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What's my Name again? The Name Change Limbo

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I have a doozy of a situation where I'm now "in between" names:

  • I’ve been happily naturalized since mid-2008 and had requested a name change during my naturalization process. My Certificate of Naturalization reflects the new name that I’d requested.
  • The ceremony was held in San Francisco and was administrative, not judicial, and I received no paperwork evidencing the name change. I wish I knew more about this and raised concerns then, but I figured USCIS knew what they are doing since I was not the first person changing their names while becoming a citizen– insert bitter laugh track here.
  • Example of the requested name change:

Birth Name: Lina Ivan Smith

New Legal Name: Adelina Smith

As you see, the name change is not drastic at all, as Lina is a short version of Adelina in my culture and Ivan is a patronymic (my father’s first name), which I dropped, as it’s not customary in the US to use patronymics.

  • Right after naturalization I applied for and was issued a US passport, updated my Social Security Card and Driver License with my new legal name, and NONE of these agencies asked for a proof of legal name change, That gave me a false sense of confidence that my name change went through by the books. I’ve since purchased properties, taken out loans, graduated from college and grad school, etc – all with my new name.
  • Fast forward to a month ago. While applying for a Birth Certificate for my son (my name is still the same, it didn’t change through marriage), I was informed by a government agency that without the proof of my name change it has effectively not taken place and they refuse to put Adelina Smith as mother’s name on my son’s birth certificate. I can’t have my birth name on it while having all my vital documents in my new name – I will not be able to obtain US passport for him and will have other challenges with the name discrepancy on his Certificate.
  • Now I’m also worried that the same situation will crop up again later in my life and will present challenges, so I’d like to fix this problem now – better late than never.

Any ideas on how to rectify this travesty of a situation without having to pay thousands in lawyer fees, or having to wait months for it to be resolved (my son needs a passport issued within a couple of months).

  1. Can I even file for legal name change with court now since all my documents are in my new name, so effectively I’ll be asking to change my name from Adelina Smith to Adelina Smith? I’m afrais this will open a huge can of worms where I would be forced to go back to Lina Maria Smith and have my documents all changed back to that before I can change if officially to Adelina Smith. I could be paranoid, but you’d be too, right?
  2. Go to the local USCIS office (I live in North Carolina now) – they administer judicial ceremonies once a month – and plead to have the ceremony now so the paperwork can be issued and have that gap closed.
  3. Another option that I have not considered?

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I've done a court order name change. I didn't have anything as complex as your situation, but I honestly think situations like this with immigrants/naturalized citizens are really common.

I think you can, technically, file a name change as "Adelina Smith v. Adelina Smith"....I honestly don't see why not. You can explain the reason why (that's required when you do a court order name change – the reason for the change) and once you write out a sworn, legal document explaining it, my guess is that everything would be fine.

The only problem with court order name changes is that they can take a while. I think mine was two or three weeks, depends on how back logged the local court is, what the local procedure is, etc. All 50 states have totally different fees, procedures, and whatnot for name changes, you you need to check with your local courts. If it seems like it's going to take a while, see if your other plan might be more useful.

Good luck!

Edited by millefleur


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The thing is, I don't think that state people are "wrong" - I wish they were. They are right - my name change SHOULD have gone through judicial ceremony where a person is actually authorized to grant name changes. Otherwise it's like having a person "pronounce you husband and wife" at your wedding but if they are not authorized to perform such ceremonies it will not be a valid marriage.

It's just since the ball was dropped by USCIS and my oath ceremony was not administered correctly, how do I undo the damage without inflicting more damage on myself - that's the real annoyance. I mean, it's a miracle this has not caused me issues in the last 8.5 years, but I guess the gig is up and now I have to deal with consequences of USCIS's mistake.

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