Identity Documents

Changing Your Identity Documents

In Massachusetts, you do NOT need to be on hormones, have had surgery or have a note from a therapist to change your name. To help you with your name and gender marker change process, MTPC has organized a suggested order in which to change your documents, and a checklist of all of the required documentation for each step. The Name and Gender Marker Checklist can be accessed here.

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


The ID Project

Quick Tips

  • If you have any trouble accessing the name change form and are receiving an error message, please use the following directions to access the form or MTPC can email you a copy of the form.

  • When filling out the reason for change on Name Change Form, some people choose to write: “common usage,” “personal” or “it’s the name that I use.”

  • If applicable, provide any previous name change decrees or letter from spouse acknowledging they are aware of your request for a name change.

  • Some courts file their Name Change Petitions in the Adoption Department.

  • The petitioner’s signature must be notarized before it is submitted. Do not sign the form unless you are with the notary who will be notarizing your form.

  • If you have an attorney representing you for your name change for any reason, they must sign and provide their information as well.

  • You may be required to publish a notice in the newspaper, especially if you are changing your first and last names. 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 newspaper to use for this.

  • Each probate court has a different process for handling name changes.

  • If you face difficulty changing your name as a result of a criminal record, you may want to contact a lawyer.

  • A court record and warrant background check will be completed before your name change is approved.

Getting A Court-Ordered Name Change

To file for a legal name change, you need to go to probate/family court in your county. Some courts file their Name Change Petitions in the Adoption Department.

PAPERWORK NEEDED:

  • A certified copy of your birth certificate
  • 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. For more information on name changes for adults in Massachusetts see here.

We are aware that some people may have trouble accessing the form and are receiving an error message. Please use the following directions here to access the form if you are having this problem or MTPC can email you a copy of the form.

  • Reason for change: Some people choose to write: “common usage,” “personal” or “it’s the name that I use.”
  • A court record and warrant background check will be completed before your name change is approved.
  • The petitioner’s signature must be notarized before it is submitted. Do not sign the form unless you are with the notary who will be notarizing your form.
  • If you have an attorney representing you for your name change for any reason, they must sign and provide their information as well.

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 their 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 want to contact a lawyer.

Fees

The fee for a name change is $180 as of 2019 and may continue to rise over time. However, the fee should not prohibit anyone from changing their name. If you are asked to pay anything other than $180 please notify us at info@masstpc.org.

IF YOU CAN’T AFFORD THE FEE:

If you receive public benefits, have an income below your local poverty line, or otherwise cannot afford $180, 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.

Follow this link to find out if you are eligible or to apply for an indigency waiver.

MTPC is putting together an emergency fund to cover the costs of these fees. If you would like to access this fund, please email info@masstpc.org.

EXTRA COPIES:

You may 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.

Extra copies of the certified name change petition cost $20. If you file an affidavit of indigency, your fee waiver should also cover the fees for the extra copies.

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. GLAD can 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.

Change your name and/or gender marker 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 on the Social Security website.

PAPERWORK NEEDED:

  1. Fill out Form SS-5, “Application for a Social Security Card.” (form 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.

Social Security Administration Gender Designation

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 here.
  4. Citizenship:
    • 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.
    • 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.

Change your name and/or gender marker on a MA state-issued ID such as driver’s license or ID card

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

If you have questions related to REAL ID requirements and changing your name and gender marker on MA identification, please contact the Trans ID Project.

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 or debit or credit card for the RMV fee ($25.00).
  4. Proof of address (i.e. utility bill, bank statement, health insurance correspondence) Note: It is acceptable if this documentation has your previous legal name on it as long as your other documents such as your name change petition showing your previous and current legal name are in order)

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.

MA-issued ID Gender Marker

To change the gender marker on your state issued identification you simply need to submit an ID application signed by you attesting to the gender that you would like to see reflected on your ID.

You are no longer required to submit any documents or proof of medical transition/surgery from a medical provider or counselor/psychologist.

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.

Change your name and/or gender marker 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.
  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).
  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. Note: Applications can be filled out in hard copies or online. It is recommended that you change your bank information first in order for your check, money order, debit card or credit card to be consistent with the name that will be appearing on your new or updated passport.

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

Passport Gender Marker

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. 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. 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

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.

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; photos can be taken at CVS for about $12.99 )
  3. A fee of $110 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 their 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 ($30.00) instead of a Passport Book ($110.00). 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.

Change Your Name and/or Gender Marker 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.

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

Other information to update:

Health Insurance (Mass Health)

This is likely standard health insurance practice, but this has only been confirmed with Mass Health. We recommend calling your health insurance provider to confirm that their practice is consistent.

When changing a name on a Mass Health renewal, a change of name is automatically listed on renewal forms as a box for updated information. A general photocopy of a legible court order showing the signature and the date is sufficient. A copy with the gold seal is not necessary.

W-2s and Tax Returns

Your employer’s Human Resources should be able to easily provide a name change form and simply look at your new social security card.

Other Documents

Other documents to consider changing are credit cards, insurance policies, leases, mortgages, wills, estate (your own and for which you are a beneficiary). These documents will need a certified copy of your name change form.

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.