There are very few restrictions on who can change his or her name.
Mental capacity and age
The key qualifying criteria are:
that the person wanting to change has mental capacity
This means that he or she is capable of make his or her own decisions, and that he or she understands the consequences of changing name. Having mental capacity is a requirement to make any sort of legal document.
- that the person is over 16 years old.
16 is the age at which individuals are deemed to understand consequences of decisions. A child under 16 needs parental consent from all parents.
If you are 15 now, you can sign a valid deed poll now that becomes effective on your 16th birthday.
Residency and nationality
Residency and nationality are not restrictions on whether you can change your name, but rather whether a deed poll made in the UK would be recognised by other nations. If you hold multiple nationality and apply for a passport in another country, there may be complications.
You might want to read more about passport applications in a new name.
If you live in the UK and are British, there are no residency restrictions.
If you live in Jersey and you apply for a passport from the Jersey Passport Office, your deed poll will have to have been witnessed by a solicitor or notary public. It is easier to apply to a mainland passport office instead, which has no such restriction.
If you are British but live abroad
You should check with your nearest British Embassy or High Commission. You can use a deed poll to change your name like any other British citizen, but before you are issued with a new passport you may have to provide two or three other documents (such as bank statements and utility bills) as evidence that you are using your new name in the country in which you live.
If you live in the UK, the UK government will recognise your new name.
Some foreign governments will not recognise a deed of change of name executed here. You may find that you can change your name on your UK bank accounts, but you may not be able to have a foreign passport issued in your new name. This might present problems when you travel outside the UK.
Generally, those countries that use the English common law system (such as India and Australia) will recognise a UK deed poll, but may require special action, such as having it witnessed by a solicitor.
If you live outside the UK, it is unlikely that a deed of change of name drawn in England would be recognised, either by the UK government or any other.
If you are seeking asylum or have been granted it, the British government will recognise a deed poll as evidence. Your naturalisation certificate and British passport will be issued in your new name.
People with dual nationality
If you have British nationality and are also a national of another country, before you execute your deed poll, you should check with the embassy of your other nationality to check whether the other country will recognise your new name. There may be problems with holding two passports in different names.
Qualifications for witnesses
The best witnesses are solicitors, but most solicitors will charge a nominal sum (unless they are a friend) to witness a document.
If you are British and live in the UK, you do not need a solicitor to witness you signing your deed of change of name.
Your witness could be anyone provided that:
- the witness is over 18
- he or she knows you
- he or she is not a family member, boyfriend or girlfriend, husband or wife, partner
- he or she does not live with you
As ideas, the following people make good witnesses:
- friends known for more than 5 years
- your doctor or dentist
- work colleagues (past or present)
If you live outside of the UK, you will need to use a lawyer, notary public or British Embassy official to act as your witness.
Further information and useful documents
If you want to change your name, we offer a free deed poll template for download.
This article is one in a series. The next covers reasons why you might change your name.