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How to Change Your ID Documents for Trans, Gender Non-Conforming, and Intersex (TGNCI) Individuals

Welcome to the Sylvia Rivera Law Project’s ID Change Resource, our step-by-step guide to updating your identification documents in New York.

If this resource is useful to you, consider donating $5 today to support SRLP’s work.

So you’ve had a legal name change – congrats! What are your next steps? Well, you have to update and change your name and gender with all government agencies, banks, landlords, and any computer systems that you are listed in. This guide will help you understand the process for changing all of your identity documents.

Table of Contents:
What Do You Need?
Social Security Card
New York City Municipal ID (“IDNYC”)
New York State ID
New York State Benefits Card
New York City Birth Certificate
New York State Birth Certificate
Other Birth Certificates
U.S. Passport
Immigration IDs
New York State GED Diplomas
Other Items to Update
Sample Doctor’s Letter for Agency Gender Change

 

What Do You Need?

To change your name: Your name change order with the receipt, staples and all.

To change your gender: A well written doctor’s letter. One of the most important things that you will need to change your gender marker is a doctor’s letter affirming or attesting to your “gender transition”. SRLP has a sample letter included at the end of this guide that you can give your doctor to fill out and sign. We encourage you to get three original letters in case any agencies take them or refuse to make a copy. Most agencies accept letters with the language “appropriate clinical treatment.” However, some agencies require more strict and binary language determining that you have “completed the process of gender transition to the new gender” or that “one gender predominates over the other.”

 

Social Security Card

Social Security is required to change your name in their records if you provide them with a legal name change order and is one of the first documents you should update to prevent mismatch errors in any application or search. To update, fill out the name change application form (Form SS-5). You must also submit proof of your identity using a current government issued photo ID. If you don’t have a photo ID, SRLP can help you get one. If you are a citizen, you must also submit proof of US Citizenship by providing a certified copy of your birth certificate, passport, or naturalization certificate. If you are a non-citizen, you must provide proof of your immigration status and work eligibility. If you are a lawful permanent resident, or have work authorization with any other status, you are permitted to have a Social Security card and should not be turned away. If you are turned away because of your immigration status, contact SRLP.

To change the gender they have on file, provide a copy of a U.S. Passport showing the correct gender, a birth certificate showing the correct gender, a court order recognizing the correct gender, or a signed letter from a physician confirming you have had appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition. Social Security then changes your gender in four separate computers, so make sure they update it in each or there might be complications. The sample doctor’s letter provided in this guide includes all the necessary language. If you do provide a doctor’s letter, it should be on the doctor’s letterhead and include their license number.

Changing your social security card is a good first or second step in updating your IDs. There is also no fee to change your Social Security information. Updating your Social Security Card will also update your Medicare card as it is the same system. However, please keep in mind that Social Security keeps your old name and gender information on file and that information may come up later in unwanted ways, such as junk mail under your old name. Unfortunately, there is little that can be done about this. The Social Security Administration will not issue a new social security number to individuals solely because of their gender transition.

We recommend the Manhattan Social Security Offices for changes of name or gender. Anyone can go there, regardless to what borough they live in. There is also a borough-specific office for both Brooklyn and Queens. However, our clients often have bad experiences at the two borough offices, including getting yelled at, made fun of, or wrongly denied services, so we don’t recommend them.

Social Security Card Center
123 Williams Street
New York, NY 10036

 

New York City Municipal ID (“IDNYC”)

The New York City Municipal ID card is one of the easiest IDs for TGNCI people to get. Unlike many other IDs, IDNYC’s gender marker can be issued with three options: male, female, or no gender. You just mark on the form what you identify as, and that’s your gender on the ID!

If you are applying for an IDNYC card for the first time, the application is free. You will need to complete an application form and provide identification and proof that you live in New York City. The IDNYC program uses a point system. You will need at least three points worth of documents to prove your identity and at least one point document to prove that you live in NYC. IDNYC accepts over 65 categories of identifying documents. These items are listed on the IDNYC Applicant Guide on their website, or you can use this handy Document Calculator on their website to make sure you have enough points. A benefit card from HRA is worth 3 points, which would mean you just need a letter saying you live in NYC and this ID is yours! While this is great, many TGNCI people do not have a stable home addresses. If this is your case, you can provide a letter from a City agency, nonprofit organization, religious institution, hospital, or health clinic to show that you live in the city, but no address will appear on the ID card. If an agency accepts mail for you, you can get a letter from them and it will be “in-care-of” on the ID. Please note: the NYPD requires an address to be listed on the ID for it to be valid.

Once you have collected these identification points, or if you already have an IDNYC, all you will need to change your name is a certified copy of your legal name change order. If you already have your new preferred name on an ID that counts as one of the identifying documents above, you can simply bring that ID instead of the court order. If it conflicts with the name used for your proof of residence, though, you will still need to bring a copy of your legal name change order. If you ever want to change your gender in the future, you just need to make an oral request at the enrollment center. Find an enrollment center near you or online and make an appointment through the IDNYC Website. Applications are available online in over 25 languages and are also available to be filled out at the enrollment center.

When you visit an enrollment center, you will be asked to submit your application and documents proving identity and residency. Your photo will be taken to be included on the card. All of your original documents will be returned to you immediately when the enrollment process is complete. Your IDNYC card will be mailed to your home in 10-14 business days. If you do not have an address or have security concerns about an address appearing on your IDNYC card, you will be able to pick up your card at the enrollment center where you applied 15 business days later.

 

New York State ID

It can be hard to get a New York State ID if you have never had one. If you are applying for the first time, or your ID has been expired for more than two years, you will need to put together identification documents totaling six points to prove your date of birth and legal name. This must include your social security card (or proof of ineligibility), which counts as two points. You will need to accumulate four other points using things such as a birth certificate, utility bills, or U.S. Passport. At least one of the ID documents you provide must include your signature, and they must all be originals or certified copies. These items are listed on the New York State Division of Motor Vehicles webpage, and you can also go to any DMV office for more information.

However, the good news is that if you have all six points, or you already have a New York State ID, it is one of the easiest documents to get in your preferred legal name and gender. You must provide a completed application form (MV-44), a certified copy of your legal name change order, and your current New York State ID. If you are also seeking to change your gender marker, you will need to submit a doctor’s letter that states that your preferred gender is your predominant gender. Please see our sample letter for an example. At the DMV, they usually take all of your documents and make copies but will usually return the originals to you before you leave.

We recommend visiting the DMV offices in Manhattan, as they process a large volume of applications daily and are likely more familiar with the rules regarding name and gender changes. You can also make an appointment online. If this is your first time getting a New York State ID, go to one of the Manhattan DMV offices located at:

New York State Division of Motor Vehicles
(Midtown Manhattan Office)
366 W 31st Street
New York, NY 10001

Or

New York State Division of Motor Vehicles
(Lower Manhattan Office)
11 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10004

If you already have a valid New York State ID, you may be able to save some time by changing your name and gender at the License Express Office at:

License Express
145 W 30th Street
New York, NY 10001

 

New York State Benefits Card

Your New York State Common Benefits Identification Card (CBIC) may be one of the most important IDs you use. The CBIC is the plastic card titled “New York State Benefit Identification Card” through which eligible individuals can access services like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Medicaid, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

For people without a photo ID, or for those who want another one, you can get a CBIC card with a photo on it by applying and securing NYC SNAP benefits and requesting a card with a photo. Only those that are eligible for SNAP can obtain it.

New York City’s Human Resources Administration has a policy that allows you to change your name and photograph on your Benefits card when you get a legal name change. All you need to do is bring the legal name change order to your PA office, Job Center, or HASA case worker. They are required under their own policy to update your name on your card and give you a new photo if you would like one. The State has a similar policy.

If you would like to change your gender inside the public assistance system, you need one of the following documents:

  • A letter from Social Security confirming the client’s gender
  • A New York State driver license or non-driver ID with the correct gender
  • A passport or changed birth certificate with the correct gender
  • A signed statement from a medical provider affirming appropriate clinical treatment

New York State’s Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance and New York State Department of Health recently amended their policy to remove the sex designation on CBICs. Under the updated policy, all newly issued Benefits cards come without a gender marker. Therefore, you can ask for a new card but will not be able to have your gender switched from female to male, or male to female on the card. The service provider should be able to provide you with a new Benefits card the same day. Because this is a new policy, there may be HRA providers who are unfamiliar with the updated policy. As is true with any change in law, regulation, or policy, we do not expect this transition to be without complications. If you have any issues getting a new, genderless CBIC, please call SRLP for help.

When requesting a gender change be sure to request a Restriction/Exception code and bring the appropriate documents to your local HRA benefit office. Clients who receive Medicaid through the New York State Department of Health must request the code and gender change through the New York State of Health Marketplace.

This new policy is very important because a Restriction/Exception Code should prevent billing issues. The code is called “G-1” or “G-1.” Since some treatments are coded by gender in insurance plans like Medicaid, members of the TGNCI community often face billing issues when obtaining the treatment they need. The Restriction/Exception Code helps to fix this problem! For example, a transgender or intersex person considered a male in the system can be covered for necessary OB-GYN appointments.

Please note that this policy does not apply to cards issued by insurance providers of Medicaid benefits, such as Amida Care or Health First.

Please Note: Medicaid currently pays for some gender transition treatments. It covers hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgeries that are deemed “medically necessary.” The State has denied coverage for some surgeries they think are “cosmetic” or solely for reasons to improve physical appearance. As this is an ongoing class action lawsuit, this is subject to change. If you have been denied coverage for gender-affirming healthcare by Medicaid or HRA, please call or visit SRLP for assistance.

 

New York City Birth Certificate

New York City birth certificates are issued by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH). To update your birth certificate, you must complete DOHMH “Correcting a Birth Certificate form (VR-172) and provide a photocopy of current, signed photo identification. If you are updating your name, you must submit a certified copy of your legal name change order.

To change your gender marker, New York City’s policy as of January 15, 2015, requires only a signed affirmation or affidavit from a U.S. licensed medical health or mental health provider. Proof of surgery and name change is no longer required to change your gender marker! The affirmation or affidavit must include the provider’s professional credentials and a statement that in “keeping with contemporary standards regarding gender identity, the applicant’s requested change of sex designation on the NYC Birth Certificate accurately reflects the applicant’s gender identity.” You may also use the Provider Form provided by the city.

The affirmation or affidavit must come from one of the following providers:

  • Physician (M.D. or D.O.)*
  • Doctoral-level psychologist (PhD or PsyD in clinical counseling)
  • Social Worker (LMSW or LCSW)
  • Physician Assistant
  • Nurse Practitioner
  • Marriage and Family Therapist
  • Mental Health Counselor; or
  • Midwife

*Please Note: a Physician (M.D. or D.O.) may affirm without having a notary public present and able to notarize; any other provider must have a notary public present and have the notary sign the affirmation or affidavit.

Finally, you must submit a check or money order for $55. This includes the $40 fee for updating the name and/or gender on your birth certificate plus $15 for the new certified copy. The materials can be submitted in person or sent by mail to the address below:

New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
Office of Vital Records, Corrections Unit
ATTN: Edna Timbers
125 Worth Street, Room 144, CN-4
New York, NY 10013
212-788-5261

 

New York State Birth Certificate (Any County Outside of New York City)

To update birth certificates issued in New York State outside of the five boroughs of New York City, you will first need a certified copy of your current birth certificate or a notarized affidavit confirming that you are 18 years of age or older. You will also need a completed Application for Correction of Birth (Form DOH-297). To change your name on the birth certificate, you must include a certified copy of the legal name change order.

To change your gender marker, you must complete a Notarized Affidavit of Gender Error. You must also include a notarized affidavit on professional letterhead from a physician (M.D. or D.O.), nurse practitioner, or physician assistant licensed in the United States that has treated or reviewed and evaluated your gender-related medical history. The notarized affidavit must include a statement noting that the provider is making their findings upon independent and unbiased review and evaluation and is not related to the applicant. The letter must also include the provider’s license number.

The current administration accepts a range of gender-affirming statements by providers as long as they are notarized and attest to your gender transition. Please see the sample affidavit below for an example. However, please note that the Official Policy of NY State is that the affidavit must include:

  • “Language stating that the applicant has undergone appropriate clinical treatment for a person diagnosed with Gender Dysphoria as defined in the most current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or language stating that the applicant has undergone appropriate clinical treatment for a person diagnosed with Transsexualism as defined in the most current edition of International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems; or as these diagnoses may be referred to in future editions.
  • Or be a notarized affidavit from a physician (M.D. or D.O.), nurse practitioner, or physician assistant confirming that surgical procedures have been performed on the applicant to complete sex reassignment.

Therefore, the current flexibility of the Department of Vital Records is not guaranteed.

Send all the above materials to:

New York State Department of Health
Director of Vital Records
ATTN: Guy Warner
800 North Pearl Street, 2nd Floor
Albany, NY 12204

 

Other Birth Certificates

Each state has a different rule on changing name and gender on birth certificates. Some states, such as Washington or Vermont, will accept a letter similar to the one you would use for a passport. Some states, such as California, require a court order. Other states will not change your birth certificate at all. If you were born in Puerto Rico, they will not change your gender, but may be able to change your name. You may have more luck going in person to the Demographic Registry in Puerto Rico.

SRLP is able to provide direct legal services to people living in the five boroughs of New York City and people incarcerated by New York State. For information on changing your IDs within the U.S. and land occupied by the U.S., we recommend visiting the National Center for Transgender Equality’s ID Documents Center. Do keep in mind that some policies may change without notice. For updated rules for each state, we recommend calling the Department of Health and/or Bureau of Vital Statistics for where you were born. If you are a United States citizen and cannot update your birth certificate, we recommend getting a United States Passport. Please see below for more information.

 

U.S. Passport

The Department of State issues U.S. passports. Since 2010, they have had one of the best policies for changing names and gender markers. However, the passport is fairly expensive – it costs $110 plus a $25 processing fee, paid separately. This amount cannot be waived.

If you already have a valid, unexpired U.S. passport and you only want to change your name, you will need your legal name change order, your current valid passport, a recent 2×2 passport photo, and a completed Passport Renewal Application (Form DS-82).

If you are applying for a passport for the first time, your passport is expired, or you want to also change your gender marker, you will need more materials. You will first need to provide proof of citizenship by showing your most recent U.S. passport, an original certified copy of your birth certificate, or a certificate of naturalization/citizenship.

To change your name, the passport policy requires a certified copy of your legal name change order. To change your gender marker, you will need a doctor’s letter stating that you have received appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition and a few other specific requirements.

Our sample letter includes all of the required elements for changing your U.S. passport. However, if all of the identification documents that you submit with your passport application (like your birth certificate, social security, and state IDs) reflect your correct gender, you do not need a physician’s letter!

You will also need to prove your identity with a signed photo ID such as a state driver’s license or non-driver ID. If your state ID is from a state different than the state where you are applying, you will need TWO forms of picture ID. All IDs should be copied front and back. You should bring your Social Security card as well.

Finally, you will need two 2×2 passport photos that resemble your current appearance, and a completed application form (Form DS-11). All applicants for name and/or gender marker change MUST fill out the DS-11 form.

Currently, the State Department issues two types of passports. The first is a standard full validity passport, valid for ten years, for those whose gender transition is “complete”. The second is for those who are still “in the process” of transition. The passport policy previously required proof of surgery to change the gender marker for a full validity passport. The State Department therefore offered a second type of passport with limited validity for those who were still in the process of transitioning or had not had surgery yet. It has limited validity in that it is only valid for two years.

With the change in requirements, we now recommend all TGNCI folks to apply for the full validity ten year passport. If you do elect to apply for a limited validity two year passport, you may extend it to a full validity passport free of charge if you apply within the two years by submitting the DS-5504 Form.

Once you have all the materials, you should bring them to your local post office for processing. We recommend going to the James Farley Post Office on 33rd Street and 8th Avenue or Old Chelsea Station:

James Farley Post Office
421 8th Avenue
New York, NY 10001

Or

Old Chelsea Station
217 W 18th Street
New York, NY 10011

 

Immigration IDs

When you apply for any immigration benefit with U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS), you always have the option of making your preferred name known (for example, in the field that asks you for other names you use) and selecting the gender that feels comfortable to you, even without a legal name change order, doctor’s letter, or other changed IDs. This applies to people applying for an immigration benefit for the first time, and also those who already have a record with USCIS under a different name or gender marker and are applying for something new.

USCIS will be most convinced that it should address you by your preferred name and gender if you do submit legal or medical documents. According to its April 2012 policy, USCIS is required to recognize your correct gender marker, and issue IDs and other documents accordingly, if you submit a letter from a doctor that meets the passport letter criteria, a court order recognizing your gender marker, or a changed birth certificate or passport with your application. USCIS will also issue all letters and documents in your legal name if you submit a name change order with your application.

That said, you are always permitted to advocate for yourself that you are the gender that you know yourself to be! USCIS officers may follow your instructions and address you by the correct gender even without a name change order, doctor’s letter, or other changed IDs. Unfortunately, USCIS is unlikely to address you in your preferred name without a legal name change order.

If you do have a name change order and/or doctor’s letter and want to update your name and/or gender marker with USCIS, SRLP recommends either submitting an application to replace an ID you already have or one that is about to expire (such as  I-765 form to replace a work permit; I-90 form to replace a green card; N-565 form to replace a Certificate of Naturalization), or by submitting a new application for an immigration benefit that you are eligible for (such as applying for asylum, permanent residency, naturalization, etc.). For many immigration forms, you will need to pay a fee or submit an I-912 form to request a fee waiver.

Each application also requires other legal or medical documents to prove your eligibility to submit that application. Please contact SRLP for help figuring out what you may need or for more information.

 

New York State GED Diplomas

The New York State Education Department is willing to change names on GED or TASC diplomas for transgender people. To obtain a new, accurate diploma, fill out Attachment H, also available on the New York State Education Department website. The form should be accompanied by a cover letter explaining the change to be made, a certified check or money order for $10 (the fee for ordering a replacement GED certificate and transcript, but this might be waived if you are changing your gender), a copy of your state ID and Social Security card, and a doctor’s letter similar to the sample found on the last page of this document. If any of the documentation you will be sending has a name on it that has not been updated, it might be a good idea to include a copy of your name change order. Mail these materials to the following address, also listed on the bottom of Attachment H.

The University of the State of New York
The State Education Department, High School Equivalency (HSE) Office
Attn: Ann Marie
P.O. Box 7348
Albany, NY 12224

 

Other Items to Update

Finally, you will also need to update your information with other vital services, employers, and any other government agencies with which you interact. These may include:

  • Banks
  • Credit Cards
  • Landlords/Leases
  • Health Insurance
  • Educational Programs
  • Board of Elections
  • Department of Corrections & Community Supervision/Parole Officer

This can be done by submitting a certified copy of your name change order. If you face discrimination or encounter any problems, please contact the Sylvia Rivera Law Project at 212-337-8550 or call the New York City Commission on Human Rights at 311.

 

Sample Doctor’s Letter for Agency Gender Change

Doctor’s Letterhead (Doctor Address, Phone and Fax)

Date

To Whom It May Concern:

I have been licensed to practice medicine in the State of New York since [date].  Jean/John Doe has been my patient since [date].  In my medical opinion, Ms./Mr. Doe is a transgender wo/man.  I have determined that her/his fe/male gender predominates and administered appropriate clinical treatment.

As a result, Ms./Mr. Doe has had appropriate clinical treatment and has now successfully undergone all necessary medical and/or surgical procedures to fully transition from male/female to female/male.  Her/his transition is complete. Ms./Mr. Doe should be considered fe/male for all legal and documentation purposes, including on her/his passport, driver’s license, and social security records.  Indicating her/his gender as fe/male is accurate and will eliminate the considerable confusion and bias Ms./Mr. Doe encounters when using identification that does not reflect her/his current true gender.

I affirm, under the penalty of perjury, that all of the information contained herein is the truth.

Very truly yours,

Doctor’s Name, MD
Medical License #
DEA #

[if for NYS Birth Certificate, it must be notarized]