Is it possible for female refugees to apply for name change as a protective measure?

When it comes to changing names, the legislation of the country in which the person concerned is a citizen is decisive. For this reason, German authorities may, as a general principle, only permit the name change of German citizens. In the relevant legal text, the Act on Changing Surnames and First Names (NamÄndG) and the corresponding admini-strative provision, stateless persons and recog-nised refugees as well as persons entitled to asylum have the same status. Hence first name and/or surname of such persons can be changed provided that such change is justified by an important reason.

Changing a name is not possible for persons whose asylum application is still being processed or persons who reside in Germany not as recognised refugees or as persons entitled to asylum but for other reasons and who could therefore consult the authorities of their countries of origin.

The right to name change is a legal exception that shall only be granted if the applicant’s legitimate interest in protection outweighs the public interest in maintaining the current name. Discrimination on the job market, for example, is not considered a sufficient reason, since the naming law is not intended to counteract unde-sirable social developments. Case examples for important reasons can be found in the admini- strative provision accompanying the Act on Changing Surnames and First Names.

Another important provision is the simplified name change procedure that can be found under section 47 of the Introductory Act to the German Civil Code. According to this provision, a person who, for example, applies for German citizenship after having been recognised as a refugee can change their surname following naturalisation if that surname is particularly indicative of the person’s foreign origin or if, in the interest of further integration, the person would prefer a less conspicuous surname. For this purpose, the person may as well adopt a German version of the current first name or surname or, if such a version does not exist, even a completely new name.