Can you change the name on your birth certificate?

Sometimes you can, sometimes you can't. Just depends on where you're from and why you're wanting to change it. I go over it all in this article, so don't worry. Read on and I'll be able to give you a definite answer. I hope.

You can’t just go around changing your birth certificate willy-nilly. That’d be… daft. There are a few rare circumstances when you can change the name on your birth certificate, though, which is unlucky for me. This could have been a really short article and I could have spent my time doing more productive things, like scrolling mindlessly through Twitter.

If you want a little overview on birth certificates, here’s one I made earlier. If you want a copy of a birth certificate, you can get one here. All you need to know about them for this article, really, is that you can’t normally change them. They’re just a factual document saying that you were born – why would that need changing? Well, there’s a few reasons, and this article will tell you why and how.

Whether you can change the name on your birth certificate depends. It depends on where you’re from and it depends on why you’re wanting to change it. If there’s a mistake on it, maybe. If you just fancy changing your name one day, also maybe. Believe it or not.

The rules change depending on the country your birth was registered in:

  • England and Wales
  • Scotland
  • Northern Ireland

We’ll start in England and Wales. No favouritism, but I’m English and England is my favourite.

England and Wales

Can you change the name on your birth certificate?

Nope. Probably not. Sorry.

If you fancy changing your name, go for it – you just need a deed poll. If you don’t know what a deed poll is, there’s a guide here. It was written by yours truly, so you know it’s fantastic. They’re a document that legally changes your name, but they don’t affect your birth certificate.

You can change your baby’s name within the first year, though. Imagine you’ve had a baby, named them, then, for whatever reason, decided you don’t like the name. Maybe you called your daughter Daenerys a week before the Game of Thrones finale. You can change your child’s name if you apply to do so within 12 months of their birth. If you do decide you want a second crack at your kid’s name, how you go about changing it depends on:

  • If you’re Christian, and your child’s been baptised in a church, you’ll need to get your local vicar or minister of the church to fill in a ‘Certificate of Name Given in Baptism’. They charge £1 to fill it in, and it’s £40 to change the names at the register office, so it’ll set you back a grand total of £41. Send the form and your fee to the original register office.

    Only baptismal names can be added to the register, though, so keep that in mind.

  • You just need to fill in a ‘Certificate of Name Given Not in Baptism’, which you can get from the register office, and send it back to them. It’s £40. Pretty easy, really.

Either way, the register office will update the original record to show your new name. The previous name’s still included on long-form certificates – the new one’s in the space at the bottom. Short-form certificates only show the new name.

Only the mum, dad or guardian can change the name, and they:

  • can only change the name once
  • have to comply with any court orders

So you might want to keep that in mind.

There’s only two ways to change the name on your birth certificate in England and Wales. You can get a Gender Recognition Certificate, or you can prove there’s a mistake on your original certificate.

Gender Recognition Certificates

You can change your own birth certificate if you’ve got a Gender Recognition Certificate. I won’t go into all the ins and outs of Gender Recognition Certificates now, because I’ve already done it here and it took me ages. It’s a certificate you can apply for to legally change your gender. They’re pretty hard to get hold of – you need years worth of proof and medical evidence, but if you do get one, you can get a new birth certificate with your new name AND gender on. Nice. The new certificate replaces the old one, and there’s no record of the change on the register. Even nicer.

Other amendments

  • Yep. Well, you can try. You’ve got to show that the birth certificate got the facts wrong at the time of birth, and you need documentation (like a passport or driving license) to prove it. So, for example, if whoever registered the birth had potatoes in their ears and accidentally noted the mother’s occupation as a sailor when she said she worked in sales, you’d probably be able to produce a letter from your employer at the time proving that she was not, in fact, a swashbuckling pirate, and they’d correct it for you.

    If there’s an error with the surname, it’s annoying. If there’s an error with the forename, it’s a nightmare. An error with your surname’s alright – chances are the parents will have documentation. There’s no real way of proving a baby’s forename is spelt wrong. You need official documentation from within 3 months of their birth, but they aren’t going to have any, are they? You don’t need a driving licence to zoom round your granny’s garden in one of them plastic red cars with a yellow roof. If the forename’s spelt wrong, and you don’t have any documentation proving what it should have been, tough luck. There’s not much you can do about it. Sorry!

    Unless there’s a way you can 100% prove that the name on the birth certificate isn’t what it was intended to be, they won’t change it. It’s £90 just to apply and it’s non-refundable, so don’t bother unless you’ve got clear evidence.

     

    The application form for corrections is here.

  • Yes. You’ll need to prove that the person named as father isn’t the father, though – either with an official DNA test or by a court order.

    I hope you noticed I put ‘official’ in bold, because it’s important. You need to use a government approved tester – there’s a list on the government website. They’re pretty expensive – you’re probably looking at a couple of hundred quid a pop, but if you don’t use one of the approved testers, you might as well not bother. They’ll just reject the application and you’ll lose £90.

    If you do an approved test and prove that the guy named isn’t the dad, his details will still be on the certificate. There’ll be a note added to the margin saying he’s on there in error, but he won’t be removed. If you want to get his name off the certificate, you’ll need to re-register the birth with the biological father’s details.

    It’s £90 to apply to remove the wrong father’s details – it’s non-refundable, too, so you make sure you’re using an approved DNA test. You can find the form for applying to remove the wrong father’s name here.

  • You’ll need to re-register the birth. If there’s an incorrect father named, you’ll need to remove his details before you can add the biological father’s – see the section above if you skipped over it. Once you’ve corrected the birth certificate, you can re-register the birth with the biological father’s details for FREE. The process differs slightly if the biological parents are married or not.

    If the biological parents have gotten married since the birth, you need to fill in this form.
    If the biological parents aren’t married, you need to fill in this one.

    Ideally, both parents go to the registry office together to re-register the birth. No worries if not, just fill in a statutory declaration of parentage form and send it in. Once you’ve re-registered, the updated certificate will become the official one. You can change the kid’s surname as well at this point – to the mum’s, the dad’s, or, if you’re feeling particularly middle-class, you can combine the two.

That’s about it for amending birth certificates in England and Wales. Now, get your kilts out. Imagine some bagpipes playing in the distance and one of them cute fluffy cows stood on a grassy hill. We’re off to bonnie Scotland.

change the name on your birth certificate

Scotland

I’ll try lay off the tired clichés now. My heart’s not brave enough to purposely annoy the Scots.

Can you change the name on your birth certificate?

You know what? Yes, you can. Straight up. Anyone can. Scotland lets you just change the name on your birth certificate if you want. Within reason, obviously, but still. Mad. If

  • your birth was registered in Scotland
  • you’re subject to a Parental Order made in Scotland
  • you were legally adopted in Scotland
  • you’re listed in the Gender Recognition Register

then you can just wake up one day and apply to the National Records of Scotland (NRS) to get your name changed. There’s a leaflet from the NRS here that’s got most of the details you’ll need.

Hold your Shetland ponies, though. At the moment (December 2021), the NRS aren’t really taking on new applications for name changes – they’re working on a skeleton staff because of the COVID situation. You can email them at namechange@nrscotland.gov.uk if it’s urgent, or visit their site to keep updated, but most of their services are down at the moment. It’s completely understandable, not their fault at all, but it’s really ruined this part of my article.

When you can apply, you can only change your forename once. Don’t get greedy. You can change your surname up to 3 times (once if you’re under 16), but once you’ve changed it you’ve got to wait for at least 5 years before you can change it again, so pick something you like. Don’t pick a daft name as a joke if you aren’t willing to put up with it for 5 years. Or do, and then change your name back using one of our deed polls.

Like England and Wales, you can change your kid’s forename if you’ve decided you don’t like it. If it’s within 12 months of the birth, you need this form – just apply to the registrar general. You can only change the forename on a birth certificate once.

If they’re under 16 (but over 12 months), you can apply to change your kid’s forename and surname using this form. If you’ve already changed the name in the first 12 months, you can’t change it again.

If you’re over 16, you apply to change your forename and surname with this form. Again, though, at the time I’m writing this all their name change services are down.

Other amendments

  • Aye (that’s Scottish for yes). You’ll need to contact the registration office and provide evidence that a mistake’s been made, but if you prove it successfully they’ll change it. The service is down at the moment, but you can email them at corrections@nrscotland.gov.uk if you’ve got any questions about it.

    In Scotland, they add corrections to a new register – the Register of Corrected Entries (RCE). They add a little note in the margin of your original certificate with a cross-reference to the RCE. Any certificates you apply for after you make your correction include your new information.

  • You can, but you’ll have to prove in court that he’s not the biological father of the child. You won’t be able to get him removed otherwise. You’ll have to apply to the NRS to do so, but, as I’ve mentioned, most of their services are down at the moment, which is really ruining my article.

  • You’ll need to provide evidence that the man’s actually the correct father, like a DNA test.

    You need to get in touch with the NRS, but, yep, you guessed it, their service is down. You can email them at reregister@nrscotland.gov.uk, or have a look on their site here – they might be back open again by the time you’re reading this. Fingers crossed.

I’m sorry that wasn’t as in-depth as the English and Wales section. All the services being shut for COVID’s really stitched me up like a kipper. Never mind. Right. Kilts off, garish green suits on. Hopefully we’ll have better fortunes in the Emerald Isle. Luck of the Irish, and all that.

Northern Ireland

Can you change the name on your birth certificate?

Yep. If your birth was registered in Northern Ireland and you’re over 18 you just can apply to change the name on your birth certificate. Just wake up one day and fancy a new name? No bother to the Irish.

Again, you can change your forename once and your surname three times, but again, you’ve got to wait for 5 years after changing your surname before you can change it again. You’ll need to fill out that form I just linked (you’re welcome), witnessed by one of the following:

  • Justice of the Peace (JP)
  • lay magistrate
  • practising solicitor

Fill it out and send it to the General Register Office of Northern Ireland (GRONI) with a fee (it’s about £50 for a name change and a new certificate) and a certified copy of your current birth certificate.

Kid’s names can be changed too. In fact, the kid can apply to change it themselves. Their parents or guardians do need to sign the application, though. Imagine if they didn’t. Imagine kids could just choose their own name. How fun would that be? It’d be pure chaos. What would you have called yourself? I’d be Mr Blue Power Ranger, probably.

If you’re wanting to change your kid’s name, or they’re wanting to change their own and you’re happy with it, you’ll need to fill in this form. Again, you’ll need to have it witnessed by any of the people listed above.

Other amendments

  • Yep. You’ll need to fill in a Birth Certificate Amendment form and send it into the GRONI.

    No offence to whoever designed that form, but come on. Was it bring your child to work day? Did a 10 year old win a competition? Jeez. 

  • You’ll need to get in touch with the GRONI. There’s nothing anywhere on their site about removing the incorrect father’s details – there’s information on disputing parentage, but there’s no mention of taking an incorrect father off of the birth certificate.

  • No worries – just fill in the re-registration form, which you can find here. Send it to the GRONI.

    Honestly, I feel so lazy writing such short answers, but that’s all you need to do in Northern Ireland. I wish it was as simple everywhere.

And that concludes our tour of the UK! I’m quite happy to finish in Northern Ireland. Their processes are really easy and I right like the accent.

I hope I’ve answered your question whether you change the name on your birth certificate or not. There’s no real straight answer – sometimes you can, sometimes you can’t, it all depends. If you are wanting to just change your name, you might be better off just getting a deed poll.

Why a deed poll might be better

If you’re from England and Wales, you haven’t really got a choice.

If you’re from Scotland and Northern Ireland, it’s up to you. Changing the name on your birth certificate might feel a bit more ‘official’, but it isn’t. A deed poll’s just as legal, it’s a fair bit cheaper, and it’s easier to do. If that hasn’t sold deed polls to you, I’ve got one more reason up my sleeve.

Any old idiot can access your birth certificate. It’s on public record. So are any changes or corrections you’ve made to it (unless you’ve got a Gender Recognition Certificate – that’s private). If you’re trying to keep your identity hidden, or you don’t want people to know you’ve changed your name, get a deed poll instead. Fully recognised, fully legal, fully official, just not on public record.

Want to change your name? Here. Want to change your kid’s name? Here. The only reason to change the name on your birth certificate is if you feel really strongly that you want your new name on there. Otherwise, you’re as well saving yourself money and hassle – get a deed poll.

If you’ve got any more questions about deed polls or birth certificates feel free to get in touch with us through our live chat system, text us on WhatsApp or ring us on 0330 088 1142. We’re always about and we’re always happy to help in any way we can!

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Declan Ramsden
Declan is an Apprentice Content Creator at Vital Consular, which means he’s learning the ins and outs of blog writing! He studied English Literature for 4 years before joining the company. Outside of work, he enjoys listening to retro music and reading classic novels – particularly Charles Dickens!
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