How to Change Name when Living In France

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If you’re wondering how to change your name in France, you’re not alone. This is a frequently asked question for owners of British passports living in the country. There are several reasons why someone may need to do this, with perhaps the most obvious being marriage. However, people may need to apply for a change of name due to other circumstances, including a desire to change birth names, divorce, changing a child’s surname to match the mother’s or transgender name changes.

Regardless of the reason, the reality is that while changing names isn’t particularly out of the ordinary in the UK, in France it’s not common practice. Generally, the French government will need to see “motif légitime” (a legitimate reason) for requests like this. Although that is still the case, a slight relaxation in some cases does loosen it up a little. Here’s all you need to know.

New Law on Name Change in France

On 1st July 2022, a new law simplified the process of requesting a name change in France. These changes specifically target chosen surnames (in an attempt to level up equality between maternal and paternal surnames) and people who would like to change their birth names. Here is what the new law covers:

•    A relaxation on chosen surname changes – this is to simplify the process for mothers who want to add their surname to a child’s birth certificate. They can do this without the approval of the other parent by visiting the town hall or police station.
•    Changing birth names – people can now change their names once in their lifetime, to add or substitute the names on their birth certificate. This can be done through a dedicated form at the town hall.

Changing Name when Living in France

It’s essential to research current advice around any legal issues like this. Laws and processes can change and official departments are your best first port of call. Currently, the government’s website holds all the information you need, including noting the recently simplified procedures outlined above. To give you a sense of the current steps to name changes, you’ll need to:

•    Understand which procedure meets your situation and whether you are eligible for the simplified name change process.
•    Check who needs to fill out the request.
At that point, the processes differ depending on whether you need to follow the “legitimate reason” protocol or the simplified procedure.

Name Changes when Getting Married in France

As mentioned right at the start, one of the obvious reasons for a name change is after getting married. The interesting thing is that, unlike the UK, in France maiden names are not automatically changed when you get married. Generally speaking, the French authorities don’t consider it an issue if people continue to use their maiden name, that said, Brits may want to change theirs to reflect their family name.

To do this, visit the dedicated page on the French authority's website to get up-to-date advice. At the time of writing, this involves adding your “nom d’usage” to paperwork, which roughly translates to your user name. There are different forms to fill out depending on whether you’re married, divorced or a widow/widower.

The Bottom Line

Changing your name in France is still a more difficult process than in the UK in most instances, but the simplification of rules around changing your birth or family name does have advantages for those in that specific situation. Ultimately, if in doubt about whether to change your name or the processes involved, contact the French authorities to get sound advice.

We hope this helps, and if you are residing in France permanently, you may be interested in similar articles about how to apply for French nationality or about Ameli, the new online system to keep on top of your CPAM activity and reimbursements for your medical contributions.

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