Reluctant Anglophile: Dealing With a Passport Snafu – Maiden Name on Passport


Jonathan and I have been happily married since 2006. We took a trip to England shortly after we were married, before I legally changed my last name to Jon’s last name. My American driver’s license was still in my maiden name to match my passport. I did not have any problems going through customs in England or the United States.

When we got home from that trip we put our passports away and did not think anymore about them. When Jonathan called me last September to tell me that we had won the “Face of Opportunity” contest from British Airways, we were both over the moon. As we talked about the trip we planned what we were going to do, what we’d pack and who we’d meet. The last things on our minds were our passports – something you just don’t think about because you always have it.

That is until one night three weeks before the trip. I was laying in bed watching television as Jonathan came running into the bedroom in a panic. He remembered that my maiden name was still on my passport. We had forgotten to have it changed when I legally changed my name. Now all of my documentation saying who I was did not match my passport. Jonathan had booked the trip and all the tickets were in my married name.

We were unsure of what to do. With a three-week window in order to fix the name on the passport we knew it would be very risky to have the name changed. See, to make changes to an American passport, you have to send your current one in and they issue you a new passport. So, essentially I had a chance that I would be left without a passport at all in the amount of time before the trip. I called the British Airways trip hotline and explained the dilemma to them. They assured me that with the correct documentation, which I already had in my possession, that I could pass through customs without incident.

The documentation you need if your name on your passport is different that your married name:

  • Birth Certificate
  • Driver’s License
  • Marriage License
  • Social Security Card

As we prepared to leave for our trip, I assembled all of my documentation that would assure any customs officer that I was who I said I was. Having to carry it all around was probably overkill – but I wanted to be sure.

As we went in for landing at Heathrow I remarked to Jonathan that I did not want to see the room with the purple chairs. We are big fans of the television show UK Border Force. The room with the purple chairs is where customs officers send people with discrepancies in their documentation. In most cases, the people who sit in the room with purple chairs are often sent home.

Much to my relief, I did not visit the room with the purple chairs. In fact, I went easily through immigration as Heathrow and through Chicago when I returned home. The passports have not been put away since returning home, mine is sitting right next to my computer so I remember to have it changed. Like I said, I don’t want to ever sit in the room with the purple chairs.

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  1. avatarLindsayLou says

    This has been incredibly helpful. I am in nearly the same predicament and am happy to hear I will still be able to travel! Thank you!