What’s in a name?

How to legally change your name in San Francisco, CA

I had a secret. One that bars, restaurants, and official mail tried to out on a daily basis. When someone would catch it, perhaps on my driver’s license, they would scoff and claim I wasn’t being authentic. It wasn’t earth shattering, but it didn’t feel good.

In the fourth grade, I realized I had the power to define who I was. I had moved into a small town the year before and accepted my place as a weirdo, an outsider. At the time I practiced spelling my name, Lindsay, a variety of ways until finally landing on Linzi. I have used that spelling for over 20 years, but people’s reaction when they find out it’s not ‘real’ is always the same. They don’t like to be “tricked” and I was tired of “tricking” them.

My plan was to change my name after getting married, so that I didn’t have to change all of my documents twice & save some dough. Here’s what I learned so that you don’t have to:

Just changing your last name after getting married is a cake walk — skip ahead to Social Security Administration. If you want to change your first, middle, or last name (unrelated to marriage) follow these steps.

Day 1

The Superior Court of California, ACCESS Center

400 McAllister St. Room 509— $0.00 (Free)
Use the very nice workers in the ACCESS Center to help you fill out the paperwork properly, for free. They have the forms (you don’t need to bring them) & they will make 3 copies after they’re filled out. It took me just about 45 minutes from start to finish, I recommend getting there when they open at 8:30am.

The Superior Court of California, Civil Clerk’s Office

400 McAllister St. Room 103— $450.00
Filing is the fastest part of this process… and the most expensive. Give them your paperwork & $450.00. They will stamp your copies (you get 2 back) and give you a court date around 2 months out.

The Bay Area Reporter

44 Gough St. Suite 204 —$60.00
 It is a short 10–15 minute walk from the courthouse to the newspaper. The entrance is locked, ring the doorbell & they’ll let you up. You have to run your name change announcement and court date in the local newspaper for 4 weeks. I chose The Bay Area Reporter because it was the cheapest, $60.00. Once the announcement has ran, they send you and the court a proof of publication.

San Francisco DMV (Online)

Appointments at the DMV are typically 3 months out from the current date. As soon as you file your paperwork, make an appointment with the DMV online.

2 Months Later

The Superior Court of California, Court

400 McAllister St. Room ? — Free
This part is incredibly anti-climatic. All you need is a current ID for verification (because the newspaper sent the proof of publication for you.) Check in & double-check your new name spelling with the judge. Sit and wait for 5–10 minutes to see if anyone will show up to contest your name change. Next thing you know, you’re picking up your approved court order!

The Superior Court of California, Civil Clerk’s Office

400 McAllister St. Room 103 — $50.00
Bring the court order back down to the Civil Clerk’s Office to get official copies. Each copy costs $25 and you may need more than one depending on what documents you would like to change. The Social Security office, DMV, your work, and your bank will return the document to you, but the Passport agency will keep one.

Social Security Administration

560 Kearny St (Chinatown)—FREE
Bring two forms of identification (driver’s license & passport) and 1 official copy of your name change. Arrive just before they open at 9:00am. Check-in at the digital podium and it will assign you a number. Fill out a SS-5 form before your number is called (they have them there). Once you’re at the window, they will ask you questions to confirm your identity based on the data you wrote on the form. You’ll get your new social security card in the mail within two weeks.

Passport

Mail — $110.00 + $12.99
If you are eligible, submit the following by mail: Form DS-82, your valid passport, your original or certified name change document, one color passport photo (which you can get taken at Walgreens for $12.99), and a check for $110. It takes 6–8 weeks to get your new passport in the mail.

Bank

FREE
Bring one form of identification (driver’s license) and 1 official copy of your name change.

Work + Taxes and Medical, Dental, Vision Insurance

FREE
Everyone’s work is different, but in my case I just needed my official copy of my name change.

3 Months Later

San Francisco DMV

1377 Fell Street — $27.00
Complete a Driver License or Identification Card Application: Form DL44 (available there), provide proof of your legal name change, surrender your old driver’s license, and pay the $27 duplicate license fee. You’ll be given a temporary paper ID until your new one arrives in the mail.

Conclusion

In total, it cost me $710 and a days worth of time to change my name. I held off doing it because it seemed overwhelming, but hopefully this article helps demystify the process and leaves you feeling more confident. Depending on your salary, you can apply to have some of these fees waived or reduced, but it’s still a good chunk of change. In the Civil Clerk’s Office, the employee who was making my official copies questioned, “you’re doing all of this just to change the spelling?” No sir, I’m doing all of this because I am in control of my identity.

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