passport hell

last updated: | created:

content warnings
  • transgender struggles — writing about my experience with name changing and passports

I have recently been trying to get the name on my passport changed to my legal name. Unfortunately, I have dual citizenship so that doesn't come with one million hurdles.

In the November of 2022 I changed my name by way of a statutory declaration, which is one of two ways to legally change your name in Scotland. My statutory declaration was enough for most things: my provisional drivers' license, my bus pass, my bank account. But my passport has been a bit harder.

Guidance from the passport service states that:

If [the names in your passports are] different, change the details on your non-British passport before you apply for a new British passport.

So I decided to try to change my name in Poland first...

problems in poland

It is not easy to change your name in Poland, especially if you're trans. One's name must match their legally recognised gender, and there's no such thing as a gender-neutral name. To change your legally recognised gender, you must engage in a civil court proceeding with your parents present and try to convince the presiding judge that your gender is your gender.

I do not have the time nor money for a court proceeding in Poland, so I decided to try a "loophole" in the law that would let me change my name based on the fact that my name has been changed in the UK, and I hold British citizenship. (spoilers: it did not work.)

I made my appointment at the consulate to submit my request to change my name, and gathered my documents: my statutory declaration, both my passports, and some miscellaneous evidence that I am using my new legal name. After waiting a month I received a letter from the registry office handling my request. They had to deny it, but for my sake I should withdraw my request to not block a future attempt (with a British passport).

back to britain

So, my attempt to change my name in Poland was paused quite unceremoniously. I'm not sure exactly why I thought doing it in this order would work but the past is the past and I have to finish what I started. (are those two contradicting statements?)

Before completing and sending in my UK passport application, I called in to check if it would be okay to have a different name on my Polish passport due to a bit of a chicken and egg situation, and they said yes. So I submitted my application and waited patiently, only to receive an email from the HMPO asking for documentation on why I can't change my name in Poland first.

I thought I'd save myself some time and ask the consulate (as a competent authority) to write me an email or a letter, in English straight away, that I could use as evidence for the passport office. They said "no. talk to the registry office."

After many frustrating calls with the registry office that was handling my request, I managed to get them to send me an email explaining why I can't change my name, and that I will be when I produce a British passport with my name. I'm now waiting on my trusty translator to put that into English for me (it needs to be a sworn translation) so I can (hopefully) get my British passport.

closing thoughts

So far, this has been a very frustrating experience, with no clear path made for me. I hope that a look into my experience might help someone else with dual citizenship who is trying to change their name.

If I had another go at this from scratch, I would have probably tried to get an updated British passport first, and tried to get a letter from the consulate for the reason I couldn't change my name, but I'm not completely sure that is possible; in this case I would maybe bother a registry office via the consulate. And after getting my British passport I would submit my request to change my name, to avoid doing it twice (it is not free, so it felt like I wasted quite a bit of money).

Wish me luck with getting this sorted! And I hope that in Poland (and many other countries) blocks to changing your name are removed. People should be able to change their name just because they want to! I am very lucky to have dual citizenship with UK citizenship as it is (comparatively) easy and accessible to change your name here.