You requested a legal opinion regarding whether the Social Security Administration
(SSA) should approve K~’s request for a replacement social security number (SSN) card
based on a name change due to marriage. K~ presented as evidence of her name change
a Nigerian marriage certificate.
SSA should not approve K~’s request for a replacement SSN card, because a Nigerian
marriage document is not an acceptable name change document under SSA policy. As a
result, if K~ still wishes to change her name on her SSN, she will need to submit
another document that is acceptable evidence of a name change, as well as meet the
other requirements for processing a name change on the SSN.
K~ is a resident of Wisconsin. On March XX, 2017, she married O~ in Lagos, Nigeria.
A Certificate of Marriage was issued by the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Ministry
On March XX, 2017, K~ visited the R~, Wisconsin Field Office and requested a replacement
SSN card reflecting her married surname, based on her marriage to O~. In support of
her request, K~ submitted the Nigerian marriage certificate, a Wisconsin driver’s
license, a United States passport, and a Nigerian visa. The name listed on the passport
and visa is K~. We were unable to read the name listed on the driver’s license due
to the poor quality of the copied image.
In order to obtain a name change on a number holder’s SSN, the number holder must
submit evidence of the name change event, the new name, and the number holder’s identity
as shown on the latest Numident record. See POMS RM 10212.015. Where, as here, the name change event is a foreign marriage, agency policy instructs
that all foreign marriage documents must be evaluated under the guidelines on reviewing
SSN evidence. Specifically, SSA will accept a foreign marriage document that meets
the SSN evidence guidelines as evidence of a name change. See POMS RM 10212.050A.
The POMS provision governing evidence from Nigeria states that SSA does not accept
evidence of vital statistics events from Nigeria at face value, because vital statistics
records from Nigeria are unreliable and not sufficient evidence of a vital statistics
event. See POMS GN 00307.727B. We consulted with the Office of Program Law and were informed
that the Office of International Policy (OIP) is responsible for maintaining the POMS
on foreign evidence, and engages in a substantial amount of development with the Foreign
Service Post before making decisions. OIP revisits the POMS on foreign evidence every
3-5 years to reassess whether the evidence standards for particular countries have
changed. Thus, unless and until OIP changes the policy regarding Nigerian evidence,
a Nigerian marriage document is inadequate evidence of a name change for enumeration
When a document is determined to be unacceptable, SSA must ask the applicant to provide
other documentation. See POMS RM 10210.210 (step 2). As a result, an applicant who wishes to change her name on her SSN based
on a Nigerian marriage may have to provide another document that is acceptable evidence
of a name change, based on an event listed in POMS RM 10212.010.
Here, K~ submitted a Certificate of Marriage from Nigeria in support of her request
for a name change on her SSN. As discussed above, this document does not meet the
SSN evidence guidelines as evidence of a name change. Therefore, it is not an acceptable
name change document under SSA policy. If K~ still wishes to change her name on her
SSN, she may obtain a U.S. court order of name change. See POMS RM 10212.080, RM 10212.085. Wisconsin law provides that any resident of the state (except for sex offenders)
may, if no sufficient cause is shown to the contrary, have her name changed by order
of the court. See Wis. Stat. § 786.36. Alternatively, K~ may be able to obtain a U.S. marriage certificate.
See POMS RM 10212.025, RM 10212.055. She would also need to submit evidence of her identity, as required by POMS RI 10212.015D.
For the reasons discussed above, we conclude that SSA should not approve K~’s request
for a replacement SSN card based on a name change resulting from her marriage in Nigeria.
Specifically, the Nigerian marriage document she submitted is not an acceptable name
change document under SSA policy.
Regional Chief Counsel, Region V
By Cristine Bautista