The ultimate guide to updating travel documents after a name change

Feb 16, 2022

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While more and more people are choosing to keep their surname after marriage, many still take their partner’s name after the ceremony. Another popular option is to create a hyphenated last name, but doing so doesn’t make the process of legally changing your name any less complicated.

Changing your name can be viewed as the standard, and perhaps even romantic, but there’s no getting over the fact that it’s a laborious undertaking. If you’re changing your name — whatever the reason — follow this guide to make sure you’re ready to enter this paperwork gauntlet.

Image by LPETTET / Getty Images
Image by LPETTET/Getty Images

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Step 1: Be mindful of time constraints

This is a time-consuming process. Some changes will have to be made in person, such as getting your new driver’s license. Other offices may allow you to mail in your name change request, but then you’ll be faced with mail delays. If you’re heading out on a honeymoon directly after your wedding, you should book your travel under your maiden name and change your name once you’re home. This is because you likely won’t have enough time to obtain new IDs and credit cards that reflect your married name, which is important since the Transportation Security Administration does not accept marriage certificates as a form of identification, before your trip.

If you’re planning to change your name, now could be a surprisingly good time to do so — if you don’t have any upcoming travel on the calendar, of course. Just know that the coronavirus pandemic has made, well, just about everything take even longer than usual, so brace yourself for a long waiting period.

Step 2: Get certified copies

Once you’ve decided to move forward with the process, you’re going to need to prove that you have a legal name change to get started. For example, this means that if you recently got married, you will need to provide certified copies of your marriage certificate. You can get these through the vital statistics or records department of the state where your marriage took place. Expect to pay approximately $15 to $25 for the first copy; additional copies are usually around $5, though some locations charge the same price per copy. Always order a few, as you may not always receive your certified copy back after submitting it as proof of your name change while updating documents.

Step 3: Acquire a new Social Security card

Image by Tetra Images / Getty Images.
Image by Tetra Images/Getty Images

Updating your Social Security card should be one of the first things you do when you change your name. Your Social Security Administration (SSA) card and number will often be necessary to get a new driver’s license, which will be required for many of the other steps in the process. Changing your name with the SSA will also notify the IRS and help make sure your name and Social Security number match. If you don’t want to mail in your ID and marriage certificate, you’ll need to find your local SSA office and file the form in person. With the post-pandemic backlog, current wait times are long — one TPG staffer has waited over a month. Just remember, SSA offices closed at the beginning of the pandemic, so you can currently only enter your local office with an appointment.

Related: The ultimate guide to credit card application restrictions

Step 4: Get a new driver’s license

Now that you have your new Social Security card with your new name, you’re ready to head to the DMV. Check online with your state’s Department of Licensing to find out what documents you’ll need to bring with you to get a new ID with your married name. Most likely, you’ll need to bring your current driver’s license, your certified marriage certificate and your new Social Security card. You’ll also want to ask if your voter registration will be changed along with your driver’s license. If not, add the voter registration name change to your list of things to do.

Step 5: Update your passport

update your passport with your new name after you're married
Image by Greg Blomberg / EyeEm / Getty Images

To update your passport, you’ll need to determine what form you must submit and if you’re able to submit it via mail. If you got your passport less than a year ago, for example, you’ll have a different process than if it’s more than a year old. If your passport was issued more than one year ago, you’ll follow the passport renewal process. Regardless of how old your passport is, you’ll probably need to include a certified copy of your marriage certificate. New passports typically take four to six weeks to process, though there are ways to expedite the process, if necessary.

And, of course, these aren’t normal times. The U.S. Department of State still has a backlog of passport applications and renewals to process. Expect to wait up to 11 weeks (or five to seven weeks with expedited service) for a new passport. As international travel has made a comeback, there has been a surge in new applications and renewals, so now may be a good time to put your passport application into the queue — especially if you don’t intend to travel anytime soon.

Step 6: Change your name with TSA PreCheck and/or Global Entry

Once you’ve updated your passport, you’ll want to change your name for trusted traveler programs. For TSA PreCheck, you can call 855-347-8371 on weekdays between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. ET. To change your name for Global Entry, you’ll need to visit one of the program’s enrollment centers. Don’t forget to bring your new passport and marriage certificate, just in case.

Enrollment centers in the U.S. have now reopened following the pandemic, but be sure to check the hours of your local center before making any plans. Normally, you can drop in for the name update. Due to COVID-19, appointments may be necessary at some centers and must be scheduled in advance online through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Trusted Traveler Programs website. Availability will vary by location.

Step 7: Update your name on your CDC vaccination card

The CDC vaccination card has become an essential travel document. Travel plans can quickly be derailed if the name on your card doesn’t match your passport and official documentation. In the U.S., all state-approved COVID-19 vaccination providers are required to log vaccine information in their state’s immunization database. There should always be an official back-up record of your vaccination status. To request a replacement card, contact your state health department or the health care provider who administered the doses. You’ll need to show a copy of your marriage license and your original CDC vaccine card.

Step 8: Change your financial records

Your credit card may save you from bag fees. (image courtesy of Shutterstock)
(Image via Shutterstock)

With your new driver’s license and Social Security number, you should be ready to update your financial records. Start by visiting your local bank branch, and don’t forget to bring your new ID and marriage certificate.

Most credit cards will need you to fax or mail a digital copy of your new ID showing your changed name, but each will have its own method and forms. Chase, for example, requires account holders to send in a form with a copy of their marriage certificate. American Express may accept your new U.S. passport or driver’s license. Check with your issuer directly to determine what forms and evidence will be required. You can also call your credit card’s customer service number or use the issuer’s website chat feature.

Once you’ve updated your name on your credit cards, your new name will eventually be updated on your credit report. You don’t need to contact the credit reporting companies directly, but keep in mind you may want to hold off on applying for new credit cards until you see your new name reflected on your credit report. Your credit report is also a great resource for locating all the financial institutions where you have accounts.

Step 9: Update your rewards accounts

After updating your personal documents, it’s time to address your loyalty program and rewards accounts. Just like with your banking institutions, you’ll need to contact each program to find out what is required for the name change. Most of the programs, including Hyatt and Marriott, will require you fax or mail your legal documents to a specific address. Delta and United, similarly, will request a copy of your marriage certificate or another legal document. (If you have existing reservations made prior to your name change, most U.S. airlines will accommodate a legal name change without charging a fee.)

If you’re enrolled in a number of programs, signing up for an e-fax service may be helpful. You and your spouse may also want to consider changing your points-earning strategy.

Step 10: Get additional help

If all of this overwhelms you (we get it, really), there are services available to help speed the process along. The popular service HitchSwitch will let you submit basic information online to autofill all the forms you’ll need to change your name. Along with the auto-filled forms, the company will provide instructions for completion and how to submit each application. For any steps that have to be submitted via mail, HitchSwitch will even include the address to which the application needs to be sent.

Additional reporting by Caroline Lascom. 

Feature image by JovanaT Getty Images.

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