TN 18 (04-20)
Date: February 13, 2020
For enumeration purposes, a Bahamian marriage document is not acceptable evidence
of a legal name change event. Applicant must provide acceptable evidence of a legal
name change such as a U.S. marriage document or U.S. court order (for addition information
see chart in RM 10212.010).
a. Question Presented
You requested a legal opinion regarding whether a Bahamian Maritime marriage document
can serve as evidence of a name change for the purpose of processing a replacement
Social Security Number (SSN) card application for E~ K~.
No, the Bahamian Maritime marriage document does not constitute acceptable evidence
of a name change under Social Security Administration (SSA) policy.
In September 20XX, Ms. K~, a resident of Indiana, submitted an application for a replacement
SSN card. She requested that her surname be changed to “N~,” based on her marriage
We were provided a photocopy of Ms. K~’s marriage certificate. The certificate described
a July, 20XX marriage ceremony between Ms. K~. and Mr. N~. aboard the ship Allure of
the Seas in Bahamian waters (coordinates 22°31.8’N, 077°58.4’W). According to the certificate,
the ceremony was officiated by Master R~ H~ and was witnessed by S~ L~ and N~ F~.
This document indicated that it was a “true Copy of an Entry in the Register of Maritime
Marriages” and a public document issued by the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. The marriage
certificate was signed by S~ R~, Acting Assistant Registrar General of the Commonwealth
of The Bahamas, and certified by O~ W~-S~, First Assistant Secretary Ministry of Foreign
Affairs of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
Social Security regulations provide that a number holder may request a change in personal
identifying information, including the name, on his or her SSN card. See 20 C.F.R. § 422.110. Specifically, to process a name change on the SSN, SSA must
obtain evidence of: 1) a name change event; 2) the new name; and 3) the number holder’s
identity as shown on the latest Numident record. POMS RM 10212.015. When the name change event is a foreign marriage, foreign marriage documents must be evaluated under the guidelines for reviewing
SSN evidence in POMS RM 10210.210, as well as those for evaluating foreign evidence in POMS GN 00307.000. See POMS RM 10212.010, RM 10212.050.
The POMS section governing evidence from The Bahamas states that SSA does not accept
evidence from The Bahamas “at face value,” because such evidence is not reliable.
POMS GN 00307.440. In particular, this section indicates that Bahamian “marriage records
have relatively few security features and are easy to forge.” POMS GN 00307.440A. This section further instructs:
Do not ask the claimant to submit evidence from the Bahamas. Develop for secondary
non-Bahamian evidence or other non-Bahamian evidence. Obtain evidence issued at least
five years before the claimant first filed for benefits. If the event occurred less
than five years before the claimant first filed for benefits,obtain evidence issued
as close to the event date as possible.
POMS GN 00307.440C.2.
In addition, agency policy provides that when a document is determined to be unacceptable
evidence of a name change, SSA will attempt to obtain “available evidence of the highest
probative value based on the SSN requirement factors for evidence.” POMS RM 10210.210 (“Step 2”). As a result, an applicant who wishes to change the name on his or her
SSN based on a Bahamian marriage may have to provide another document that is acceptable
evidence of a name change event, based on an event listed in POMS RM 10212.010.
In this case, Ms. K~ submitted a marriage certificate from The Bahamas in support
of her request for a name change on her SSN. However, because this document is Bahamian
evidence, it is not an acceptable name change document under SSA policy. POMS GN 00307.440B.
We were not given any information as to whether the Field Office has developed for
secondary or other non-Bahamian evidence of Ms. K~’s name change. POMS GN 00307.440C.2.
Thus, based on the materials provided, we do not believe there is sufficient evidence
of a name change event as required to process Ms. K~’s name change.
We note that there appear to be other ways that Ms. K~ may change the name on her
SSN card. See POMS RM 10212.010. For example, she may obtain a U.S. court order of name change. See POMS RM 10212.080, RM 10212.085. In Indiana, certain courts may change an individual’s name upon petition, provided
he or she is not confined to a department of correction facility or a lifetime sex
or violent offender (unless certain other circumstances apply). See Indiana Code §§ 34-28-2-1, 34-28-2-1.5. Alternatively, Ms. K~ may 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 RM 10212.015D.
For the reasons discussed above, we conclude that the marriage certificate provided
is not acceptable evidence of a name change under SSA policy.
Regional Chief Counsel
Eric Y ~
Assistant Regional Counsel