Getting a change of name when applying for U.S. citizenship through the process of naturalization is permissible, but not without hurdles along the way. It is also possible without additional court procedures. An applicant can simply fill in their chosen new name on the USCIS Form N-400, Part 2, Question 4 of the Form N-400. Before making a name change, talk to an immigration attorney and get the help you need so as to avoid unexpected problems.
Attending an Oath Ceremony is Required Before a Legal Name Change is Approved
All applicants must attend a name-change ceremony that is held in a courtroom and conducted by a judge, not a USCIS officer. Only a judge has the authority to grant a name change at the swearing-in or oath ceremony.
In certain areas of the U.S, oath ceremonies are led by a judge a few times a year, so requesting a name change will result in waiting longer than most people who obtain citizenship.
Furthermore, other regions or states schedule oath ceremonies on a regular basis and are held at a USCIS office - occasionally they occur immediately after the naturalization ceremony. In such a case, a request for a name change on Form N-400 cannot be acted upon. The applicant will need to follow the name change procedures provided under the state’s law, which will most likely involve filing a name change petition with the state court. After the court grants the name change and presuming that the applicant has already become a U.S. citizen, that person will need to apply for a new certificate of naturalization using a USCIS Form N-565, Application for Replacement Naturalization/Citizenship Document. Get legal advice before applying for an N-565.
Contact your local USCIS field office, for other options. You can contact the local office that will be handling your interview to ensure a judge will perform the ceremony. Also, you can wait until you receive a notification from USCIS for an interview date and ask the officer examining your case whether a judge will preside over your swearing-in. One thing you cannot do is pick and choose which USCIS office to attend your interview at. USCIS has the authorization to decide where interviews are held. If by any chance you are approved for citizenship at the interview, the officer will have you complete a form called a Petition for Name Change during the interview.
Limitations on the Name You Can Select
Take note that there are certain legal requirements on what a name change looks like and what you can change your name to. The court judge will not grant a name change request in the following types of instances:
- The applicant wants to change his or her name for fraudulent purposes, such as trying to escape capture for a crime or to avoid paying a debt
- Your name interferes with someone else’s right to a name, specifically with the name of a famous person, such as Kim Kardashian, Angelina Jolie, Jay-Z or of a company such as Ford or J.P. Morgan
- Your name is threatening, obscene, or likely to incite violence
Discuss Name Change with a Legal Representative
Consult with an immigration attorney if you are thinking of getting a name change when applying for U.S. citizenship. Gambacorta Law Office will be able to assist you with the entires process. Call us at 847 443 9303 for a first free consultation.