For most people, a name is more than just a word. A name represents not only an existence but an identity. Knowing that, it is easy to understand why a person would want to change their legal name to something that represents them better. What we need to understand now, is how to do so.
Be it to match their partner’s last name, to reinvent themselves, or to match their gender identity, there are a million reasons why someone would want to change any part of their name. Many countries make it quite difficult or even impossible for their residents to make that change, and others only allow citizens (and not residents) to do so. Luckily for us, Sweden is not one of those countries, and instead has comparatively relaxed laws surrounding name changes. In Sweden, anyone with a personnummer, the Swedish personal identity number, is allowed to apply for a change of name even if they are not a Swedish citizen, and even if their country of citizenship has not recognized said name change. The relevant authority that processes name change applications is Skatteverket.
Since coming to Sweden less than a year ago, I have already experienced two different types of name changes in the country: change of my first legal name, and change to a spouse’s last name.
Change of First Name
This type of name change includes several different things you may do. You may add or remove existing names, change the spelling, switch the order, or alter the tilltalsnamn, which is the default name you will be addressed by in Sweden. It is important to note that, in Sweden, unlike in much of the world, the “first name” refers to any name other than your last or family names. So, for example, for someone whose full name is “John Adam Smith”, their first name is “John Adam” and their last name is “Smith”. Middle names have become obsolete in Sweden, and the rules surrounding them have changed.
What names can you choose?
There are very few limits to the first names that you can choose to adopt in Sweden. The name must not be inappropriate or lead to discomfort, so needless to say any slurs or curse words are out of the question. Additionally, the first name must not be perceived as the last name. Other than those small limitations, any name is valid.
Another advantage of changing one’s name in Sweden is that Skatteverket does not have any rule relating to the gender of the chosen name. That is a wonderful thing for transgender people, as they are able to change their first name to match their gender identity even if their personnummer has them incorrectly marked as the gender they were assigned at birth
What is the process?
Since Skatteverket is the relevant authority that processes legal name changes, you must file form SKV 7500 and mail it to them to get the process started. If you want to ensure that your application doesn’t get lost in the mail, you can also go in person to any Skatteverket office and drop off your envelope in their mailbox. That way you will not have to pay postage, and you will know your application is safe. This method allows your application to reach skatteverket faster.
After that, all you have to do is make sure you have paid the fee, and wait until the change is done. As of October 2018, the waiting time for a change of first name applications to receive an answer is up to two months. However, mine was done within one month, and people have reported that theirs have been completed sooner than expected.
How much does it cost?
Changes of first names, with the exception of when you are merely changing your tilltalsnamn, require a fee of 250 SEK to be paid. You may find instructions on how to pay here. You must make sure to write your personnummer in the message section, to ensure that your payment won’t be lost.
Although the Skatteverket website states that payments from foreign accounts are possible, due to personal experience I do not recommend this. When I sent my name change application, I made the payment from a European, non-Swedish account. I called Skatteverket a few weeks later to make sure it had gone through and was told that no payment had arrived. I tried sending proof of the payment, but in the end, I had to pay the fee once more, from a Swedish account. After that, everything went smoothly and the change was done within a couple of days. Therefore, my advice is that you pay from a Swedish account, even if it is a friend’s or family member’s account to avoid lost time and money.
Special tip for transgender people
If your legal gender does not yet match your new name, there is something you can do to help alleviate the discomfort. Most banks in Sweden offer ID cards, sometimes free of charge if you are under a certain age, or sometimes for a certain fee. These ID cards are valid for everyday purposes in Sweden, but they do not have gender markers. Although Swedish personal numbers determine the legal gender by the penultimate digit, most people do not go looking for that detail, and instead, trust the gender that the name on the ID seems to indicate. Therefore, investing in these ID cards may save you some grief in the meantime.
Change to a partner’s last name
Changing one’s last name to match a spouse’s last name is possibly one of the easiest name changes here in Sweden. Skatteverket has made it so that the process is straightforward and attainable for anybody.
In order to apply for this type of name change, you must first make sure that your marriage is registered in Swedish. If you have gotten married in Sweden, or registered at Skatteverket with your partner and marriage certificate, then your marriage has already been documented here. If you are unsure and want to find out, you can always call Skatteverket or even order a Familjebevis, which shows all the family members you are registered with, to be shipped to your registered address.
Once you are certain that your marriage is documented, you must fill in form SKV 7502. Keep in mind that in the space that asks for the reason for the change, you must specify that you are changing your last name to match your spouse’s. That way, the application will be free of charge.
The current waiting time for this type of change, as of October 2018, is of up to one month, although in my experience it may be much less. My spouse’s last name was changed this way two days after we turned in the form!
What happens once a decision is made?
Be it a first name change or the last name change, the process does not end when Skatteverket makes their decision.
Once Skatteverket makes a decision regarding your legal name change, you will receive a letter to your registered address confirming the decision. Most of the time, if you have followed the guidelines for names and paid the fee correctly, your name change will be approved and the letter will contain proof of the legal name change. Keep this letter safe, as you will need it eventually.
When your name change is approved, some services you might use change the name automatically, but only if you registered with your personnummer. Examples of places in which your name may update automatically include:
This applies also to any service in which you use Bank ID to log in. For everything else, you will have to request that your information be updated. In some cases, you may have to show the letter you received from Skatteverket showing the change of name. Some other things you may have to take care of after the name change include:
- Changing your debit and credit cards
- Notifying migrationsverket (if you have a residence permit or have applied for one)
- Informing your employer
- Updating your driver’s license
- Getting a new Swedish ID card, etc.
After this, you will have successfully changed your legal name in Sweden and will be known as nothing else going forward. Congratulations on your new name!