How difficult is it to get a name change in the U.S. or in France?


I would like to know how difficult is it to get a first name change and/or a surname change in the U.S. and/or in France?

Considering that the only reason for the name change would in truth be "for convenience" (i.e. just to get a better name, without any real legitimate reason), but that we would be able to get a very good lawyer.

By "how difficult", I'm not talking about how long the process would be nor about how much money we would need to spend, I'm talking about the probabilities of success.

Is it much harder to get a surname change than a first name change?

Is the difficulty of getting a name change significantly different in France than in the U.S.?

Thx in advance.


November 9, 2015 11:20 PM

I have no idea about France, but in the US the procedure for name change varies from state to state.  I think it's fair to say that the success rate for changing a name is 100% as long as someone is willing to file the proper forms and pay the required fees.  The only universal requirement afaik is that the name change not be for the purpose of facilitating criminal behavior--and criminals do not usually go to court to make their aliases legal.  Silly names (like Princess Glitter Unicorn) are acceptable, but I don't know about obscene and patently offensive names.  But changing from, say, Mary Smith to Susan Jones, just jump through the hoops in the state of residence and pay the fees, and it's done, no need for a compelling reason or any reason for that matter.

November 12, 2015 1:25 AM

Seconding what Miriam said. In the US, the legal hoops she refers to can be very minimal - just fill out the forms, hand them in, get a date to show up in court, and then show up at the appointed time to swear under oath that you are not changing your name to commit fraud. It's a very straightforward process, and I want to stress that you do not need to have a lawyer for it, especially not a very good one. My understanding is that in some states you need to publish your plans in a newspaper first, but this also wouldn't provide much of an obstacle.

I find paperwork intimidating, and having done a name change in the US I can assure this was really no big deal. Then you get a court order which you can use to change all pieces of identification and accounts in your name - this if by far the biggest hassle.

We did both a given name and a surname change in my family, and both were easy and involved the same processes. No one really cared at all what our reasons were.

I do not know about the logistics in France, but I would imagine they could only be more stringent, because the US process is really lenient one compared to other countries I am familiar with!

November 17, 2015 5:09 AM

I would do it in the US if it's all the same to you. The French system doesn't seem impossible... the page I've looked at says you can ask for a name change if you have a "legitimate interest." The example they give is if one or more of your names is ridiculous and is resulting in discrimination. It doesn't explicitly say, as far as I can tell, if you can change your name on a whim, although it does say that you can also ask for given names to be added or taken away.

It does say you need a lawyer.

The US sounds incredibly easy. I would do it there. I'm no expert on France, but in Spain you have to demonstrate that you have been using the new name for some time in order to change it legally. I don't know if you have a language barrier, but if so, that would be another reason to do it in the States.

Info from this government site:

November 30, 2015 2:15 PM

Thanks for your answers so far.

I forgot to ask one other question:

In the United States, do you need to have the American nationality before you can make a name change, or can you make a name change before/without acquiring the american nationality?

(If I'm not mistaken, you need to reside in the U.S. for 5 years to acquire the American nationality.)

November 30, 2015 2:25 PM

You are mistaken.  It is much more complicated than simply five years residence to acquire American citizenship and an American passport (I assume ciizenship is what you mean by nationality).   I believe that to get citizenship a person must be resident for at least five years, but there are many additional requirements.

I don't know about any citizenship requirements to change names, but I do know that immigrants routinely change their names upon arrival.  Whether these are formal legal changes or simply informal changes I don't know.  In the US you can call yourself anything you want to as long as the name change is not used for criminal purposes.