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I recently applied to renew my UK passport. Since the last renewal I became a citizen of Costa Rica, which in common with other Latin American countries requires you to have two surnames (apellidos) in your official documents including passports. British people of course don't have two surnames, so it is the custom to take your mother's surname as your second appellido. The UK passport office won't renew a passport unless both passports have the same name, but I don't even know if it is legally possible to change my name in Costa Rica. Do countries allow you to include an alias or also known as in passports? I wonder if anyone has experience in this.

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    "Both passports" is ambiguous here, because there are three passports: old UK, Costa Rica, and new UK. Which pair have to have the same name? – Patricia Shanahan Mar 2 at 15:23
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    Why did you have to show your Costa Rica passport to the UK authorities? – gstorto Mar 2 at 15:30
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    @gsrorto because they require it. – phoog Mar 2 at 16:22
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    @phoog It seems to be a terrible regulation, since most countries will not accept a name change just to match a foreign passport. His best bet would be to cancel his Costa Rican passport, since the regulation talks only about uncancelled ones. – gstorto Mar 2 at 16:44
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    @gstorto I agree that it is a terrible regulation. There is a widely distributed piece about unwarranted assumptions that programmers make about names, and one of them is that everyone has just one name. Another is that everyone has just one legal name. The UK passport office obviously did not get that memo. – phoog Mar 2 at 17:57
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The official British guidance on documents required for a passport renewal from abroad says the following:

Uncancelled non-British passports: Please send us a colour photocopy of your non-British passport (every page including blank pages). We retain the right to ask for the original passport. We will let you know by email or post if we need you to send it to us.

Thus you could cancel your Costa Rican passport and then apply for a British passport without including your Costa Rican documents. Unless you've already declared your second nationality to the UK, they wouldn't even know you're a dual national and shouldn't have any further questions. Then as soon as you get your British passport you can renew your Costa Rican passport and live in peace for another 10 years.

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    +1 I have no problem gaming the system when I encounter such unreasonable statutes. In this situation wouldn’t even declare my second citizenship until after I renew my British passport. – user 56513 Mar 2 at 20:35
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I have subsequently learned that the UK passport office will accept having two surnames in my Costa Rican passport as long as I provide a letter from the Costa Rican authorities such as an embassy that two surnames are required under Costa Rican law for citizenship and passports. They will then issue a UK passport with a note that I am also known as... I think this is a bit like having a maiden name included in a passport. It is a requirement to declare if you hold a non-British passport. I am just surprised that this is not a routine issue at the Passport Office. That fact that I have to go to the trouble of getting the Costa Rican authorities to inform the British authorities that Costa Ricans carry two surnames is astonishing. Thanks to all those who made helpful comments on this post; the problem will soon be solved

  • "That fact that I have to go to the trouble of getting the Costa Rican authorities to inform the British authorities that Costa Ricans carry two surnames is astonishing": That is only one of many astonishing things about this. – phoog May 20 at 21:21
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Taking a straightforward reading of the question, I think you've got things back to front. What you have to do is request a new British passport with a change of name:

If you have dual citizenship (‘dual nationality’) and have a non-British passport, the name on your non-British passport must match the name and gender you want on your British passport.

(emphasis added).

So the key is to understand that what you want is a British passport with (from a British cultural perspective) your new double-barrelled surname.


If your heart is set on a renewed British passport with only one surname1, I'm afraid that you made a mistake when you decided to acquire Costa Rican citizenship. As far as the British government is concerned, you have chosen to change your name.

1 I don't take this as implicit in the question, but it seems that some people do.

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    Below that, it says “If it’s different, change the details on your non-British passport before you apply for a new British passport.” – Traveller Mar 2 at 17:39
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    @Traveller That’s not possible since he says the Latin Americans require two surnames. Thus either he changes his name in UK, abandons his Costa Rican Citizenship, or some other solution. – user 56513 Mar 2 at 17:49
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    @ThEiLlEgAlaLiEn That seems very likely to be true. The prospect of a country prohibiting one form of name when naturalizing but allowing it for a subsequent name change seems quite remote. – phoog Mar 2 at 19:26
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    @alephzero According to that snippet, the name OP wants on his British passport must match the name on his Costa Rican passport, but if OP wants a single surname on it, then it's impossible because of Costa Rican regulations. – Federico Poloni Mar 2 at 22:57
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    @FedericoPoloni, my take on the question is that what OP wants is a new passport and they haven't expressed any particular desire for what name should be written on it. I've edited my answer to make that explicit. – Peter Taylor Mar 2 at 23:37
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According to the guidance published about changes of names on the UK government site, specifically the document "Annex A: use of names in passports", if an applicant is unable to meet the requirement of using one name for all purposes for legal reasons, an exception can be made:

6.5 There are individual categories of applicant who may experience restrictions on their ability to meet the identity requirements of one name for all official purposes. These are primarily people who have dual nationality and who hold, have held or can obtain in the future a passport issued by another country.

6.6 Subject to the applicant being able to satisfy the following requirements, a passport may be issued in the name requested even where it differs from the name on the passport issued by another country. The following categories may be given exceptional consideration:

i.The law in the applicant’s country of origin restricts or prevents a change of name. Where there is such a restriction, the applicant will be required to provide evidence from their country of origin that a change of name is not permissible;

[...]

6.7 In the case of points (i)and (iii) above, a (British) passport may be issued and an observation placed in the passport saying:

“The holder has a [country] passport, number [ ] issued on [date] in the name of [ ]. This passport is due to expire on [date].”

If Costa Rica genuinely will not let you drop the extra surname from your official name, and this limitation can be documented, it seems like that should be sufficient grounds for considering an exception when you apply for your passport. Costa Rica isn't strictly your "country of origin" but I suspect that should be read as your country of other nationality (perhaps the idea of a Brit wanting to get citizenship somewhere else is unthinkable to the government).

  • Yes, I think that piece of bureaucracy is the basis upon which I will be granted the exception. It is so strange, having lived in Latin America for many years where the norm is to have two surnames, dealing with the UK authorities questioning this practice. Outside of the Sceptred Isle there are millions of people with two surnames, if only the FCO but knew. Thanks for your input. – stewart hird Mar 4 at 22:14
  • @stewarthird looking it up, I found anecdotal evidence that the naming conventions for married persons used on passports in places as close to home as France were causing confusion for the UKPO! – Carcer Mar 4 at 22:48

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