Change Your Last Name in 3 Simple Steps

For Tara Schafer, there was never any doubt about wanting to change her last name after getting married.

“We both planned to have children, and I wanted us all to have the same last name,” Schafer said.

Not long after tying the knot, Schafer made her way to her local Social Security office to begin the process of changing her last name. “I took a day, went to the Social Security office downtown with my birth certificate, filled out some forms, and waited my turn. It took less than an hour,” she recalls.

After that, Schafer was able to update her driver’s license, bank accounts, and credit cards. Contrary to what some might expect, the entire process went rather smoothly. “It took about a day, but it wasn’t a big deal,” she said.

According to Jane Zanca, Senior Public Affairs Specialist for the Social Security Administration (SSA), “To change your name on your (Social Security) card, you must show us documents proving your legal name change and identity. You also must show us a document proving your U.S. citizenship, if it is not already in our records.”

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While that might sound simple enough, the process is actually a bit more involved. However, Zanca has broken it down in these three easy to follow steps:

Step 1: Gather Identifying Documents

Several documents or items are needed by SSA to prove your legal name change. These include:

  • Marriage document (It should be recent, meaning within two years of the event.)
  • Divorce decree, if applicable

“We may ask to see other documents showing your old and new names,” Zanca adds. These documents help the SSA verify your identity and must include your name, identifying information, and a photograph. Examples include a:

  • State-issued non-driver’s identification card; or

If you do not have any of the items listed above, Zanca said they might be able to accept the following: 

  • U.S. citizenship or immigration status (including Department of Homeland Security permission to work in the United States) 

“All documents must be either originals or certified copies by the issuing agency,” Zanca adds. “We cannot accept photocopies or notarized copies of documents. Any documents you mail to us will be returned to you along with a receipt.”

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Step 2: Completing an Application for a Social Security Card

To get your Social Security card, you must fill out an application, which is referred to as a Form SS-5. A copy of the form, along with specific instructions, can be obtained here.

Step 3: Submitting Your Application

“Take or mail your completed application and documents to your local Social Security office or Social Security Card Center, depending on where you live,” Zanca says. 

You can check online at  to see if you need to go to a Social Security Card Center to process your Social Security card number application.

Once your application has been submitted and all documents have been verified, SSA will mail you your card. “You should receive your card within 10 business days from the date on your receipt,” Zanca says, adding, “The new card will have the same number as your previous card, but will show your new name.”

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