Surname change 

Changing your surname, otherwise known as your last name or family name, is notoriously difficult in The Netherlands. In the following we shall explain the procedure for surname change according to Dutch law.

Please note that this process is only applicable if you (now) have Dutch nationality. 

If you have more than one nationality, then Dutch law is applicable to the name on your Dutch passport. With regards to other passports, the law of your other nationality is applicable. You may have to follow the name change procedure in both countries to have your passports match again. 

Who decides on surname change?

In the Netherlands the Ministry of Justice (i.e. the King) decides whether you can or cannot change your surname. You can apply to the Ministry of Justice for a surname change yourself. In principle, you do not need the support of a lawyer for this. For a change of first name, you have to apply separately to the courts.

What are the criteria?

Your birth certificate must be registered in the Netherlands; otherwise the request cannot be processed by the Ministry.

In addition, there is a limited list of legal grounds which determine when you or may not may change your surname as an adult. If your application does not exactly match any of the following criteria, you cannot change your surname.

The Ministry of Justice provides a full list of valid legal grounds on its website and in this information brochure. However, all of this useful information is solely available in Dutch. Therefore, we have summarised the available legal grounds for adults wanting to change their surname below. 

The letters (B1 etc.) refer to the categories the Ministry of Justice uses:

Adult surname change (B)

If you want to change the name of a minor child, other criteria apply. Please see our page on surname change for children.

You wish to carry the name of the person (parent or guardian) that actually raised you. That person must have been registered at the same address and taken care of you for a few years before you turned 18. Your current age does not matter with regards to when you apply for the surname change.

  • If you have a double-barrelled name, you may choose to shorten the name (e.g. Smith instead of Smith-Jones).
  • If your partner’s surname was added automatically to your own due to marriage, you may revert to your maiden name.
  • When your name name has a female or other version, that is not pronounced, you can choose to shorten the name to the name as it is actually pronounced.
  • When your surname is unpronounceable in The Netherlands, you may request another name. However, the new name must be similar your current name (e.g. a pronounceable spelling of the same name). Otherwise, you may choose the name of your other parent. If that is also impossible to achieve, you may create a new surname, provided that it does not yet exist in the Netherlands.

B7: Changing an indecent or ridiculous surname (from a Dutch perspective)

If – from an objective perspective- your surname is commonly deemed as indecent or ridiculous in The Netherlands, you may change your surname. Your new chosen surname must be closely related to your current name. If this is not possible, you may choose to use the name of your other parent. If that is also impossible, you may create a new name, provided that it does not yet exist in the Netherlands.

The Ministry of Justice decides on a case by case basis if a name is unfit for purpose. It may be that the fact that a person has a certain profession makes the name ridiculous, for example Mr. Slager (translation: butcher) is a surgeon and his name hinders him in his daily activities.

B8: Changing a very common surname

If– from an objective perspective-  you have a very common name, which makes it difficult to distinguish you from others, you may change your surname. Your new name must be closely related to your current name. If that is not possible, you may choose to use the name of your other parent. If that is also impossible, you may create a new name, which does not yet exist in The Netherlands.

Historical reasons for surname change

Though not necessarily relevant to naturalised citizens, below are the historical reasons that may be invoked to change a surname:

B9: Changing a misspelled surname

You name is spelled incorrectly due to a historical mistake that occurred in the period between 1810-1838 (when the public register was set up). You have to prove that a mistake was made when the name was registered and that formerly your surname was spelled differently.

B10: Reclaiming a Frisian name

Frisian is an official language in The Netherlands. However, over time, many Frisian names were changed to a Dutch version of the original name, e.g. Sudema to Zuidema. If you can prove that your name was changed from the original Frisian, but you never agreed to the change, you may request your original ancestral Frisian name.

B11: Reclaiming a double-barrelled name

If your ancestors used to carry a double-barrelled name during period between 1810-1838, but you are the only person of your family line that does not have a double name; then you may apply to carry the double name as well. If the name already ceased to exist in the generations before you as a double name, you cannot regain the historical surname. 

B12: Changing to an extinct or almost extinct family surname

You may add a surname that is (about to) become extinct, if:

  • both your maternal grandfather and great-grandfather have no male offspring; and
  • you can prove that mother’s surname is about to become extinct or is (just) extinct; and
  • it is not a noble/ aristocratic surname.

Surname change for psychological/ emotional reasons (C)

The ‘C’ category for surname change in The Netherlands regards psychological stress and disorders that may require a change of surname.

C1: Changing a surname to prevent or heal psychological suffering/ trauma

If a medical professional confirms that you have a psychological disorder and are severely suffering due to your current name, you may change your surname. The medical professional has to be a psychologist or medical professional qualified to make a diagnosis on psychological trauma, registered with the Dutch ‘BIG’ Medical register and professional organisations NIP or NVO. Your psychologist or psychotherapist will have to provide a written report describing your mental suffering/ trauma for the application. The standard format for the report can be downloaded here.

Your new name cannot be chosen randomly, it must be similar to your current name. If that is impossible to achieve, you may either choose the name of your other parent or create a new name, provided that it does not yet exist in The Netherlands.

C2: Changing a surname due to criminal acts against you or close family members

If you or your child carry the name of a parent who was irrevocably convicted of committing a serious crime against yourself or a close family member or partner; you may -depending on the crime- change your surname. Changing your surname for this reason is free of charge.

If the parent was not convicted, then it is still possible to change your name if you were awarded compensation from the Schadefonds Geweldsmisdrijven, i.e. the violent crime compensation fund. In this case you will also need an expert opinion from a medical professional as detailed under C1.

C3: Reclaiming your original surname before adoption

If you were adopted, you may reclaim the surname you had prior to your adoption; provided that you can prove your pre-adoption name.

Why use a lawyer?

You do not need a lawyer for the application process for a change of surname, but the Ministry of Justice does charge a relatively large amount of money (except in case of C2), before fully assessing your application. If the Ministry refuses your request, you do not get a refund!

Therefore, we advise checking up front if you have sufficient legal grounds for changing your name. Often a short legal advice is cheaper than applying for a surname change and failing. You also run the risk of having to re-apply with the additional costs attached.

How long does a surname change take? 

Generally, you will receive the Ministry’s decision about 5 months after your name change application is submitted. 

The appeal deadline is 6 weeks from the date of the Ministry’s decision. That means that you have only a short time to appeal a negative decision. The appeal term must also be observed before a positive decision is formally confirmed.

The final decision will be confirmed by a separate royal decree from the King of The Netherlands. Once the royal decree has been issued, your new name will be registered on your birth certificate. You can then apply for new documents, such as a passport, with your new surname. 

In total, the procedure usually takes about 10 months from the time of application.

If you have any questions or wish to engage us to assist your name change, please contact us.

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