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Name Declaration for Spouses

12.11.2020 - Article

The name of a German citizen does not change automatically by marriage alone. Therefore, a name declaration might be necessary before a German passport can be issued in the new name.

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Is a name declaration necessary?

If the spouses got married in Germany

If the spouses got married in Germany, they had the possibility to determine their name usage in the marriage in front of the Registrar. This is then stated in the marriage certificate.

If the spouses got married abroad

If the spouses got married outside of Germany, they may not have had the possibility to determine their last names when they got married because foreign provisions do not have comparable regulations. This is the case in most U.S. states. The result is that the name of the German spouse has not changed in Germany and he or she still bears the same name as before the marriage – even if the German spouse has already been using the other spouse’s name in everyday life.

However, the German law governing use of names offers spouses the possibility to retroactively give a name declaration in order to receive the desired last name in the marriage. This name declaration can be done anytime as long as the marriage exists and is irrevocable.

Name declaration according to German law

According to Section 1355 (2) of the German Civil Code, spouses can opt for the birth name of one of the spouses or the name one of the spouses had at the time of the name declaration to become a so-called married name (“Ehename”). The spouse whose name does not become the married name can add his or her previous name or birth name with a hyphen in front or behind the married name.

Name declaration according to foreign law

In cases where one spouse has a citizenship other than German (e.g. U.S. citizenship), the spouses have the possibility to choose foreign law to become applicable for the name usage in their marriage. The last name will then be governed by the law of that spouse’s nationality, so a double last name (or indeed any other combination) may be possible if that law permits it.

For example: If your spouse is a US citizen and you choose U.S. law to govern the name usage in your marriage, you may also choose a double last name without a hyphen.

If a name declaration has already been made upon marriage abroad

In cases where the spouses got married outside of Germany and have made a name declaration at the time of their wedding and the marriage certificate shows evidence of this, please contact the German mission competent for you in order to find out whether this name change is recognized by German law.

Name change by U.S. Court order

Please note that a name change by US court order is not valid for German citizens.

Which documents do we need to complete?

Download the application form here:

Application form

Please print out the application form and complete it carefully. Do not use block capital letters because this could result in deviated spelling.

Instead of doing a name declaration, the spouses can alternatively register their marriage in the register of marriages (“Eheregister”) at the competent Registrar’s Office (“Standesamt”) in Germany and a German marriage certificate can be issued. The name declaration is included in the application form for the marriage registration.

General information on registering a marriage

How do we have to submit the application?

The Registrar’s Office in Germany that was the last place of residency of one of the spouses is responsible for processing the application.  If neither of the spouses ever resided in Germany, the Registrar’s Office I in Berlin is the appropriate office for processing the marriage registration.

The German Consular Missions in the U.S. however do not process the applications, but only forward them, upon request, to the appropriate Registrar’s Office in Germany. You however also have the option to send your application directly to the appropriate Registrar’s Office. This would not be to your disadvantage. It sometimes leads to a quicker processing of the applications. 

If you wish to submit your application through a German Consular Mission, both spouses need to be present during the appointment, since both of their signatures on the form must be notarized.

What documents do we need?

If you would like to directly submit the application to the Registrar’s Office in Germany, please send in one completed application form, including the documents mentioned below as notarized copies or in the original. Copies may be notarized by the German Consular Mission or a Notary Public, see information leaflet.

If you would like to submit your application through the German Consular Mission, please present two completed application forms as well as the documents mentioned below as notarized copies (plus one set of simple copies), or in the original (plus 2 sets of simple copies):

  • marriage certificate of the spouses (issued by the“ Registrar/Clerk of the Court”)
  • passports of both spouses; for non-U.S. citizens residence permit (visa or Green Card)
  • birth certificates of both spouses
  • in case of dual citizenship, U.S. Naturalization Certificate with “Beibehaltungsgenehmigung”
  • if applicable, German Naturalization Certificate or “Staatsangehörigkeitsausweis”
  • if applicable, divorce decree or death certificate
  • if applicable, deregistration from Germany (“Abmeldebescheinigung”)

The Registrar’s Offices in Germany have the right to request apostilles and translations of all foreign documents. It is up to the discretion of the competent Registrar’s Office whether the documents are accepted with or without an apostille and translation.

Based on the experiences of the German Missions in the U.S., depending on the individual Registrar’s Office, the requirements for the documents that have to be submitted vary considerably. This applies to how the documents are being certified (notarized by a U.S. Notary Public or a German Consular Officer), as well as to what kind of documents need to be presented (certified copies or originals/with or without an apostille/with or without a translation into German). In order to expedite the processing of your application, we recommend that you contact the appropriate Registrar’s Office in Germany prior to submitting your application. This would also include inquiring about the possibility of sending the documents directly to the Registrar’s Office without involving the German Missions.

What is the fee for a marriage name declaration?

During your appointment at the Embassy, you initially only pay the fee for notarizing your signature(s) and for notarizing the copies of the supporting documents. You may pay the fee in cash in US-Dollars at the current exchange rate or with credit card (Visa or Mastercard, the amount will be charged in Euros):

notarization of the signature(s) on the application form
25.00 EUR

notarization of the copies of the required supporting documents, up to 10 copies

each additional copy

10.00 EUR

1.00 EUR

A certificate about the validity of the name declaration can be ordered, which is recommended for future passport applications. The fee for the issuance is set by each Registrar’s Office individually and is normally 12.00 EUR each.

The fees cannot be paid at the German Consular Mission, but must be settled with the respective Registrar’s Office. The Registrar’s Office will send you a payment request after it received your application.

How long will it take to process the name declaration?

The processing time depends on the Registrar's Office in charge and varies significantly from city to city.

Given the ever increasing number of applications, please be advised that processing at the Registrar’s Office I in Berlin usually takes two to three months. Once the last name has been confirmed, the German passport with the new name can be issued.

Which German Consular Mission serves my U.S. home state?

To find out which of the nine German Consular Missions in the U.S. serves your U.S. home state, which is the correct mailing address or whether you need to schedule an appointment to submit the application in person, please use our interactive consulate finder

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