Changing your name with no connection to marriage
A Portugese citizen does not have a given right to change his name. He can request to change his name. Such a request is submitted to the relevant authority. Usually the request is denied.
Changing your name following marriage
Theoretically, if a citizen wishes, after registering his marriage in Portugal he can add the spouse’s Surname to his name. When Ann Cohen marries David Levi and registers her marriage in Portugal she can choose to change her name to Ann Cohen Levi. After a divorce, Ann returns to be known as Ann Cohen (unless David allows her to keep her name and she wishes to do so).
Difficulties in changing your name before receiving the Portugese birth certificate and identification documents
The citizenship application is submitted with a specific name. On this name, Portugal will issue around two years after applying a Portugese birth certificate. With this document and the current US/UK passport the client will obtain his Portugese citizen’s card and passport. If the client changed his name after applying for citizenship, the name on his Portugese birth certificate will not match the name on his UK/US passport. This might prevent him from obtaining the Portugese identification documents.
Changing your name in your country of birth after receiving the Portugease identification documents
This will create a situation where a person has different names in different countries. We will elaborate on this later.
Changing your name due to marriage after receiving the Portugease identification documents
Theoretically, after registering his marriage in Portugal the Portugese citizen can change his name in the manner allowed in Portugal. In practise this is not always possible. To register a marriage in Portugal you need to supply the Spouse’s birth certificate and the marriage certificate with Apostille. You also need to provide a copy of a valid passport of both partners. In certain cases, these are not always simple to obtain. When registering the marriage due to missing documents is not possible, changing the name becomes impossible too.
Difficulties in having different names in different countries
It is difficult to envisage all the possible scenarios in such a situation. It is possible that a person will never face any issue in such a situation. You can think of situations where this might cause issues with government authorities (marriage registration, minor citizenship application, driver’s license, criminal record) or 3rd parties (airlines, universities, banks). Such issues might be easily solved or might be difficult or impossible to solve.
Our recommendation to our clients is clear. Any name change should be made before applying for Portuguese citizenship. After the application no change should be made. One of the prices of obtaining Portuguese citizenship is losing the ability to change your name. A person that is not willing to pay this price should not apply for Portugese citizenship.