Changing Your Name (No. 161)
|This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by Thomas E. Wallwork in August 2017.|
You may want to change your legal name because you’re getting married, because you’re getting divorced, or just because you feel like it. Learn what’s involved in changing your name.
Understand your legal rights
What name you use
Government identification, such as passports and driver’s licences, are only issued in your legal name. Under the law in BC, anyone age 19 or over can apply to change their legal name. They can change their name to any name they choose, as long as the change isn’t likely to cause embarrassment or confusion to anyone or isn’t for an improper purpose or otherwise objectionable — such as changing your name to avoid paying your debts.
We explain the process to apply for a legal name change below.
If you get married
When they marry, some people choose to use their spouse’s last name. Under BC law, when you marry, you have a number of choices for your last name:
- You can keep the last name you had before the marriage.
- You can use the last name you had at birth or by adoption.
- You can take the last name of the person you’re marrying.
You can choose any of these options without completing a legal change of name.
You can also apply for a legal change of name:
- You (and your new spouse) can apply for an entirely new last name. For example, Mary Smith and Robert Jones can apply to have their names legally changed to Mary and Robert Black. Or to Cecilia and Walter Black, if they wish.
- You can apply to have a combined or hyphenated last name of both your spouse’s and your own last name, such as Smith-Jones.
You don’t have to change your name if you don’t want to.
If you change your name on getting married
For name changes that don’t require applying for a legal change of name, you can start getting identification and other documents (like credit cards, business cards and so forth) in your new name as soon as you like. You’ll need to provide a copy of your government-issued marriage certificate.
For name changes that require a legal change of name, you’ll need to provide a copy of your change of name certificate.
If you divorce
If you get divorced, you may choose to use any of the following last names:
- the last name you used while you were married
- a previous married last name, if you were married before
- your last name at birth
You don’t have to apply for a legal change of name, you can just start using one of these last names.
If you want a completely new name
If you want to change your name to a name you’ve never used before, there’s a special procedure at the time of a divorce. You can file the appropriate forms with your application for the final divorce order, but you must have asked for this order in your notice of claim or counterclaim. By using this procedure you can avoid a criminal record check, which is a required step in applying for a legal change of name.
Applying for a legal change of name
You must be at least 19 years old and have lived in BC (or had a permanent residence in BC) for three months, before making your application.
Making the application
You must submit a change of name application, together with certain supporting documents and the required fee. The supporting documents vary depending on your situation:
- If you were born in Canada, you must submit an original* Canadian birth certificate.
- If you were born outside Canada, you must submit certified copies of immigration and citizenship documents.
- If you were married in BC, you must submit an original BC marriage certificate.
- If you were married outside of BC or Canada, you must submit a photocopy of your marriage certificate.
You also must get a criminal record check. Within 30 days of applying for the name change, you must start the criminal record check process by having your fingerprints taken. Contact your local police or the RCMP at rcmp.gc.ca for information on getting a criminal record check.
For the application kit
For the change of name application form and information on the process, contact the Vital Statistics Agency. Call 250-952-2681 in Victoria or toll-free 1-888-876-1633 elsewhere in BC, or visit their website at gov.bc.ca/vitalstatistics.
If your name change is granted
After your legal change of name application has been processed and the name change registered, a copy of your change of name certificate will be sent to you. This will allow you to apply for other identification in your new name.
The name change will be recorded in government records. As well, if your birth or marriage is registered in BC, a note will be made on the original registration, and any later copies will be issued in your new name.
With more information
The Vital Statistics Agency is the government office that deals with change of name applications.
- Tel: 250-952-2681 in Victoria
- Toll-free: 1-888-876-1633
- Web: gov.bc.ca/vitalstatistics
The wikibook JP Boyd on Family Law, hosted by Courthouse Libraries BC, has information on naming and changes of name.
- Web: wiki.clicklaw.bc.ca
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