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.
Is a name declaration necessary? What options do we have?
If the spouses got married in Germany, they had the possibility to determine their name usage in the marriage in front of the registrar’s officer. This is then stated in the marriage certificate.
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 US 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.
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 according to Section 1355 (4) of the German Civil Code.
In cases where one spouse has a citizenship other than German (e.g. US 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 US law to govern the name usage in your marriage, you may also choose a double last name without a hyphen.
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.
Please note that a name change by US court order is not valid for German citizens.
What do I need to fill out?
Download the Application Form here:
Please print out the application form and complete it carefully (do not use block capital letters because this could result in deviating spellings!).
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. For general information on registering a marriage, please click here:
What documents do I need?
In addition to the completed application form, the following documents have to be submitted as certified copies with one set of simple copies:
- marriage certificate of the spouses (the registrar’s office I in Berlin needs the marriage certificate issued by the registrar/clerk of the court)
- passports of both spouses; for Non-US citizens proof of legal status in the US (visa or Green Card)
- birth certificates of both spouses
- in case of dual citizenship, US 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 does it cost?
The signatures of both spouses must be certified on the application form. The certification of signatures can be done either by a notary public or at the competent German mission if both spouses are present. The fee for the signature certification at the German missions is € 25.00 and can be paid in cash at the daily exchange rate in US dollars or by credit card in euros (Visa or Mastercard only).
The registrar’s office in Germany requires the submission of certified photocopies of the supporting documents. Copies may be certified by a notary public. Please ensure that the notary public him-/herself states on the document that the copy corresponds with the original (certified true copy).
Alternatively, the copies may also be certified for a fee of € 10.00 at the German missions, if the documents are submitted in original with two sets of copies. The fee can be paid in cash at the daily exchange rate in US dollars or by credit card in euros (Visa or Mastercard only).
Once the application is complete, it is forwarded to the competent registrar’s office in Germany, where it will be processed.
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 each. The registrar’s office will forward the necessary account information upon receipt of the application.
How long will it take to process the name declaration?
The processing time depends on the registrar's office and varies 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.
Where do I have to go?
To find out which of the nine German missions in the US is responsible for you, the correct mailing address or whether you need an appointment to personally submit the application, please use our interactive consulate finder.
Nine German Missions throughout the US offer consular services. Each Mission covers a specific geographic region. To find out which Mission can assist you, please use our Consulate Finder.