Adventures in Name Changing

There are not many major life decisions my 8-year-old self got to make. In fact, there were three:

1. I would be married someday
2. I would marry a person whose last name was further toward the beginning of the alphabet
3. I would change my name to my spouse’s last name, so that I too could move up in the alphabetic lists, and enjoy all of the benefits that must come with it (such as being called first to present and getting first pick of gym and classroom equipment)!

And lo! I succeeded! I bagged myself a husband whose name starts with “Wa”, instead of my original “Wi”. I have also learned that my 8-year-old self needed to be much more specific in her demands of the universe, or more generally, to be careful what you as for as you just may get it.

Knowing now that being ruled by the alphabetic list doesn’t extend much past elementary school I don’t really have any logistical need to change my name, but have decided to stick to the principle of following through on what I asked for those many years ago, and become a fully-fledged Watkiss.

And it has not been nearly as difficult or expensive as other name-changing escapades I’ve read about. Perhaps it only seemed easy because I’d steeled myself for the worst. Nonetheless, if you’re changing your name in BC, here’s a handy guide to make it go as smoothly as my name-change has.

First, the Legal Name-Use Rules

According to the BC Vital Statistics Agency (scroll down to the bottom), “after marriage, you can continue using or choose to use your own surname at any time. You also gain the right to use your spouse’s surname. This does not result in a legal change of name or any automatic change to your identification records.”

So this means your Birth Certificate and Marriage License will continue to have your original birth surname on them. It also means that if you ever decide to revert to your original birth surname, you can use your birth certificate to go through the exact same processes to change it back. You never lose the right to use your birth surname or that of anyone you’ve ever been legally married to.

Also from the BC VSA, “if you choose to use hyphenated surnames, a legal Change of Name is required.” The Legal Change of Name also applies to creating a new family surname, or changing the rest of your name in any way (I know in some circles it’s popular to go from “First Middle Maiden” to “First Maiden Married”. And of course, this entire entry only applies to legal residents of British Columbia, Canada.

Name Changing in BC, Step by Step

Note: If you are disorganized or prone to losing things, have two notarized copies made of your marriage certificate, and put the original in a safe place. Carry those around with you for showing/faxing. This is not the voice of experience talking, but losing government documents like that seems like a bad idea and annoying to replace.

1. Go get a new driver’s license (or BCID card). I lucked out with this one, and happened into icbc driver’s services when there was basically no lineup. Show the agent your existing license and marriage certificate. They’ll issue a duplicate license in your married name and – depending on the mood of the agent – may let you take a new picture (otherwise the license will be issued with the picture already on file). This duplicate license should cost you a whopping $17, and will expire on the same date as your existing license (so you don’t get any extra time before you shell out another $75 for your $17). At this point you’ll be issued a paper temporary license in your new name. The new license will arrive within a week or so.

2. Immediately change one credit card. Then the next, then the ones after that. This may apply more to me than you, but I routinely travel to the US, where the rule seems to be to ask for ID with a credit card purchase, so it was important to have ID that matched one of my cards at all times. Phone your card company’s customer service line and ask what their name-change policy is. I found most of the time I had to write a short note with my card number, old name & signature and new name & signature, and fax that with a copy of my marriage license. New cards showed up in the mail about a week later. Do note (especially if you have pre-authorized payments on them) the new cards often came with new card numbers – making the old card invalid. This is why I advocate changing one credit card at a time.

3. Change your banking information. This one was easy – I wandered into the branch with my marriage certificate (and spanky new ID that they needed to see) and asked them to change my name in their records. I had to fill out a short form, and that was it. My bank happens to do personalized debit cards, so I also received a temporary card while I was there, because (you guessed it) my old-name card was cut up as soon as my name was changed. The new card showed up in the mail a week later. Also remember to order new cheques (if you have any use for them) while you’re there. Keep in mind if you use a virtual bank like ING Direct or PC Financial that their debit card name-change processes will likely be similar to that of the credit cards (meaning you’re without the use of your card for a week or so while the old one is invalidated and the new one is on its way). Make sure you always have a valid way to access funds you may need during that time.

4. Care Card. Another easy one – the BC MSP webpage has two forms to fill out, depending on your situation. If your employer covers your BC MSP premiums, fill out a group change form and submit that with a copy of your marriage certificate to the person in your office who deals with such things. If you cover your own premiums, fill out a replacement card request and send that to MSP directly with a copy of your marriage certificate. I fall under the former, and as far as I know, there was no cost to do this. I got a new card in the mail in about 7 business days.

5. Update your passport (if you dare). This was the one big name-change financial hit I took. Passport Canada recently changed their regulations so that you may no longer have an addendum added to your passport with your married name. If you’d like to have a passport with your new name on it, you must fork out the $84 for a new passport, regardless of when your current one expires, at which point you have a new renewal date 5 more years out. Of course because you retain the right to use your birth name (or whatever name you have on your passport), you don’t actually have to change it until your renewal time comes up (or ever). Just remember to book all airline tickets under the name in your passport – if they don’t match, you don’t get on the plane (marriage certificate or no – and yes, I honeymooned under my maiden name). I didn’t (still don’t) want the confusion of operating under two somewhat obscure last names, so I decided to change it right away. When you do change it, all you need is your completed and guarantored application, pictures and ID with your signature in your new name (so even your yellow paper driver’s license will work). I didn’t actually need my marriage certificate.

6 (and beyond). After that, my system was to just dig out all the cards in my wallet and collect pieces of mail I received with my old name on them, and work my way through the changes whenever I had a bit of time. Of course, nobody is consistent in their requirements, so I’ve become awfully adept at navigating customer service phone systems. Most places will accept a note and copy of the marriage certificate by fax. Some (Rogers Wireless, MBNA Mastercard) will just take my word for it over the phone, after answering my security questions. Others (Airmiles, Aeroplan) are far too anal retentive and self-important for their own good, and will require a letter or form and copy of the marriage certificate through snail mail.

A couple things I haven’t ventured into changing yet are my social insurance number and my Nexus card. Service Canada claims on their website that it’s as easy as wandering down to a Service Canada office with my ID and marriage certificate, and they’ll initiate the change. Nexus is completely vague and says I must just show up at their office at the airport during business hours – and considering I try to avoid the airport like the plague between 8am and 6pm, I haven’t been brave enough to do it yet. I do have a flight coming up that leaves midday (flying direct trumps flying when nobody else does), so I may attempt it in a month or so.

When I was hunting for name change info, I didn’t see any comprehensive local-to-BC guides, so I’m hoping this might help others find what I’d been looking for. Also, I’m sure there are things I’ve missed or that just don’t apply to me so I didn’t think of them – so please leave additional info in the comments!

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11 thoughts on “Adventures in Name Changing

  1. Donna

    Waaait a sec…

    “You never lose the right to use your birth surname or that of anyone you’ve ever been legally married to.”

    So does that mean that if my mother felt like it, she could use “Jaggard” again, despite having divorced my father 27 years ago, and having been married twice since then (and having changed her name each of those times as well?)

    Huh. Not that I can imagine her WANTING to (you wouldn’t think it’s that hard to spell, but nobody ever gets it right… messy divorce aside) but… huh. Interesting.

  2. Riann

    Interesting and informative. However, I’m still too lazy. Besides “B” trumps “L” in any alphabet games. 🙂

  3. peechie Post author

    Donna: from what I understand, yes. Or at least, this is what I’m assuming, since there is no requirement to give up the use of a spouse’s name upon divorce. As far as I know, as long as she has a valid marriage certificate saying she married a Jaggard, she can use that name.

    Riann: damn you and your B!

  4. jen

    Thanks for the info! Having just renewed my passport in my maiden name I’m going to wait a while to change everything over legally, but I have been using Closs more and more, which is actually more of a headache than I thought it would be since I always forget which name I’ve used when making reservations, etc. I laughed when I read what you wrote about jumping up in the alphabet because I felt the same way, although ‘R’ isn’t as far down as ‘W’, the thought of jumping up to ‘C’ was exciting, but really it hasn’t affected me since elementary school so no biggie. 🙂

  5. Brook

    Not only does she have a “B” it’s a “Ba”. I like my “L”. I’m always in the middle, regardless if it’s good or bad, or even if they switch it up and go reverse alphabetical.

  6. Sue

    I agree with Brook! I went backwards in the alphabet so I could be closer to the middle, actually. I like the L much better than the G. Although, you can do more interesting things with a G in a monogram. I wouldn’t pass up being slow for the world though. *giggle*

  7. Crissy

    Thanks Jen!

    I’m thinking of adding my hubby’s surname as a middle name shortly before my passport expires, so now I have your handy-dandy posting as a reference tool! 🙂

  8. Pingback: Why Did You Change or Keep Your Name When You Got Married?

  9. gillian

    My stepdad’s wife kept his name years, years, years after they separated. I’m not even sure if she took her second husband’s name when they married. I don’t know why she did it, especially since she left my stepdad, as opposed to the other way around.

    My mom started her career at a local college with my father’s name (still married to him), then her maiden name upon divorce, and then sort of interchangeably that with my stepdad’s name after they married. At one point her bosses held a meeting and told her she’d have to pick one name and stick to it, because it was getting confusing.

  10. peechie Post author

    I think everyone’s reasons for changing (or not) their name are intensely personal, I’m really just aiming for a lack of confusion. Above all else, I wanted to pick a name and stick with it.

  11. gillian

    On the off-chance that I do marry, I can’t see myself changing my name, unless my husband’s was really cool (like “Flash” or “Hugencoken”). You can’t really beat GG for initials, plus my last name has “gun” in it which is hard to beat for awesomeness.

    It seems like an awful lot of work, going to the trouble of a name change. Like, more so than getting married.

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