your name by statutory declaration

A statutory declaration is a statement, recording your intention to abandon your old name and adopt a new one. A statutory declaration can be accepted as evidence of your change of name but, except in Scotland, is not seen to be as formal as a deed poll (see below) and can in certain instances be considered to be less definitive.

The disadvantage of this is that some UK government departments and certain other organisations will not accept a statutory declaration as sufficient evidence of a name change and may require a deed poll. So, in the UK, apart from Scotland, where declarations have taken the place of the deed poll, it will generally be cheaper and less complicated in the long run if you use a deed poll from the outset.

Changing your name by deed poll

England & Wales and Northern Ireland

A person may change their forename or surname by signing a deed poll in England & Wales and Northern Ireland. Deed polls are rarely used in Scotland and a statutory declaration should be created instead.

The deed poll provides official evidence of the change. In England and Wales, deed polls may be registered with the Central office of the Supreme Court in order to make the change public. Name changes involving people who have the right to bear a coat of arms must also be registered with the College of Arms. The College of Arms will not enrol a deed poll that seeks to change a forename. In Northern Ireland in order for the Deed Poll to be valid, it must be registered in the High Court.

The person changing their name must sign the deed poll in their old name and their new name. It is not possible for the deed poll to be signed by anyone on behalf of the person changing their name.

There are specific regulations that an adult must follow to enrol the deed poll with the Court. If an application to register is made on behalf of a child (Changing the name of a minor), special regulations apply. Failure to comply with the regulations does not invalidate the deed poll, but has the effect that it cannot be enrolled.

Only a citizen of the Commonwealth may apply to enrol a deed poll. The United Kingdom is a member of the Commonwealth, but Ireland is not. Examples of other member countries include Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, India, Pakistan, South Africa, and Singapore. If the person is a British citizen, a British Overseas Territories citizen or a British overseas citizen, the deed poll must state which one of the three statuses they hold. If the person has become a citizen, the deed poll must state under which Section of the Nationality Act 1981 the citizenship was acquired.

It is to be noted that in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, a forename can be changed provided it wasn't given in a Christian baptismal ceremony. This is because of an old court case where the Judge decided a change of a baptismal name is unlawful since a baptismal name is, in theory, given by God (there is no such restriction in Scotland). However, the change may be evidenced by a deed poll or subsequent sworn statement and the deed poll, as stated above, may be enrolled with the Central Office of the High Court in London or the High Court in Belfast. If an application to enrol is made, the certificate must be signed by the applicant or their solicitor with the following words added: 'Notwithstanding the decision of Mr Justice Vaisey in the case of Re Parrott's Will Trust, Cox v Parrott, the applicant desires the enrolment to proceed.'

Scotland

Deed polls are rarely used in Scotland and a statutory declaration should be created instead.

Changing your name by royal licence

The Queen, as sovereign, may at her discretion grant a licence to allow a person who is one of her subjects to change their name and she will act on the advice of the Home Secretary. To request a grant of a licence a petition is submitted through the College of Arms.

The College of Arms deals with all heraldry in the United Kingdom. Heraldry is the study concerned with the classification of armorial bearings and the tracing of family trees. The officers of the college will deal with the heraldic aspects of the application. They will also deal with the terms of the petition and of any licence that may be granted. There are fees payable to the officers of arms and the Home Office. However, no stamp duty is payable on the licence.

The licence will allow the surname to be changed. It will not take effect unless official copies of the arms are made according to the law of arms and the copy recorded by the College of Arms. All records of the petitions presented to the sovereign and licences granted by her are kept by the College of Arms.

Applying for a Coat of Arms (Scotland only)

In Scotland it is possible to apply for a Coat of Arms by way of a petition to the Court of the Lord Lyon. The Lord Lyon King of Arms is a formal office of state and deals with all matters of a heraldic nature in Scotland. It is a court of law and an application has to be made by way of formal court petition and is subject to a fee. If the petition is granted then a parchment is produced and sent to petitioner or applicant and a duplicate is recorded in the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland.

For further information see: The Court of the Lord Lyon.

Changing a name by Act of Parliament

It is possible to change a name by Act of Parliament. It has only very rarely happened. It is also another way to change a forename given to a person by a Christian ceremony of baptism.

The Act of Parliament would have to be a private Act of Parliament. The procedure for obtaining a private Act of Parliament is complex and prohibitively expensive.

Can a foreigner change their name in the UK?

The concept of an alien has a unique legal meaning. Anyone who is not a British citizen, Commonwealth citizen, a British Protected Person, or a citizen of the Republic of Ireland is an alien under UK Immigration law. This includes citizens of other EU Member States with the exception of Ireland.

An alien is free to change their name and they may do so simply by adopting a new name. If they wish, they may sign a deed poll evidencing the change or swear a statutory declaration confirming the change.

Changing a professional name

A professional is entitled to practise their profession under the name that appears on the professional register. Many professions forbid the practice of the profession other than by the name appearing on the register. This is to ensure that a member can easily be traced and identified.

If a professional wishes to change their professional name, they must apply to the keeper of the professional register. There will usually be forms available from the keeper of the professional register to simplify the process.