I Want to Become a 최!! How To Change Your Name While Living in Korea.

marriage1

What girl doesn’t grow up dreaming of finding Mr. Right, being whisked of her feet, and riding off into the sunset together? You scribbled “Mrs. Right” all over your notebooks and binders a billion times and started all over with your new crush until you finally meet The One. Then it’s Mrs. One a billion and one times over and over again. Getting hitched doesn’t mean your name automatically changes, though, not even back home, but it’s a boring task nonetheless. And as if it wasn’t hard enough being from the same country, it’s infinitely more difficult in a foreign country, but I’m here to record my experiences so others don’t have to go through the same unnecessary stress I did accomplishing this small dream.

*Note. I am American and married a Korean national only in Korea. Things might be different for those who hold different citizenship.*

So let’s get started. Before I walk through a very detailed explanation of how to acquire the needed forms, I will give you a check list. You will need:

  • Korean Marriage License(결인관계증면서), translated into English and notarized by a U.S. Embassy approved notary,
  • an appointment at the U.S. embassy,
  • a 2×2 in. photo of yourself on white background, no smiles, regular clothes (preferably black, solid clothes), and try not to be too photoshopped.
  • the applications for a new passport as well as social security card

You’re married and in Korea once you get your marriage registered at the local 구청, all you need to do is print the marriage certificate which your Korean spouse can easily do. If they don’t know, they can go to this website: http://www.efamily.scourt.go.kr (only your Korean spouse can access this). Once you have your marriage certificate, you need to get it translated into English by an official English translator. I used this woman. Be mindful that when you get a translation, MAKE SURE THEY PUT THEIR PERSONAL OFFICIAL TRANSLATOR INFORMATION ON IT. The Korean notary office will not accept it otherwise. Once you have your marriage certificate done, you will need a Korean notary just like previously mentioned. One place I know that does the embassy approved notary is located on this map called “MOFAT” or 외교통사부 아포스티유:

MOFAT map

Once you are there, go to the fifth floor. Looking around you will see some big, lawyer office couches and on the other end of the hall you will see an office building in typical wood paneling fashion. Go there and you will sign that says “Notary 공증 <–” Go into that room. Now, hopefully you speak some Korean because no one would speak to me in English. They will know why you came to them if not. Just hand over your documents. They will ask you to fill out your information for a sheet of paper then to sign another paper that you swear the information is not falsified. Hand over the 25,000원, and leave with one item completed. (In the event that something is wrong with your translation, there is a translation office in the basement of that same building but they might need to show you which elevator to take because that does matter. I found out the hard way.)

One of the steps to changing your name legally in America is by changing your social security number. To do that, go to the following link and print the form. Fill it out and bring it with you. Note that you will not need a second married certificate notarized because the embassy will just copy the one you brought for the SS application. Consider this an accomplishment as well:
https://faq.ssa.gov/ics/support/kbanswer.asp?deptID=34019&task=knowledge&questionID=1995

Next is filling out the application for a new passport which can be found here. Once you fill it out, agree to their Terms and Conditions and print the application. Make sure to put your new name in the number 1 box and list your maiden name in the number 9 box that says “List all other names you have used”. Print and bring it with you to…

…your appointment at the embassy! To do that, just go to the embassy website in Seoul and make an appointment for a passport change. The passport will cost you 110 USD unless its been less than a year since you received your passport. From what I have heard, the SSN change is free.  Here’s the US Embassy website:
http://seoul.usembassy.gov/

Keep in mind that once you get your new passport, you have TWO weeks to report this to immigration or you will receive a fine. The Korean government is serious about keeping updated information on its residents.

A small note about getting your picture taken. Korean photo stores are all over the place and pretty reasonably priced. The problem is they Photoshop until you do not recognize yourself anymore. Photoshop treated pictures are fine for Korean official use but not in America. And also, sizes are different. The passport application has the guidelines printed in the instructions as well so don’t worry. You might not actually have any trouble with a photoshopped picture. How will they know anyways?

Show up no more than 15 minutes before your appointment at the embassy and once you clear through security, enter and begin the end of the journey to changing your legal name to that of your new husband’s!

I will have a post soon on updating your information on your visa with immigration. I will mention this as well here. You need to report any change from 14 days that your name was changed……even if you do not receive it until 10 days or more later since they ship it to the Phillipines. It’s a catch-22. Have some kind of proof of the deliver date because my husband called furious at the ridiculous regulation and they said they’d only forgive it if I proved we received it so late. If you fail to do this, you will incur a huge fine.

Also, when you go to immigration, you will need a document from immigration called the 외국인사설증면서. The bank will want this to change your name on the account which in turn will allow you to move your money freely.

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7 thoughts on “I Want to Become a 최!! How To Change Your Name While Living in Korea.

  1. KatelovesKate

    Thank you so much for this post! It’s very informative and helpful. I just married my Korean-national husband this month. I’d been looking for posts on how to change my surname for a while and I’m surprised I didn’t see your blog previously.

    After checking out this post I decided to look at the rest of your blog and I must say I think we must be kindred spirits. I’ve never met anyone who went to university with the specific goal of teaching in Korea as I had!

    It’d been my dream to teach in Korea ever since discovering the culture back in 2004 at the age of 15, and I worked toward the goal of moving here ever since then. I first came to Korea in 2009, did a year and a half long study-abroad from 2010-2011, and finally moved here as an ESL teacher in September 2012 after graduating with an English degree. I agree that most people cannot grasp the idea that I actually went to university to teach here, as for most it’s a temporary afterthought. I also agree that, despite qualifications, Korea has become much more guarded in terms of who they wish to hire. Your motivation and determination pays off in the end though.

    Nice to find your blog and look forward to future posts.

  2. Rebecca Bae

    Dear Erika,

    I am also in your situation. I’m an American woman who married a Korean national. I read through your post, but I’m wondering, how did you change your name with the public registry? When my husband and I got married in Korea, we registered at the 구청, but the 혼인관계증명서 (marriage certificate) only shows my maiden name. After marriage, I changed all my forms of id (passport, ssn, driver’s license, and foreigner card 외국인등록증 through the Immigration Office). However, now the problem is that the name on my foreigner card (외국인등록증) and family registry information (가족관계증명서) don’t match. This is causing problems with cell phone and insurance. Because the names don’t match, businesses and institutions don’t believe I’m the person married to my husband. Essentially, our marriage is not recognized. So, how did you change your name with the 구청? I’ve been told time and time again that the marriage certificate is not proof of name change here in Korea, so I’m wondering if you have any advice or ideas.

    Thank you much,
    Rebecca

    1. Hi Rebecca,

      I wish I had an easy answer for you.

      I have experienced the same issues as you. The way I get around this is by taking my old passport with me to sign up for things. It befuddles the workers at first but when you bombard them with so much information proving who you are, they can’t help but accept it. It’s worked for me…for the most part. I don’t know if you speak Korean, but I usually explain to them in our culture it is common for women to take their husband’s name. It usually satisfies them. But for things like cell phone, we just put it all in my husband’s name. They give better deals and discounts for Korean nationals and not foreign residents. As I’ve been told by banks, etc. We’re flighty and can’t be trusted to pay what we owe. So…

      It is possible, though. I have had a friend who said she had to go to the family court with her husband and petition for her named to be changed on the family registry. Most women I know don’t bother and do something similar to what I said. The 구청 is not able to change your name, it’s definitely a court. If you ask them (like I did) they will say it’s not possibly at all (it is), when pressed they will have you call the court (I did), and might be told again that it’s not possible (again, it totally is). If you’ve been living in Korea any amount of time and dealt with immigration, I am sure you are familiar with this old song and dance of no one knowing what to do or how to find the answers.
      It might help to have your husband search how Koreans would go about changing their names and try to go the same route. Some are really superstitious about names and think that theirs is bad luck and change it (Has happened with one of DH’s cousins).

      I wish I could give you a more helpful answer.

      Best of luck to you,
      Erika

      1. Rebecca Bae

        Dear Erika,

        Thank you for answering my comment. If nothing else, I have solidarity among the foreign wives here in Korea. Just as you mentioned, my husband and I have been preparing a packet of information to submit to a judge. If he approves, then I can change my name in the registry; however, the worker bees in the family registry office said that so far the precedent is that only families with foreign marriage certificates have acceptable “proof” to change their names in the registry here in Korea. A foreign marriage certificate counts as “proof” of name change but apparently a Korean marriage certificate does not. Kind of undermines their own dignity, doesn’t it?

        But, I should keep hope. Perhaps the judge will side with us. And if that doesn’t work, we’ll have to hire a lawyer and bring a suit. I know that sounds extreme, but if I’m going to be here for the next twenty+ years, I’ve got some time. And, I don’t like being discriminated against, like my family isn’t a real family. I do think there’s hope for Korea, and yesterday in some research that I read, judges are increasingly trying to set precedents that support a more multi-culturally sensitive Korea.

        Here’s to hoping,
        Rebecca

      2. Rebecca Bae

        Ultimately, the judge sided with us and gave a written approval for me to change my name in the registry to match my Alien Registration Card. We took this piece of paper to the 구청, and it was all processed within a couple of days. And, it was surprisingly fast. They told us there was a backlog within the legal department and that it would take about three months. However, the ruling came to us within a month. So, overall, all’s well that ends well. Maybe this will help set a precedent for couples with Korean marriage licenses. I just wish it hadn’t been so complicated.

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