QUESTION PRESENTED AND BRIEF ANSWER
Question: On August 18, 2011, you asked whether the agency is permitted to process a first
name change for NH S (SSN ) based upon a Commonwealth of Virginia certificate of marriage.
Answer: We have concluded that the agency should not recognize a marriage as a valid name
change event in Virginia for a NH wishing to change her first name because Virginia
does not have a statute that expressly allows a first name to be changed in the event
The NH was born “S She married C in Virginia on June. On March 30, 2006, the NH formally
changed her name with the agency to “S.”  She currently resides in California.
On August 15, 2011, the NH filed an SS-5 Application to change her name from “S ”
to “T.” To support the name change, the NH submitted a copy of her Commonwealth of
Virginia Certificate of Marriage, dated June 6, 1997, and a Commonwealth of Virginia
Marriage Register as proof of her marriage to Christopher. The marriage document does
not specify the new name to be used by the NH.
Because the marriage took place more than two years ago, the NH submitted the following
evidence of identity in addition to her marriage document. See Program Operations Manual System (POMS) Record Maintenance (RM) RM 10212.015D (marriage document may only be used as evidence of identity if the marriage occurred
within past two years), RM 10212.020C (where the marriage took place over two years ago, NH must submit evidence of identity
in addition to the marriage document). The NH submitted her birth certificate in the
name of “S.;” her expired Virginia driver’s license in the name of “T;” her current
United States passport in the name of “T;” and her current military identification
card in the name of “T.”  NH’s current California driver’s license, however, is in the name of “Sara.”
We are not aware of any further documentation that she presented with her request.
We are also not aware of the NH providing any evidence of a legal name change from
“S” to “T.”
General Agency Name Change Procedure
The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act requires the agency to “establish
minimum standards for verification of documents or records submitted by an individual
to establish eligibility for an original or replacement social security card.” See Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, Pub. L. No. 108-458, §
POMS RM 10210.001, RM 10210.405. The POMS directs the agency not to process a name change application unless the
application is submitted with evidence of a legal name change.
POMS RM 10212.165. Marriage is a recognized name change event. See
POMS RM 10212.010 (setting forth list of recognized name change events, i.e., marriage, divorce, naturalization, court ordered name change, amended birth certificate),
Therefore, under current agency policy, the agency will not honor a request to change
a name based merely on a common law right to use a new name. See POMS RM 10212.015. The individual must show evidence of a name change event, evidence of a new name,
and evidence of the NH’s identity. See id. The POMS provides the illustration of a fictional NH,
Agnes, who requested a replacement card in the name “Annette.”
See POMS RM 10212.165H. In support of her application, Agnes did not provide any evidence of a legal name
change to “Annette ,” but her current state identity card showed her name as “Annette
.” Id. The agency denied Agnes’s request to change her first name because she did not submit
a name change document showing that she legally changed her first name. Id.
Agency Name Change Based Upon A Marriage Document
The POMS directs the agency to accept a name change document based on marriage as
evidence of the new name to be shown on the social security number card, if the new
name can be derived from the document. See POMS RM 10212.055. The POMS then qualifies the prior statement and provides a list of acceptable changes
to the last name, i.e., the bride takes the groom’s last name, or the groom takes the bride’s last name.
Id. Next, the POMS lists an exception to this rule with respect to an entirely new first
and last name. POMS RM 10212.055B (Exception). Per Regional Chief Counsel Precedent, an entirely new first and last
name as shown on the name change document can be accepted as evidence of a change
to both the first and last name where there is a state statute that expressly allows
a person to choose an entirely new first and last name in the event of marriage. Id.
For example, Region VII previously addressed a similar issue and advised that a first
name change should be analyzed under the relevant state’s statute, as indicated in
the exception above. See POMS PR 02712.055. Region VII’s memorandum points out that a first name may be changed if the state
statute expressly allows for such a change. Id. 
The prior version of the POMS included section RM 00203.210B.1, which expressly stated that for United States residents, a legal name change based
on a United States marriage is dependent upon the laws of the State where the marriage
occurred. Recently, this POMS section was archived and replaced with RM 10212.000, et seq. Current section RM 10212.055 does not make such an explicit statement, but continues to cite to Regional Chief
Counsel Precedent, some of which relied upon RM 00203.210B.1. Because the NH’s marriage occurred in Virginia, we have analyzed this issue under
The Marriage Document Does Not Support NH’s Request To Change Her First Name Under
You have asked whether a NH may change her first name when the name change event is
a marriage in Virginia. According to the POMS, all states recognize the validity of
opposite-sex marriages performed in other states; therefore, when a person marries
in one state and applies in another state to change her name on the agency record,
the agency is to assume the marriage is recognized. See POMS RM 10212.025. However, when a legal opinion precedent is required to determine whether the document
submitted is acceptable for a name change, the agency does not follow common law.
See POMS RM 10212.015. Rather, the agency generally follows statutory law. Id.
The Virginia Change of Name statute does not expressly allow or disallow a couple
to take an entirely new name. Va Code Ann. § 8.01-217 (West 2011). The sole reference
in the statute to a name change based upon marriage is that a court order “shall not
be required of a person who changed his or her former name by reason of marriage and
who makes application to resume a former name pursuant to § 20-121.4 [Restoration
of Former Name].” The NH would be unable to change her first name under Virginia law
by virtue of the marriage, as the Virginia statute does not expressly allow for such
a name change. Id. Therefore, the exception in
POMS RM 10212.055B does not apply.
The agency should not recognize the NH’s marriage as a valid name change event in
Virginia with respect to her first name because Virginia does not have a statute that
expressly provides for such a change in the event of marriage, and therefore the exception
set forth in POMS RM 10212.055B does not apply.
Eric P. Kressman
Regional Chief Counsel,
Region III By:________________
Katie M. Gaughan
Assistant Regional Counsel