Applying for a passport in your new name

Article reference: UK-IA-CHN04
Last updated: September 2022 | 3 min read

Choosing a new name

When you change your name, the first document you should apply to be changed is your passport.

The UK Identity and Passport Service (IPS) will not issue a passport in an inappropriate name. Names deemed inappropriate include political statements, words that together would not usually be a name, or trademarks. There are also other restrictions on characters that must be used, titles and length.

You can find out more about general restrictions on changing your name.

However, if you can prove you use your new name for all purposes, the IPS will issue a passport in your old name with an 'observation' note that 'The holder is also known as [your new name]'.

Applying for a passport in your new name

You should apply for a passport after you have notified at least two other record holders and received paper evidence of the change. Your driving licence and a utility bill (not a mobile phone bill) are good ones to start with. Make sure the utility bill is issued on paper rather than electronically. Council tax bills are good proof as well.

You then should write to the IPS asking them to issue a passport in your new name. You should enclose the records in your new name and the original copy of your deed of change of name (your deed poll document). If you have lost the original, you can obtain a replacement copy of your deed poll.

Your new passport (and any other document) should refer only to your new name and not your old one.

You should allow extra time for the application. 3 months should be sufficient following the standard route.

Character limits

UK passports have a space limit of 250 characters including spaces for forenames (i.e. first and middle names) and 30 characters including spaces for a surname.

Your driving licence has a total 30 characters for all names.

If you choose a long name, you may find that you have to abbreviate it or only use part of it (such as your first forename and surname).

Scottish nationals

The process for changing your name under Scottish law is different to that under English and Welsh law.

However, because a deed poll is an English legal document and England is part of the UK, all UK government departments and organisations will recognise it regardless of the UK country of which you are a national.

In other words, Scots can use an English deed poll just like any other UK citizen.

Booking holidays in your new name

If you want to book holidays, it is a good idea to wait until you receive your new passport. It is not a good idea to travel on an old passport in your former name. Travelling with documents in different names can cause problems. You may use your passport as evidence of who you are (such as when hiring a car abroad or when reporting a theft to police for an insurance claim).

If you don't have sufficient time to allow your passport to be changed before your holiday, we suggest changing your name after you return. You can always complete your deed poll document before you go away and post-date the effect of the change for a date after your return.

If you think you might have just enough time, request changes only on the documents you will take away with you, such as credit cards, driving licence and insurance.

Living abroad

If you are a British citizen and live abroad, you can change your name as if you lived in the UK and simply apply for a British passport from the UK Passport Processing Centre in the country in which you live. You should then be able to use your passport to have all other documents changed.

Some Passport Processing Centres have special requirements for issuing new passports to British citizens, so you should check with them first. You can find your nearest one via your nearest Embassy.

Foreign citizens

US citizens

You can use a deed poll to change your name as used in the UK (i.e. the government and British organisations will recognise your name change if you use a deed poll), but the US Embassy requires you to change your name using a Statutory Declaration. This is a different document (also simple to complete) that requires being witnessed by particular people.

Other foreign citizens living in the UK

The UK government, and British companies and organisations will recognise the use of a deed poll provided that you can also demonstrate that you have changed your name for all purposes. Your passport is one of the main documents that records your name and identity, so if you don't change it, you are not changing your name for all purposes.

So, to change your name and have it recognised officially in the UK, you will need to change your name on your (non-British) passport.

If you are the national of a country that uses the English common law system (most old Empire countries and Commonwealth countries), then it is likely that your country will recognise a deed of change of name executed in the UK. You may have to have certain people witness your document (like a solicitor). Check with your country's embassy.

Further information and useful documents

The most common reason for issuing a new passport in a new name is after marriage. We have an article about changing your name on marriage.

You may be interested in using our free deed poll template that allows you to change your name without involving any third party solicitors or companies.

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