updated 04-15-2016

How to Change your Legal Name/Gender Marker

Court Process – Youth – Social Security Office – MA state-issued ID – Passport

Download NGMC Pamphlet as PDF

If you want help filling out paperwork, going to court, or otherwise navigating the name and gender marker change process, you can also sign up for MTPC’s ID Project here.

COURT PROCESS

In order to file for a legal name change, you need to go to probate/family court in your county. Probate Court locations can be found here.

PAPERWORK NEEDED:

  • A certified copy of your birth certificate (if you do not have a certified copy of your birth certificate, http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/w2w.htm has information on individual state policies and fees.)
  • If applicable: any previous name change decrees
  • Name Change Petition Form
  • If applicable: letter from spouse acknowledge they are aware of your request for a name change

NAME CHANGE PETITION FORM

You can get the form at the probate court, or you can download a copy of the form here or MTPC can email you a copy of the form.

You are the petitioner: fill in your current legal name and address

Reason for change: Some people choose to write: “common usage,” “personal” or “it’s the name that I use.”

To change your name you do NOT need:

  • to be on hormones;
  • to have surgery;
  • to have a note from a therapist.

As long as you are not changing your name in order to commit fraud, you have the right to change your name either through a court process or through “common usage.”

You may be required to publish a notice in the newspaper, especially if you are changing your first and last names. In practice, few courts require publication when just changing your first name, but it is a possibility to be aware of. If you have a good reason for the notice not being published, you can file a motion to waive publication. A sworn statement has to be filed with the motion explaining why you don’t want a notice published. You may have to present your reasons to a judge. Publication requires a separate fee that can vary and you can usually choose which paper to use for this.

Each probate court has a different process for handling name changes — in some courts you may go before a judge or before a judge’s clerk; in other courts, the judge looks at the petitioner’s paperwork outside his/her/hir presence. You may be able to finish everything that day or the Clerk’s office may ask you to return in two weeks or so. If you face difficulty changing your name as a result of a criminal record, you may wish to contact a lawyer.

FEES

The fee for a name change is $185 as of 2015 and may continue to rise over time. However, the fee should not prohibit anyone from changing their name.

IF YOU CAN’T AFFORD THE FEE:

If you receive public benefits, have an income below your local poverty line, or otherwise cannot afford $185, fill out the “affidavit of indigency.” The Clerk of the Court can help you fill it out if you have any trouble. Do not pay any fee you cannot afford.

You can get the “affidavit of indigency” form at the probate court, or you can download it here or MTPC can email you a copy of the form.

EXTRA COPIES:

You will likely want to obtain several certified copies of your legal name change in order to change the documents listed below, and to change bank accounts, health insurance, student records, and any other changes you need to make.

Youth

MTPC gets many questions from people under 18 who want to obtain a name change. Here is what you need to know if you are a young person who seeks a legal name change:

  1. If your parents agree with you that your name should be changed, a custodial parent or guardian can fill out a change of name for you on your behalf.
  2. Your parent(s) will find out if you attempt to obtain a legal name change.
  3. If you have another parent who does not live with your custodial parent or guardian, that person will need to be notified. Your custodial parent or guardian can ask the court’s name change clerk for more information about this process.
  4. If you have safety-related concerns about publishing your new name or providing it to a parent, you should seek legal advice (see below).
  5. If your parents do not agree what your name should be, the court will decide based on its determination of your best interest. If you want to change your name and believe that one of your parents will object, we recommend that you seek legal advice. Massachusetts Transgender Legal Advocates and GLAD both provide advice on name change issues.
  6. Whether or not you go through the court process, it is legal to change your name by just changing the name that you use. Unfortunately, this method of name change will not allow you to change your legal documents like state ID, driver’s license, passport, etc.

Identity Documents and Government Databases

Change your name with Social Security Office

All documents you bring to Social Security need to be originals or certified copies by the issuing agency. You can find the nearest SSA office at the Social Security website.

PAPERWORK NEEDED:

  1. Fill out a Form SS-5 (download it here), “Application for a Social Security Card.” (This form is also available at SSA office)
  2. Proof of legal name change: A legal name change document, such as a court ordered name change or marriage certificate (if you changed your name through marriage). The document must have the old name and new name listed on it. If it does not have enough identifying information, SSA will request an identity document in your prior name and another in your new legal name in addition to the name change document. (Massachusetts issued court-ordered name changes list old and new name)
  3. If you were born outside of the U.S., you also need to prove your U.S. citizenship or current lawful, work-authorized immigration status.
  4. If you are a U.S. citizen and have not previously established citizenship with SSA, you will need to present a birth certificate, U.S. passport, or other proof of citizenship.

Your name in employment personnel records should match the name on your Social Security card until you receive the revised card.

Change your name on MA state-issued ID such as driver’s license or MA ID card

All documents you bring to RMV need to be originals or certified copies by the issuing agency.

PAPERWORK NEEDED:

  1. Proof of legal name change — A court order showing your legal name change.
  2. Your Social Security Card with your new legal name change
  3. Cash for the RMV fee. (check RMV site here for current fees).

Although changing your name on driver’s license is standard procedure for RMV employees, there have been some incidents where a clerk has tried to deny a name change (often through ignorance rather than malice). As long as you have all the necessary legal paperwork the employee is forbidden from denying your name change. The RMV does not have the authority to ignore a Court Order.

If the clerk denies your name change, ask to speak with a supervisor. Record the name of the clerk, date, time, and reason you were given for the denial. Record the name, date, time, and outcome of speaking with the supervisor. If the supervisor refuses to change your name, ask to speak with the RMV branch manager, and again record name, date, time and outcome. Contact MTPC for further information or assistance at 617-778-0519.

Changing your name on your passport

All documents need to be originals or certified copies by the issuing agency. See here for more information.

IF YOU HAVE A CURRENT VALID PASSPORT LESS THAN ONE YEAR OLD:

  1. A completed application for a U.S. Passport: Name Change, Data Correction, and Limited Passport Book Replacement Form DS-5504, which you can download here.
  2. A certified copy of a marriage certificate or name change court decree to prove that your name has legally changed.
  3. Your current passport
  4. Two new photos
  5. Using the DS-5044 form, there is no fee unless you need your passport immediately.

Using US Postal Service, mail all of this information to:
National Passport Processing
P.O. Box 13290
Philadelphia, PA 19101-3290

IF YOUR PASSPORT IS OLDER THAN ONE YEAR:

  1. A completed DS-82 form (Application for a U.S. Passport by Mail), which you can download here.
  2. A certified copy of a marriage certificate or name change court decree to prove that your name has legally changed.
  3. Your current passport.
  4. Two new photos.
  5. You will have to pay all of the fees associated with getting a new passport.

Using US Postal Service, mail all of this information to:
National Passport Processing
P.O. Box 371971
Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7971

Resources to Download:

Name Change Court Order Form

Form to Waive Name Change Court Order Fee

Driver’s License/State ID Name Change Form

Application for a U.S. Passport, Name Change

Gender Marker Change

Here’s all the information you need to know to change your gender marker on various government documents (state and federal).

Massachusetts Driver’s License/State ID Card

To change the gender marker on your state issued identification, you need to submit an application together with a Gender Designation Change Form, signed by you and a medical provider attesting to the gender that you consider yourself to be. The medical provider should be a licensed physician, therapist or counselor, or psychiatric social worker. A copy of the Gender Designation Change Form is available at the RMV.

You are no longer required to submit medical proof of sex reassignment surgery or an amended birth certificate. The next edition of the Registry of Motor Vehicles Driver’s Manual will reflect the new policy.

If your current state issued identification/license has a name you do not use anymore or has not been updated since you have legally changed your name, you must also bring your court ordered name change document.

Amending an I.D./License will cost $25.00. If you do not have an I.D./License yet, applying for a new license will cost $50.00.

Social Security Card

REQUIRED DOCUMENTS:

  1. A completed Form SS-5 “Application For A Social Security Card
  2. Proof of identity. One or more identity documents in your new legal name, such as, a driver license, passport, state-issued ID, etc. These documents must show your current legal name.
  3. Medical certification of appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition in the form of an original signed statement from a licensed physician. More information and a sample letter is available at transequality.org/Resources/SSAResource_June2013.pdf.
  4. Citizenship:
    1. If you are a U.S. citizen and have not previously established citizenship with SSA, you will need to present a birth certificate, U.S. passport, or other proof of citizenship. Note: your birth certificate or other document establishing citizenship does not need to show your current name or gender. However, you will need to show proof that you are the same person, such as with a court order for legal name change.
    2. If you are a non-citizen, you will need to show documents proving your immigration status and work eligibility, such as: Form I-551; I-94 with unexpired foreign passport; and/or work permit card (I-766 or I-688B). Because there are many types and combinations of qualifying documents for non-citizens, you should call SSA to confirm that your documents qualify.

Passport

According to the NCTE guide, if you are requesting gender change, you must use form DS-11 and apply in person, even if you would otherwise be eligible to renew by mail. This is a new requirement. If you are only applying for a change of name, or do not need to change any information, you may be eligible to renew by mail using form DS-82.In order to request a new passport by mail, all the following must be true about your current passport:

  • Is undamaged and can be submitted with your application
  • Was issued when you were age 16 or older
  • Was issued within the last 15 years (up to 5 years after expiration)
  • Was issued in your current name or you can legally document your name change

DS-82 (by Mail) Application Form

APPLY IN PERSON

If the above statements do not apply, or you do not yet have a Passport, you will need to apply in person.

In Person Application Form

YOU WILL ALSO NEED TO SUBMIT THE FOLLOWING WITH YOUR APPLICATION:

  1. Evidence of citizenship and proof of identity (for example, a driver’s license or birth certificate).
  2. A photo that is a good likeness of current appearance. (2×2 inches in size with white or off-white background — these photos can be taken for $15.00 at acceptance facilities, such as designated Post Offices)
  3. A fee of $75 to have a new passport issued. (An additional $25.00 is required for processing in-person applications. No credit cards accepted by mail or in person (Cash, check, or money order).
  4. Attending physician’s letter stating that you have “had appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition” or are “in the process of gender transition.” This policy recognizes that people’s medical needs vary and that appropriate clinical treatment may be different for one person than for another.

    This letter must contain:

    • Identification of the physician as an internist, endocrinologist, gynecologist, urologist or psychiatrist
    • Physician’s full name
    • Medical license or certificate number
    • Issuing state or other jurisdiction of medical license/certificate
    • Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) registration number (if physician does not have DEA number, for example if he or she practices in a foreign country, then further clarification or verification of the physicians bona fides must also be submitted)
    • Address and telephone number of physician
    • Statement that he/she has a doctor/patient relationship with you
    • Language stating that the applicant “has had appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition to male/female (new gender)” or “is in the process of gender transition to male/female.”
    • Statement: “I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the United States that the forgoing is true and correct.”

MTPC recommends that you give the physician a copy of the sample letter that appears in Appendix M. Ask the physician to model his or her letter closely after the sample and to include the information listed above.

The National Center for Transgender Equality has issued the following statement about these physician letters:

“No specific treatment is required, and details of your treatment need not be provided. In fact, NCTE encourages you and your doctor to only state in the letter that you have had the clinical treatment determined by your health care providers to be appropriate. Details about surgery, hormone treatment, or other treatments are unnecessary and not helpful.”

The regulations issued by the State Department specifically state that surgery is not a prerequisite for your new passport and that passport adjudicators and consular offices may not ask for additional medical information. In conversations with you, workers at the passport office are required to refer to you using the pronouns appropriate to your “new gender” and to ask only appropriate questions.

Though there is no passport fee waiver available for the general public (no-fee passports are available to family members of U.S. government officials), you may apply for a Passport Card ($20.00) instead of a Passport Book ($75.00). A Passport Card however, is only valid for ground and sea travel in North America only (a passport card cannot be used at any U.S. airport). A $25.00 processing fee still applies for all in person passport applications, including the passport card.

Birth Certificate

CHANGING YOUR NAME/GENDER ON YOUR BIRTH CERTIFICATE:

The process for changing your name/gender on your birth certificate depends on the state or country for which you were born. Below is some information about changing your name/gender on your birth certificate if you were born in Massachusetts. Lambda Legal provides information about birth certificate changes in other states.

In Massachusetts, a person who has received appropriate medical intervention for gender transition, and has had a legal name change by a court, may have their birth record amended to reflect the newly acquired sex and name.

The applicant must submit to the appropriate clerk a certified copy of the legal name change court order and can only complete a name change when changing the sex marker.

The applicant must also provide a statement from their treating or evaluating physician that they have completed “medical intervention for the purpose of permanent  sex reassignment”.

Birth Certificate Application

Physician’s Statement

Resources to download:

Passport Application by Mail (DS-82)

Passport Application for Gender Change (DS-11)

Passport Application for Name Change (DS-5504)

MA RMV Gender Designation Change Form

Social Security Card Application Instructions

Additional Questions?

Email info@masstpc.org or contact MTPC at 617-778-0519.

We are also collecting people’s stories of experiences with discrimination or positive experiences in order to advocate for improved policies here.