Name Corrections & Legal Name Changes in the Naturalization Process
Sometimes a foreign national’s name will be spelled incorrectly on immigration documents, such as their green card. You can correct the spelling of the name on your green card by requesting a correction on an Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card (Form I-90). This involves paying a fee. You may not need to pay a fee if you correct your name during the naturalization process. Another option involves going to court to legally change your name.
Wait to Change
It may not be worth changing a name error on a green card if the individual plans to apply for naturalization.
You can indicate a name change on Form N-400, which is the main form for naturalization. Even if you do not ask for a name change at this point, you can ask to file a Petition for Name Change at your USCIS interview. If USCIS grants your application for citizenship, you can change your name if you attend a naturalization swearing-in ceremony in court. You will get a certificate to show that your name was legally changed, and the correct name will appear on your Certificate of Naturalization. If you do not go through a naturalization ceremony in court, USCIS can use the correct name on the Certificate of Naturalization, but you will not be able to change your legal name unless you go to court.
Correcting Errors on the Certificate of Citizenship
If you have citizenship automatically through a U.S. citizen parent, you can ask for a Certificate of Citizenship to help you correct errors in how your name was spelled on certain official documents. These may include your birth certificate or records of asylum or refugee status. You cannot choose a new name when you get a Certificate of Citizenship, but you can use it to correct an error in the spelling of the name.
When you submit Form N-600 to ask for the Certificate of Citizenship, you must ask for the correction in a cover letter attached to the application. (You should use your current name on Form N-600, even if it is misspelled.) If appropriate, you can supplement your request with an affidavit from a parent or guardian who can explain the mistake and corroborate the request. You can submit other evidence of the error as well.
USCIS may be reluctant to accept certain types of corrections, so you may need to provide alternatives from which it can choose. You may be able to get your name partly corrected or changed to a form that is more similar to your actual name, even if it is not fully corrected. The extent of the correction may depend on the strength of your proof for the error. Sometimes including proof of a parent’s name change or correction can make a difference.
Proof of Other Changes
Evidence supporting the change may include proof of the same correction granted by USCIS to another family member, such as correcting the spelling of a shared last name.
Going to Court for a Name Change
If you cannot persuade USCIS to change or correct your name, you can pursue a separate court proceeding in a state or local court. You may have some limits on what you can choose for your new name, but these should not pose a challenge if you are simply trying to correct the spelling of your name. You probably do not need a lawyer to get a name change, since this is a relatively informal process. Community organizations may give you advice on how to seek a legal name change on your own.