The Right to Have Your Own Name
Currently, the Board of Elections (Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones or TSE) may change your name when you obtain citizenship in Costa Rica. The TSE is the agency responsible for processing the applications for Naturalization. This
Currently, the Board of Elections (Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones or TSE) may change your name when you obtain citizenship in Costa Rica. The TSE is the agency responsible for processing the applications for Naturalization. This process is different than obtaining residency which is processed by the Immigration Department (DGME).
The current regulations allow the TSE to change your name to your birth name when the application for naturalization is approved. Costa Rican regulations requires children to bear the last names of both parents in their birth certificates and subsequently in all legal documents such as passports, IDs, property title, so on and so forth.
To give you an example, if the father’s last name is Clemens and the mother’s last name is Lampton, then the child’s last name in Costa Rica would be Clemens Lampton. Got it? So, as we know, this is not the case in most countries where people will have only one last name, depending on the country it may be either the father or the mother.
Furthermore, it is possible for people to change their names in some countries. So, if the name of the child at birth was Samuel Clemens, some countries will allow that person to change it. So, let’s say that Samuel Clemens can change his name to Mark Twain.
While Mark Twain was Samuel Clemens pen name, let’s imagine for a moment that it was the legal name he chose to have, and therefore his passport would show is name as Mark Twain. And let’s imagine that he decided to marry a Tica (Carmen Lyra) and obtain citizenship. Subsequently, the TSE will approve his application and will change his name from Mark Twain to his birth name including his mother’s maiden name, and thus his name would be Samuel Clemens Lampton.
We have had several cases in which the prospective client decides not to go ahead and apply for naturalization as they do not want to bear their birth name as they do not want to be linked to that past. The bottom line is that the TSE should respect the name that people have. Some people may have their personal reasons for changing their legal names, in some other cases is a matter of cultural identity not to have both parents’ last name, which must also be respected.
For one of our recent cases, we decided to file a complaint in Supreme Court to protect the right your own identity. Recently, the TSE allows for people to change their names for gender identity, our believe is that they should allow people to keep the identity they have chosen.
Fortunately, the Supreme Court accepted our complaint and have granted a hearing to the TSE. Hopefully, we will be able to persuade the court to protect people’s identity. We will see. Below you can see the documents related to this complaint in court.
Walter Freeman April 14, 2019
I am one of those who would apply for naturalization were it not for the renaming. I have a seventy + year history using this name. My financial, educational and employment records for all that time and in several countries, will be impossible to change. As a male, the change is much less dramatic than for a married female. So much that my wife refuses to even consider it.
jeffrey April 22, 2019
Very interesting topic. Enjoyed how it was written, and the references to US and CR literature. I think that although the Costa Rican civil codes establishes the use of both parents’ names, a broader HHRR interpretation should be used to grant such individuals who apply for citizenship the right to use their name with one surname. Although Costa Rica will continue using the 2 surname rule by default, it should be perhaps more open-minded in cases like the one described in the article.