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My Icelandic husband and I (a British national) live in Iceland with our six month old daughter, who has a traditional Scottish first name that has been approved by the Icelandic Naming Committee, and a normal Icelandic surname (ie my husband's first name followed by dottir). The thing is it's really important to my husband and I that she also has my surname, and since she can't have my surname by Icelandic law we were wondering if she could legally have my surname when we register her in Britain and get her British passport.

So, legally in Iceland, she would be FirstName Leifdottir and legally in Britain she would be FirstName McFarlane. Is this possible?

  • Unlikely unless you have 2 separately issued birth certificates. – Karlson Jul 24 '15 at 19:35
  • We will be having two birth certificates, she has an Icelandic one, and we will be registering for her British one this week. – Iggy Jul 24 '15 at 20:36
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The "problem" of naming children as an expat is usually quite complex, but for your actual problem it's fortunately quite simple: yes, it's possible to have the child's British passport contain practically any name you want, as in Britain the naming laws are very lenient. You can also change your child's name (if all parents consent to this) using a deed poll at any time as well, so if the name on the birth certificate doesn't match to the one you want, that doesn't matter at all.

So at any time if both of you (the parents) consent to changing the child's name, you can do that (until her 16th birthday), and that would be reflected in her British passport, and her British "identity".

Her Icelandic passport and "identity" won't change though. This only means that in Iceland, and in countries where she wants to use her Icelandic passport, she will still have the old name. In Britain, and in countries where she is using her British passport, she will be known in her new British name.

This is of course only possible, because in Britain the naming laws are very lenient, and because of the fact that you can also change your legal name quite easily there.

However in countries, where the naming laws are more strict, as an expat you might still be able to name your child to something that would normally be not allowed.

For example in Hungary you can only chose the first name of the child from an approved list, and they are really strict about it. There is a loophole though that can be used by expats: if the child was born abroad, and therefore his/her first birth certificate was a foreign one, then the parent is allowed to keep that name for the child when applying for the Hungarian birth certificate (which would also mean his/her Hungarian passport would contain a name, that would not have been possible if born inside Hungary).

While I'm not sure about Iceland, similar "loopholes" might be present in other countries as well for foreign-born children, who already have a foreign birth certificate.

  • (+1) It's one of my pet peeves but I don't think “entering” with a particular passport has such long-lasting consequences. In some countries, which passport you used would not even be recorded. When it comes to the point where it could make a difference, you can always present another passport (or would anyway have to produce a birth certificate). – Gala Jul 25 '15 at 8:43
  • What about naturalisation as a grown-up? My Spanish surname gives me no end of trouble in the UK. I can't change in Spain but I may want to shorten it if I get a UK passport. – Diego Sánchez Jul 25 '15 at 12:01
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    @DiegoSánchez get a deed poll. After your naturalisation ask for your new British passport using the new deed pool, and you'll have your new name in the new passport. See this post as well: expatriates.stackexchange.com/questions/3075/… – SztupY Jul 25 '15 at 12:03
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    Unfortunately, I don't know that this advice is correct. For example, here's a case where someone was refused a british passport because they had a passport in a different name: immigrationboards.com/british-citizenship/… As per gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/… you would need to submit her icelanding passport to get a British passport. My understanding is that the names would have to match. – oskarpearson Jul 28 '15 at 23:18
  • This answer is no longer correct. – ouflak Jan 11 '16 at 13:47
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Technically the passport office won't issue anyone a passport unless the name in all of their passports (foreign) is the same, and the same as the name will be in the UK passport. They have made a few exceptions for married women, but very few, and it has been a long hard fought process in those cases. You may be able to get the Home office to issue a passport with a special annotation noting the difference, but they will only do this under exceptional circumstances. Good luck.

  • There are a few questions on this site from people with different names in different passports. For example, people with Spanish names often use only their first surname in the US. – phoog Jan 11 '16 at 15:56
  • Just to note that there has been a recent update to passport rules regarding dual citizens that now make it a lot easier to have passports with different names in them. gov.uk/government/publications/change-of-name-guidance – ouflak Sep 22 '16 at 12:21

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