Provided you are not trying to deceive or defraud anyone, you may call yourself any name you choose. You may change your name informally and later swear a statement confirming the new name or you may change your name formally by a deed poll. If you wish, you may register the change of name but there is no obligation although certain people have an obligation to tell the immigration authorities if they change their name.
There is no requirement for a person to adopt any formality in changing their forename or surname. However, all UK government departments (including the Home Office Passport and Identity Service), the DVLA and other official bodies won't recognise a name change unless a formal process is followed, so it is far better to change your name formally. You can do this in two main ways:
- Statutory declaration
- Deed poll
Changing your name by statutory declaration
A statutory declaration is a statement that records your intention to abandon your old name and adopt a new one. A statutory declaration can be accepted as evidence of your change of name but is not seen to be as formal as a deed poll (see below) and can in certain instances be considered to be less definitive.
The disadvantage of this is that some UK government departments and certain other organisations will not accept a statutory declaration as sufficient evidence of a name change and may require a deed poll. So, in the UK, apart from Scotland, where declarations have taken the place of the deed poll, it will generally be cheaper and less complicated in the long run if you use a deed poll from the outset.
Changing your name by deed poll
A person may change their forename or surname by signing a deed poll in England & Wales (and Northern Ireland). Deed polls are rarely used in Scotland and a statutory declaration should be created instead.
The deed poll provides official evidence of the change. In England and Wales, deed polls may be registered with the Central office of the Supreme Court in order to make the change public. Name changes involving people who have the right to bear a coat of arms must also be registered with the College of Arms. The College of Arms will not enrol a deed poll that seeks to change a forename.
The person changing their name must sign the deed poll in their old name and their new name. It is not possible for the deed poll to be signed by anyone on behalf of the person changing their name.
There are specific regulations that an adult must follow to enrol the deed poll with the Court. If an application to register is made on behalf of a child (Changing the name of a minor), special regulations apply. Failure to comply with the regulations does not invalidate the deed poll, but has the effect that it cannot be enrolled.
Only a citizen of the Commonwealth may apply to enrol a deed poll. If the person is a British citizen, a British Overseas Territories citizen or a British overseas citizen, the deed poll must state which one of the three statuses they hold. If the person has become a citizen, the deed poll must state under which Section of the Nationality Act 1981 the citizenship was acquired.
It is to be noted that in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, a forename can be changed provided it wasn't given in a Christian baptismal ceremony. This is because of an old court case where the Judge decided a change of a baptismal name is unlawful since a baptismal name is, in theory, given by God (there is no such restriction in Scotland). However, the change may be evidenced by a deed poll or subsequent sworn statement and the deed poll, as stated above, may be enrolled with the Central Office of the High Court in London (or the High Court in Belfast). If an application to enrol is made, the certificate must be signed by the applicant or their solicitor with the following words added: 'Notwithstanding the decision of Mr Justice Vaisey in the case of Re Parrott's Will Trust, Cox v Parrott, the applicant desires the enrolment to proceed.'
How can I change my name?
The process is relatively straightforward and you can use our system to complete the relevant documents. Our system will help you at every step of the way, click here for more information.
Can a foreigner change their name in the UK?
The concept of an alien has a unique legal meaning. Anyone who is not a British citizen, Commonwealth citizen, a British Protected Person, or a citizen of the Republic of Ireland is an alien under UK Immigration law. This includes citizens of EU Member States with the exception of Ireland.
An alien is free to change their name and they may do so simply by adopting a new name. If they wish, they may sign a deed poll evidencing the change or swear a statutory declaration confirming the change.
Do I have to change my name when I get married?
Every adult has the same capacity to change their surname. Sometimes, women on marriage will adopt the surname of their husband although there is nothing to prevent a man adopting the surname of his wife. There is nothing to prevent either spouse from retaining their pre-marital surname and not adopting a marital surname. After divorce or death of the one spouse, there is the right to retain and use of the marital surname.