Can I Travel With a Different Name on My Passport and Green Card?

If you are a foreigner who plans to live in America for two years or more, you should be ready to regularly update all of your documents. A lot can happen during that time – your documents can expire, get lost, stolen or damaged.

A hand holding an airline ticket with a text can I travel with a different name on my passport and Green Card

But most importantly, your documents – and specifically a passport and Green Card – may require an update due to a name change coming after a marriage, a divorce, or other personal reason.

Updating the U.S. Department of State about all of the changes at the right time can prove challenging, as it usually takes the authorities to change your data from 9 months to 2 years. 

And as a result, it may happen that your passport has a different name than your Green Card, which brings up an important question: can I travel with a different name on my passport and Green Card?

Long story short: yes, but things are complicated. Take a look at our article below as we cover the topic in more depth.

Travelling with a different last name on passport and Green Card

According to the official U.S. requirements, if the name on your Green Card doesn’t match the details on your passport when travelling within the U.S., you could be denied entry to a plane, or any other means of transport (in the best case scenario), or even be charged with identity fraud (worst case scenario). 

If you have changed your name, surname, or middle name in the past, but haven’t updated your identification documents yet, this might be considered a fraudulent identity. There is no clarification in immigration regulations about appropriate name use within USCIS forms filed. 

Travel overseas

Travelling overseas with different names on your passport and Green Card should not pose any challenges, since the Green Card is a document specific to the U.S., which means it won’t even be controlled outside of the States. If you go overseas, it is the passport that plays the main role. However, returning to the United States from another country may be difficult since airlines would want to know if you have legal permission to enter the country – and here the Green Card comes into play again. You may not be allowed to board the plane if the name on your Green Card does not match the one on your passport. You will not be able to prove your identity.

To resolve the issue once and for all, obtain a new passport through the foreign embassy in the United States before visiting your home country. If it is not possible to renew your passport and Green Card at the moment, we suggest you bring documents proving the name change with you to the airport check.

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Travel within the U.S.

Generally speaking, traveling within the U.S. borders does not require a passport, as there won’t be any border controls. However, upon standard check-ups you may be asked to provide your Green Card, as proof of legal residence. The issue may arise when you decide to board a plane, which requires a valid state-issued photo ID. The Green Card is, at least in most cases, not considered to be a state-issued ID, therefore the airline employees may ask you for another proof of identity. 

Technically, you should be able to fly when your passport and Green Card names are different. In practice, it may be onerous. If it’s possible, have a list of the names of your children, parents, and other previous identities to confirm the use of your old name. In case you don’t have such documents with you, remember to book airline tickets on the name that is written on your Green Card, as it is your main identification document within the U.S.

Furthermore, despite the fact that it is prohibited, the United States Customs and Border Protection occasionally requests to examine your passport. If the names on your passport and Green Card do not match, you will be held back from boarding until they are convinced of your identity. Attempt to replace your passport details using the name on your Green Card.

Should plane tickets match your passport or Green Card?

Your name on the airline tickets must match the name on your Green Card or passport in order to have a successful flight. The document your airline ticket should match depends on the circumstances.

Your Green Card is primarily used to verify your authorization to enter and move across U.S. soil. Therefore, if you board a plane that comes to the U.S. from abroad, you will have to provide your Green Card to the border control. The U.S. border control will not ask you to show a passport because the Green Card is a sufficient form of documentation. For trips coming to the U.S. from abroad, it may be best to match your airline ticket to your Green Card.

You need a passport to visit other nations. For that reason, any trips outside of the U.S. should be booked in the names from your passport. For other countries, your Green Card won’t be verified.  

Regardless of the circumstances of your travel, unexpected controls may occur. To avoid any unpleasant situations in the airport, or having your trip cancelled, we advise you to keep documents proving your name change with you at all times. 

Plan your trip in advance

To avoid being denied by the airport check-in, we suggest you follow 3 document tips during your domestic U.S. travel:

  • You can travel domestically within the U.S. with your Green Card and passport issued in different names, as long as your passport remains valid for 6 months.
  • If you plan to travel within the U.S., use the name which is written on your Green Card. You are an immigrant and a Permanent Resident Card is considered as your main identification travel document in this area.
  • If you have a different name on your Green Card due to  marriage, bring a copy of your marriage certificate or marriage license to the airport with you, as it will prove that your name has been changed legitimately.

When traveling outside of the U.S. we recommend you  follow these 3 tips:

  • When flying abroad, the name on your airline tickets must match your passport. If your name on your passport differs from that on your Green Card, use the name on your passport when purchasing an overseas airline ticket.
  • If you have numerous surnames, you must use the ones indicated on your passport, when travelling outside of the U.S.
  • Make bookings for overseas flights and resorts under your passport name.

My Green Card name doesn’t match my passport – FAQs

Can I travel with a different name on my passport and Green Card?

Yes. You can travel within the U.S. with a different name on your Green Card as long as your documents are not expired and are valid for at least 6 months after the return date on your airline ticket.
If you plan to travel abroad, remember that the name on your airline tickets must match your passport name.
If you just got married, you can travel under your maiden name. You have to book your airline tickets under the same name written on your passport.

When you get married, is it necessary to change your name on your Green Card?

When you get married, you are not obliged to change your last name. If you hold a Permanent Resident Card or are a U.S. citizen, you will obtain a marriage certificate.
If you would like to change your maiden name to another one, you need to go to the Social Security office and change your last name once you have your marriage certificate.

How long will it take to change a name on a Green Card?

To change your name on a Green Card, you must fill out the USCIS application and the I-90 form. This process can take from 9 months to 2 years for USCIS to produce an updated Green Card for you.

Does a name change affect a Green Card?

A name change doesn’t affect your right and ability to have a Green Card. But, if you want to legally change your name due to marriage, divorce, or  other life event, you have to update your Permanent Resident Card as well. To renew your Green Card, you have to fill out theI-90 form and sign a Green Card renewal application.

If the name on the Green Card is different from the passport, can I come back to the USA?

Yes, you can. Permanent Resident Card (Green Card) holders who changed their names due to marriage or other circumstances may travel with their former name on their U.S. Green Card, as long as they present documentation of their name-change, such as a marriage certificate, divorce decree, expired passport, or court paperwork demonstrating a legal name change.

Can I travel with a different name on my document – closing thoughts

Green Card holders are entitled to live in the U.S., therefore traveling within the U.S. is like domestic travel for them. Your passport doesn’t have to match your Green Card for as long as you are not leaving the U.S. or boarding a plane (in that case airline employees may ask for additional ID checks).

If you plan to travel abroad, remember that the name on your airline tickets must match your passport name. 

If you have no time to update your name across your documents, you have to present  proof of a name-change procedure. We advise you to renew your outdated documents as soon as possible to avoid any future challenges at ID checks.

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