If someone holds German citizenship only, or German plus another citizenship, their name is subject to German naming law. In most cases, a change of surname is requested in connection with a civil status event (e.g. marriage or divorce). Further information on name declaration options under civil law in connection with marriage, birth or the dissolution of a marriage, or in the case of naturalisation etc. can be found at: Naming law and civil status certificates
If in a particular case it is not (or no longer) possible to get one’s name changed by means of a name declaration under civil law, it may be possible, as an exception, to apply for a change of name under public law (also known as an official name change) pursuant to the Change of Name Act (Namensänderungsgesetz - NamÄndG).
A German can only change their surname or forename upon application if there is an important reason for doing so.
For instance, a change of name is not possible if the only reason for it is that the person does not like their existing name, or that another name would sound better or be easier to pronounce.
Only the relevant authority in Germany can decide whether there is an important reason, as defined by the Change of Name Act, for the desired name change. Therefore, German missions abroad are not able to provide any advice in such cases.
In what cases is a change of name under public law a possibility?
Change of name by deed poll
In the United Kingdom it is possible to change your forename and/or surname at any time by deed poll. The change of name does not necessarily have to have been preceded by a specific event (such as a divorce or marriage).
However, a change of name by deed poll is not recognised in Germany.
Therefore, if you have changed your forename and/or surname or that of your minor-age child by deed poll, please be aware that your name/ your child’s name has not changed under German law. Only the relevant authority in Germany can advise you as to whether, in this case, an application for a change of name under public law would have any prospect of success. The Embassy cannot give an opinion on this crucial question.
Under German law, if you are 18 or over and were born out of wedlock, you take the surname of your mother
Does the following apply to you?
Your mother and father were not married to each other at the time of your birth (after 31 March 1994). On your British birth certificate you have your father’s surname or a double surname. However, in your German passport or under German law (if you do not yet possess a German passport) you have your mother’s surname.
In addition, your parents have never made a name declaration specifying your name or that of an older sibling of yours. Your parents have never married or have never had a shared marital name.
If ALL the above factors apply in your case, it is no longer possible to make a birth name declaration. You can apply for a German identity document using your mother’s surname.
Alternatively, you may be able to acquire the name you want by applying for a change of name under public law.
Relevant authority for name changes
The authority responsible for handling and deciding on applications for a change of forename or surname under public law is the lowest administrative authority (as a rule the local or municipal authority or district administration/ register office)
in your permanent or habitual place of residence in Germany.
If you are currently not/no longer living in Germany, then:
in your last permanent or habitual place of residence in Germany.
If you have never lived in Germany, then:
in the permanent or habitual place of residence in Germany of the last ancestor of yours to have lived in Germany.
Please note: You do not need to be currently domiciled in Germany in order to apply (see Section 5 (1) NamÄndG in conjunction with No. 16 (1) NamÄndVwV).
How do I go about applying for a change of name under public law?
If there are important reasons which, in your view, would justify a change of name, please contact the authority that would deal with your application (see above) directly.
You can enquire there whether the authority has a dedicated application form for name changes and what documents you need to submit with your application. You can also at the same time ask about your application’s prospects of success and how long the process takes.
We have a general application form that you can download at the bottom of this page. In most cases, though, the relevant office has its own form.
You are not legally required to have your signature on the application certified, so you can send the application directly to the relevant authority. All further communications between you and the authority also take place directly.
The German missions in the United Kingdom do not offer a translation service. Should you require translations into German for the application or for communicating with the relevant authority, please contact a translation agency (e.g. through the Chartered Institute of Linguists) or ask a friend or family member.
Documents to be submitted with the application:
Please enquire with the relevant authority what documents need to be sent in with your application. The authorities usually require the documents to be sent as certified copies.
If you need certified copies of your documents, you can have these done by our Legalisation desk: Legalisation
Most of our Honorary Consuls are also able to certify copies of documents. You can find contact details for our Honorary Consuls here: Honorary Consuls
If the registry office needs a police clearance certificate for the application, you can find information on this here: Police clearance certificates
Important: The German Embassy in London and the Consulate General in Edinburgh do not accept applications themselves. Because only the authorities in Germany are competent to decide in these matters, we are also unable to provide any information as to whether your application has any prospect of success. Please address your questions directly to the relevant authority in Germany.
Fees differ from one federal Land to another, and can be up to €1500 depending on the type of name change (change of surname and/or forename).
Only the relevant authority can provide reliable information on the exact fees.
The charges incurred for the process must be paid directly to the relevant administrative authority. Payments cannot be processed by the German mission abroad.
A fee is also charged for certification of copies and/or for a police clearance certificate.