You asked whether the Social Security Administration (SSA) can rely on a Mexican Certificate
of Marriage showing a same-sex marriage between the number holder J~ (NH) and J2~
in the State of Nayarit, Mexico on March XX, 2017, as an acceptable legal name change
document evidencing a valid foreign same-sex marriage for purposes of changing the
NH’s last name on his Social Security Number (SSN) record.
Yes. The NH’s March 2017 Mexican Certificate of Marriage is presumed valid under the
laws of the State of Nayarit, which legalized same-sex marriage effective December
23, 2015. Therefore, for purposes of the NH’s name change request, this foreign same-sex
marriage document is acceptable evidence of a legal name change event under SSA’s
law and policy. See Program Operations Manual System (POMS) RM 10212.010, RM 10212.050.
According to the information provided, the NH, a U.S. citizen and resident of Texas,
reported to an SSA district office requesting a name change to his SSN record to the
surname of A~. The NH requested the name change based on his purported marriage to
In support of the requested name change, the NH provided SSA with a Mexican Certificate
of Marriage issued and executed by the Civil Registry of the State of Nayarit, Mexico
indicating that he entered into a marriage with J2~ on March XX, 2017 in the district
of S~, located in the municipality of B~, State of Nayarit, Mexico. In addition to
stating the date and place of marriage, the Certificate of Marriage provided by the
NH contains the personal information (name, age, place of birth, nationality, and
occupation) of the persons who married and the names of their respective parents,
and it indicates that the couple married under the rules of separate ownership (régimen
matrimonial de separación de bienes). The Certificate of Marriage also contains the
signature of a Civil Registry official, the Civil Registry’s official seal, and the
coat of arms of Mexico and the State of Nayarit.
A. Federal Law and Agency Policy: Name Changes under the Social Security Act (Act)
For SSA enumeration purposes, a legal name consists of a first name and a last name.
See POMS RM 10212.001(A). In general, the legal name of a person born in the United States (U.S.) is the
name shown on his or her U.S. birth certificate unless the person’s name has changed
based on certain events, such as a marriage. See POMS RM 10212.001(B)(1).
When a number holder applies for a replacement SSN card to reflect a name change,
SSA must determine whether the name change request is valid pursuant to federal law
and agency policy. SSA amended its regulations and policy to be more restrictive in
its requirements for changes to the SSN record due to the agency’s efforts to comply
with the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA). Pub. L.
108-458; see also POMS RM 10210.001 (explaining the history of the strengthening of SSN evidence requirements in response
to misuse of the SSN and related fraud); SSA EM-06064 (effective Oct. 2, 2006, archived
April 13, 2010) (outlining new policy for name changes based on marriage and setting
out three evidence requirements for a name change). The IRTPA required the agency
to “establish minimum standards for the verification of documents or records submitted
by an individual to establish eligibility for an original or replacement social security
card, other than for purposes of enumeration at birth.” Pub. L. 108-458, § 7213(a)(1)(B).
“The integrity of the SSN is a matter of great importance to Social Security.” POMS
RM 10210.200. “SSA is strongly committed to strengthening and improving the integrity of the enumeration
process.” POMS RM 10210.205. Accordingly, Social Security law and policy provide specific evidentiary requirements
for a name change to an individual’s SSN record.
An applicant requesting a name change to the SSN record must submit documentary evidence
that SSA regards as convincing evidence of the applicant’s identity and must submit
evidence verifying a legal name change. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 422.103(e)(2), 422.107(a), (c), 422.110(a). SSA’s POMS more specifically
instruct that an individual who is seeking to change his or her name on the SSN record
must show evidence of:
A name change event that complies with the agency’s evidence requirements detailed
for each event in RM 10212.010;
The number holder’s identity; and
The new name.
See POMS RM 10212.015.
The present request focuses on the first element, as you specifically asked whether
the foreign same-sex marriage document (the Mexican Certificate of Marriage) provided
by the NH is sufficient evidence of a name change event. We turn next to SSA’s policy
regarding acceptable name change events. See POMS RM 10212.010.
B. Agency Policy: Evidence of a Name Change Based on a Foreign Same-Sex Marriage
SSA’s POMS at RM 10212.010 sets forth an exclusive list of name change events for purposes of changing the legal
name on the SSN record. Of relevance here, a foreign marriage or foreign recognized
same-sex marriage is listed as an acceptable name change event to support a name change
on the SSN record. See POMS RM 10212.010, RM 10212.050. The POMS instructs that SSA is to “[a]ccept a foreign marriage document involving
a same-sex couple issued by a foreign government that permits same-sex marriages”
as evidence of a legal name change. POMS RM 10212.050(B).
Here, the NH has presented SSA with a marriage certificate issued by the State of
Nayarit, Mexico. SSA’s POMS provides a list of foreign countries and the date that
same-sex marriage was permitted in such countries, but has not yet addressed same-sex
marriage in the State of Nayarit, Mexico. See POMS RM 10212.050(B) (“We recognize that other jurisdictions permitting same-sex marriage may exist
and that the chart is not intended to be exhaustive.”). The POMS instructs that “[i]f
a foreign same-sex marriage document from a foreign country or jurisdiction is not
listed in the chart above, the RO should request a legal opinion from the Regional
Chief Counsel on whether the foreign same-sex marriage document is acceptable evidence
for a name change. The RCC opinion should provide the date the foreign country or
jurisdiction began permitting same-sex marriages for a name change.” Id. Thus, we turn to the State of Nayarit’s laws on same-sex marriage and sufficient
evidence of marriage to determine whether the marriage is proper and if so, whether
the certificate comports with Nayarit’s laws for establishing a valid marriage between
the NH and J2~.
C. Foreign Law: Valid Same-Sex Marriage Under State of Nayarit, Mexico’s Law
1. State of Nayarit, Mexico’s Law: Same-Sex Marriage Was Legalized December 23, 2015
Nayarit is a state in Mexico headed by a governor and unicameral legislature. A decree
promulgated in December 2015 amended the Civil Code of Nayarit, making same-sex marriage
legal in the State of Nayarit. Article 135 of the Code, as amended, states as follows:
“Marriage is civil contract by which two people unite in a social relationship to
achieve life in common, seeking between both respect, equality, and mutual aid.” The
amending Decree making same-sex marriage legal was published in Nayarit’s official
gazette on December 22, 2015. The amending Decree came into force the following day,
December 23, 2015. The Decree also amended a number of articles of the Code related
to domestic relations, replacing the previous terms of “man and woman” with the term
“persons” and substituting the terms “husband and wife” with the term “spouses”. Thus,
effective December 23, 2015, same-sex marriage is legal in the State of Nayarit, Mexico.
2. State of Nayarit Law on Establishing a Valid Marriage and Marriage Registration
The State of Nayarit’s regulations on marriage registration are contained in its Civil
Code. The Civil Code of Nayarit provides that the civil status of individuals may
only be proved by certifications issued by the State of Nayarit’s Civil Registry.
No other document or evidence is admissible to prove the civil status of people, except
those cases expressly stated in the law. The Civil Code of Nayarit also grants the
records of the Civil Registry a legal presumption of validity unless those records
are successfully challenged in court.
Similarly, a provision of the State of Nayarit’s Code of Civil Procedure grants a
legal presumption of authenticity to public documents, defined as those documents
whose creation is entrusted by the law to public servants covered with legal authority
and those issued by public servants in the exercise of their functions—for instance,
the certificates of the Civil Registry.
3. The NH’s Mexican Marriage Certificate is Evidence of a Valid Marriage
As discussed above, SSA accepts foreign recognized same-sex marriages as the basis
for a name change. See POMS RM 10212.010. Additionally, for name change requests to the SSN record, SSA will accept foreign
marriage documents involving same-sex couples issued by a foreign government that
permits same-sex marriages. See POMS 10212.050(B). As established, the State of Nayarit began permitting same-sex
marriages in December 2015. Thus, the pertinent remaining question is whether the
March 2017 Mexican Certificate of Marriage provided by the NH comports with the State
of Nayarit’s laws for marriage registration and establishing a valid marriage.
The Certificate of Marriage was issued March XX, 2017, and identifies the bride and
groom as J2~ and J~. The Certificate of Marriage was issued and executed by the State
of Nayarit’s Civil Registry, and it specifically includes the signature of an official
of the Civil Registry as well as the Civil Registry’s official seal. As discussed
above, under Nayarit law, the civil status of people is proved solely by such certifications
issued by the Civil Registry. In addition, both the Civil Code of Nayarit and the
State of Nayarit’s Code of Civil Procedure grant a legal presumption of validity/authenticity
to public documents, including certificates of the Civil Registry such as the NH’s
Certificate of Marriage.
Thus, the NH’s March 2017 Mexican Certificate of Marriage is presumed valid under
the laws of the State of Nayarit and therefore, we believe that the agency may find
that it is acceptable as a name change document evidencing a legal name change event
under SSA’s law and policy.
The NH’s March 2017 Mexican Certificate of Marriage is valid under the laws of the
State of Nayarit, Mexico, which legalized same-sex marriage effective December 23,
2015. Thus, for purposes of the NH’s name change request, this foreign same-sex marriage
document is an acceptable name change document evidencing a legal name change event
under SSA’s law and policy for name changes to the SSN record.