Name Changes and REAL ID
Federal REAL ID regulations require that if your current full legal name is different than what is shown on your proof of identity document (usually a birth certificate or passport), you must show legal documentation of the change to PennDOT when applying for a REAL ID.
If your current full legal name is the same as what is reflected on your proof of identity document – for example, if your passport reflects your married name – you do NOT need to show proof of name change.
Documents that you provide MUST be originals or certified copies. Photocopies, notarized photocopies and non-certified copies are not acceptable.
Types of Name Changes
If your proof of identity document doesn't reflect your current full legal name, you must present documentation of any name change(s).
Acceptable documents showing a name change include:
- Certified marriage certificate issued by the county court where your marriage license was processed
- Court Order
- Adoption records
- Amended, certified birth certificate issued by government Office of Vital Statistics/Records with a raised/embossed seal
Maiden Name Changes
If your full legal name has changed as a result of marriage and is not reflected on your proof of identity document (birth certificate or passport), then you must show legal documentation of the change.
Please note that marriage certificates will ONLY be accepted if they are:
- Originals or certified copies (no photocopies)
- Issued by a county court
Commemorative marriage certificates signed by a clergyperson or other officiant are NOT acceptable for REAL ID.
Marriage licenses are not acceptable for REAL ID either. A marriage license is a government document that you'll need to get approved before you get married. A marriage license is like an application to get married and means you are allowed to get married, not that you are married. A marriage certificate is the actual government and public record that proves a couple is legally married.
If you took your maiden name as your middle name and your spouse's last name as your last name (example: you went from Jane Marie Smith to Jane Smith Johnson), please make sure that your documents reflect a logical connection between names.
For example, if your birth certificate shows "Jane Marie Smith" and your certified marriage certificate shows that Jane Smith married Fred Johnson and your other documents (social security card, proofs of residency) reflect Jane Smith Johnson, that would be considered a logical connection between names.
In Pennsylvania, marriage certificates are issued from the county Orphans' or Family Court
. If you were married outside Pennsylvania, contact the vital records office
in the state where you were married for instructions on how to request a certified copy of your marriage certificate and information on any fees.
Even though the guidelines vary by state, all requests should include:
- Full names of both spouses at time of marriage
- Month, day, and year of the marriage
- Place of marriage (city or town, county, and state)
- Purpose for which copy of marriage certificate is needed
- Relationship to persons whose marriage certificate is being requested
- Daytime telephone number (include area code)
Middle Names vs. Middle Initials
REAL ID regulations require that your full legal name be shown on your REAL ID driver's license or photo ID card. The starting point for establishing a full legal name is what is on your proof of identity document (usually a birth certificate or passport) and that name will be spelled out in full on your REAL ID unless legal documentation covering a change of name is provided.
A common scenario is that a proof of identity document (birth certificate, Naturalization Certificate, etc.) will show a person's full legal name, but subsequent documents (social security card, proof of residency) will only show a middle initial. As long as the middle initial on the subsequent documents is the same as the first initial of your middle name as reflected on your proof of identity document, it is acceptable for REAL ID. For example, if your birth certificate shows "John James Doe" and your social security card and proofs of residency show "John J. Doe," this is acceptable for the purposes of REAL ID verification and PennDOT staff will be required to process a name change so that your full legal name – John James Doe – is reflected on your REAL ID product.
A second scenario is that your proof of identity document, in this case a passport, shows your name with an initial and one or more of your other presented documents (social security card, proof of residency) shows that name spelled out in full. This is acceptable so long as the initial on the passport matches the first letter on the applicable name on the other document; i.e., the passport shows "Mary J Doe" and the social security card or residency proof shows "Mary Josephine Doe". The name on the REAL ID in this case will correspond to what is on the passport – Mary J Doe – as the passport was our starting point in establishing the full legal name.
Confirmation Names or Other Additional Names
If you use a confirmation name or another name as your middle name that is not reflected on your proof of identity document (birth certificate or passport) and you do not have legal documentation – such as a court order – reflecting the name change, it will not be acceptable for REAL ID, per federal regulations.
This applies even if your social security card and proof of residency documents show your confirmation/other additional name.
If this scenario applies to you, you have a few options:
- If you are willing to remove the confirmation/other additional name, you will need to change your name on the other applicable documents (social security card, proofs of residency, etc.) so that the full legal name on your REAL ID reflects the name on your proof of identity document.
- If you want to keep your confirmation/other additional name, you will need to get your name legally changed through your county's prothonotary office.
My Name Has Changed Since I Got a REAL ID. How Will
This Affect My REAL ID?
REAL ID products must show your current, full legal name. Any changes to your name need to be added to our records and your
REAL ID product reissued. Legal documentation showing the name change (i.e., a certified marriage certificate issued by a
county court or a court order) along with an updated Social Security card showing your new legal name must be presented at a driver license center to record the name change and update your record. Please bring your current REAL ID along with you to the driver license center as it will
be taken and voided; this is because individuals can only have one REAL ID product in their possession. A replacement license/
identification card will have to be generated with your new name. A new picture will need to be taken of you and a replacement
fee charged to get you your new REAL ID product.
If you need to update your social security card to reflect your new name, please visit this page of the SSA's website to find out how
to do so.