In brief, changing your legal name involves 2 steps: firstly, executing a Deed Poll and secondly, using the Deed Poll to apply for a change of name in formal identity documents such as your NRIC or passport.
BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING
Before you take any action to kickstart the process of changing your name, carefully consider what exactly you wish to change your name to. While the process itself is relatively simple and there is no limit to the number of times that you can change your name, the consequences of changing your name are not insignificant. Your name is an important facet of your identity, and it may be the first thing that someone knows about you, such as when you are applying for a job. Practically speaking, you would have to go through the hassle of changing your name with the relevant institutions and authorities once your name has been legally changed. As such, you should only proceed with the process once you are firm on what your new name will be.
In general, ICA accepts a wide variety of changes to a person’s name. Some changes that may be made to your name include the following:-
Adding a religious name (e.g. your baptism name);
Adding, deleting or changing your English name (e.g. “Sarah” to “Sara”);
Adding, deleting or changing punctuation in your name (e.g. from “Tan Xiao Ming, Luke” to “Tan Xiao Ming Luke”;
Adding, deleting or changing your name in Hanyu Pinyin; and
Adding, deleting or changing Chinese or Tamil characters.
However, do note that ICA does have the right to reject your desired new name for reasons such as the name is offensive or that the name contains word(s) that may be confusing (e.g. having “Sir” at the start of your name). This reflects the understanding that legally changing your name is not something to be taken lightly.
EXECUTING A DEED POLL
What is a Deed Poll?
A Deed Poll is a legal instrument wherein you formally declare your intention to renounce (i.e., give up) your old name and use a new name. The Deed Poll is then used as compelling proof of your intentions to support your later applications to change your legal name.
Who is eligible to change his/her name?
There are no strict age requirements to change your name.
However, any person under 21 years old (a “child”) who wishes to change his/her first name or surname can only generally do so with both parents’ consent and signature on the Deed Poll. This applies even if the parents are divorced. In particular, if you are a divorced parent trying to change your child’s surname, it is a must to first get consent from the child’s biological father.
If the other parent is deceased OR cannot be found despite reasonable attempts to locate the other parent, the parent wishing to execute the Deed Poll may proceed to do so. However, for the avoidance of doubt, the parent wishing to execute the Deed Poll should also make a declaration that he/she had made reasonable attempts to locate the other parent but that the other parent could still not be found. If the other parent is deceased, a death certificate of the said parent may also be shown.
If the other parent is around and objects to the Deed Poll, the other parent has the right to ask the court to set aside the Deed Poll, where the court will decide based on the child’s best interests. As long as the other parent can be found, it is best to first discuss the change of name with the other parent to prevent any disputes down the road.
Is a Deed Poll made in Singapore valid outside of Singapore? Is a foreign Deed Poll valid in Singapore?
It bears emphasis that not all Deed Polls are recognised in Singapore.
In particular, only a Deed Poll executed in Singapore is recognised by the Singapore authorities to change your name in identity documents issued by the Singapore government. Deed Polls that were executed in foreign countries are generally not recognised by the Singapore authorities.
In the same vein, a Deed Poll executed in Singapore may have limited use outside of Singapore, as foreign authorities may not recognise it for change of name in identity documents issued by that country. If you intend to change your name in respect of documents issued by a particular country (e.g. work pass), you should execute a Deed Poll in that particular country.
Process for executing a Deed Poll
Firstly, you should engage a lawyer to draft the contents of the Deed Poll.
Secondly, you have to “execute” the Deed Poll by personally signing the Deed Poll in the presence of the lawyer.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER I HAVE EXECUTED A DEED POLL?
With your executed Deed Poll in hand, you may proceed to apply for a change of name in your identity documents, namely your NRIC and passport, with ICA. It is only when your applications have been approved that you have successfully changed your legal name. These applications can be made here(for NRIC) and here (for passport).
Going forward, do note that not all official documents will be automatically updated with your new name. For example, your Birth Certificate and your marriage certificate will still bear your old name. You should contact all other relevant parties or entities regarding your change of names, such as financial institutions, educational institutions, insurance companies, and your employer. This helps to minimise the likelihood of problems involving the verification of your identity, such as when you wish to use a credit card that bears your old name.
Finally, do keep the original Deed Poll in a safe location, so that you can produce it when requested by certain institutions or authorities.
ABOUT PKWA FAMILY LAW
Please contact PKWA Law if you require a Deed Poll to be done. Our rates are one of the most affordable in Singapore.
At PKWA Law, our Family Lawyers are consistently named as leading Singapore family and divorce lawyers by respected legal publications such as Benchmark Litigation Asia Pacific, Straits Times, Asian Legal Business, Singapore Business Review and Doyle’s Guide.
Disclaimer: The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only, and to enable you to learn more about our firm, our services and our lawyers. Information on this website may not constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information. Readers of this website should engage a lawyer to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter.