Ask LH: Will It Be A Hassle To Change My Name?

Hi Lifehacker, I have recently relocated to Australia and I’m faced with a strange problem with my name. I have a first name which I do not use — my middle name is my preferred name. My question is how easy is it to change my name, and what are the consequences of having some documents with my full name and some with my preferred name? Thanks, Name Game

Dear NG,

Changing your name in Australia is a relatively straightforward procedure. Most women will legally change their surname to that of their spouse when they marry, for example. Many will also revert back to their ‘maiden’ name if they happen to divorce. In other words, it happens in this country a lot!

Changing your name for reasons outside of marriage is less common, but the steps involved aren’t too complicated. You can legally change your first name, middle name(s), surname, or any combination of these. There are however, a few extra hurdles to cross for people who were born overseas.

To register a change of name, you need to apply to the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages department in your state. You can find out about the specific steps involved via the following links:

The first thing to do is check if you are eligible to change your name in your state/territory. It’s important to note that different rules and restrictions apply for each state. For example, in NSW a person who was born overseas needs to have lived in NSW for three consecutive years before they can apply to change their name. In South Australia though, the wait for residents born overseas is only three months.

You might also be required to supply an English translation of your birth certificate and any other supporting documents. This must be done by an accredited qualified translator which you’ll need to pay for yourself. You need to pay a Change of Name Certificate fee as well, which varies from state to state but generally falls within the region of $150.

While you could conceivably keep using existing documents with your old name it’s generally less hassle in the long run to change these over too. Once you have received your Change of Name Certificate, you can start changing your name on your identification documents such as your drivers licence and passport. Naturally, this will involve additional fees; if you have lots of frequently used documents it can end up being quite costly but the end result will be worth it. To avoid confusion, you should also register the name change with any organisations you’re affiliated with, including websites.

In the meantime, hold onto your name change document to explain why older documents differ. Good luck!


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