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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 or divorce decree issued by the court
  • Court Order
  • Adoption records

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.

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

Another common scenario is that a proof of identity document (birth certificate or passport) 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.

However, REAL ID regulations require that your full legal name (not middle initial) is shown on your REAL ID driver's license or photo ID card. If your current driver's license or photo ID only includes your middle initial, PennDOT staff will be required to process a name change so that your full legal name is reflected on your REAL ID product.

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