On June 21, 2021, New York passed the Gender Recognition Act (“GRA”) which simplifies the processes for transgender and nonbinary New Yorkers to correct their names and gender markers on identification documents. The GRA went into effect on December 21, 2021.
Since December 21, 2021, most New Yorkers seeking to change their names will no longer need to publish notice of their name change in any publication. A judge may require those who have been convicted of a violent felony to provide notice of their name change to the NY Division of Criminal Justice Services. New Yorkers who are required to pay child or spousal support may also be required to provide such notice to another court or child support office. Under no circumstances can a judge require you to report your name change to immigration or customs authorities.
- Only New York City residents may change their name in New York City Civil Court. New York State residents who do not live in New York City will need to go to the Supreme Court in the county in which they reside. Sometimes, there may be a Supreme Court closer to you that is not for your county – they do not have jurisdiction over your name change. To find out where the Supreme Court is for your county, check here.
- These instructions only apply to people who are at least 18 years old. If you are under 18, your parent or guardian will need to petition on your behalf and you will need to show the judge that a name change is in your best interest.
- This page only has generalized legal information. For legal advice, please consult a lawyer. While we try to keep this information up-to-date, we cannot guarantee that it is current because of how quickly agency rules and court procedures can change.
- If you encounter any difficulties with your name change process, you can let us know. We would especially like to be aware of any obstacles self-represented name-change petitioners are facing so that we may amend our instructions and address those difficulties.
- For more information or for legal help, if you are transgender, gender non-conforming, and/or intersex, please contact the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP) at 212-337-8550, extension 308 or email us at email@example.com. You may also call any other qualified legal services providers, such as NYLAG at 212-613-5000, extension 5107, the NYC Bar Association at 212-382-6759, or the clerk of your local court to learn more about name changes.
Getting All the Papers
- To change your name in NYC, you need a Petition and your original birth certificate. We recommend using the Petition available on the New York County Civil Court webpage, available here. The form also allows you to change your sex designation.
- Complete the Petition by adding your personal information. If anything from #3-5 in the Petition applies to you, explain. For example, if you have ever been convicted of a crime, state when, where, what you were convicted for, and what happened with your case. You do not need to report subway or traffic violations, only crimes. If you have a child or spousal support obligations, indicate that you have such obligations on #12-18.
- The court will ask for your place of birth in #2. You must provide proof of birth. If you were born outside New York, you may provide a birth certificate, passport, or any other legal document which shows the date and place of youth birth. One of those documents must be a certified copy of your birth certificate, a certified transcript of your birth certificate, or a certificate from the Commissioner or local Board of Health stating that no such certificate is available.
- For the grounds of your application, say whatever you want the judge to know about why you want a name change. You don’t have to share everything, but everything you do write must be true.
- If you would like your record to be sealed – which means that, unlike other normal court records, your name change petition and any related documents would not be public records – you should check the box on #30 to request the court to seal your records for your safety.
- Sign the Petition with your current legal name in front of a notary. Many banks will notarize it for free if you bring your ID and your paperwork. You may also have it signed off at the clerk’s office at Name Change Court. If you do not understand English, whoever translated the Petition for you should sign and have notarized an “affidavit of translation.”
- If you were born in New York State, you will need to submit a certified copy of your birth certificate with your petition. If you don’t already have a certified copy of your birth certificate, you can request one from the government. If you were born in NYC, you can get your birth certificate from the NYC Department of Health or call 212-788-4520 to find out how to get a copy. You may also go get your birth certificate in person at 125 Worth St. in Downtown Manhattan. If you were born in New York State, go to the New York State Department of Health.
- If you are not a citizen, you have a right to change your name. If you do not have a birth certificate, you should be able to use an immigration document, such as a passport or a Travel Document. If you are without papers and live in New York, you may also be able to change your name here.
- Under the law, trans people are not required to show medical evidence of our transitions to change our names. Most of the time, judges correctly follow the law. If your name change gets denied because you did not include medical evidence, you can seek legal help to get your name change.
- There is a $65 fee to file a name change. If you cannot afford to pay the fee for filing a name change, bringing a copy of an award letter or other proof of income may help you waive the fees.
- If you are married, some judges want you to get permission from your spouse beforehand even though that is not in the law. In fact, under current New York law, when an adult seeks a name change, the court cannot require approval from anyone else to grant their name change, even their spouse.
Filing the Papers
- Once you have your papers ready, you can file your name change application in the civil court of any of the five boroughs, no matter which borough you live in. Manhattan: 111 Centre St.; Bronx: 851 Grand Concourse; Brooklyn: 141 Livingston St.; Queens: 89-17 Sutphin Blvd.; Staten Island: 927 Castleton Ave. This guide is Manhattan-specific because it has been less harmful to trans people due to our trainings. Please note that the process is different in each borough of NYC. If you don’t go to Manhattan, please call the court clerk to make sure you are doing everything correctly.
- After you go through security to enter the court, go to the clerk’s office that handles name changes. In Manhattan, it is room 118 on the ground floor level near the exit.
- Get in the line marked “name change.” Tell the clerk you are filing for a name change and give the clerk your papers. If you were born in New York, the clerk will keep your original birth certificate. If you were not born in New York, the clerk will make a photocopy of your birth certificate and give you back the original. The clerk will also tell you that you need to pay the $65 fee.
- If you cannot afford this fee, tell the clerk that you need to proceed as a poor person and fill out the form; it will ask you questions about your income, property, and expenses, such as rent. You should hear in a couple of days whether your petition to proceed as a poor person was approved. If it was approved, you will be given an Index Number and a court date. If it wasn’t, the clerk will either ask you to come in with more information or tell you that you will have to pay the fee. You may call the clerk at 646-386-5609 or go to their office in person to check on it if you don’t hear from them. If you are able to waive the fees, you might be able to also get free certified copies of your name change, but there’s no guarantee.
- If you can afford this fee, go to the cashier on the 2nd floor to pay. The cashier only accepts cash (in exact change), money orders, and certified checks, NOT personal checks or credit cards. The cashier will give you a receipt with your Index Number on it. Keep this receipt. Then go back to the clerk downstairs to turn in your papers.
- The clerk may require that you provide proof of your New York City residency before they will accept your paperwork. Technically, this should not be required, but if you have proof available, such as an ID with your current address, it may be easier to provide this proof to the clerk. If you do not have an ID or other proof of residence, you should request that the clerk accept your petition anyway and allow the judge to decide the issue.
- The judge will contact you if they need more information or documents to support your petition.
- If you are currently incarcerated or on parole for a violent felony offense, you will need to give notice of the hearing date to the DA and the court or courts in which you were convicted. You can find more information about this in the name change guide for incarcerated individuals here.
- Hearings are currently not necessary; however, this may change in the future.
- If the judge wants more information about any aspect of your petition, including your request to have your name change records sealed, they can decide to hold a hearing before granting your name change.
- Note that if the judge grants your request to seal your name change case, you will have to make a Motion to Unseal in order to receive certified copies of your name change order. To do this, you will have to come back to court and submit the motion with the clerk in room 118. Typically, the judge will grant your request in 2-4 days.
- Once your proof has been accepted and the judge grants your name change, your name change is complete!!
- You are no longer required to publish your name change before the name change takes effect.
- Sometimes, the judge will require you to provide notice to someone else about your name change. This is notice *after* it has been granted. They are not allowed to require permission from someone else before it is granted.
- You can then buy certified copies of your name change order for $6 each, unless you had your fees waived, in which case, you should bring the worksheet the judge signed giving you free copies. If you decide you need more at a later time, you can always go back to court and get more. You can use the certified copy of the name change order to change your name on documents including your Social Security card, driver’s license, state ID, Medicaid card, passport, immigration documents, or birth certificate, among others.
- Note that under New York law, state agencies and other New York entities are now obligated to update all the records in their possession when you show them a certified copy of your name change order.
- If you run into a state or city agency that refuses to honor your name change when you present them with a copy of your name change order, you can make a complaint to the New York State Division of Human Rights. If it is an entity within New York City, you can file a complaint with the New York City Commission on Human Rights.
Changing Your IDs
Now that you have legally changed your name, you can start the process of updating all of your ID documents. Please check out SRLP’s Guide to Changing Your ID Documents for more information.
If you need to amend your birth certificate in another state, consult an attorney. See here for a state-by-state overview of birth certificate amendment processes.