Identification Documents and Name Changes

Obtaining identification documents is often a circular path. To get a birth certificate, you need a Social Security card. To get a Social Security card, you need photo ID. To get photo ID, you need a birth certificate.

Fortunately, a lawyer, using their own photo ID and attorney’s license, may order a birth certificate for a client. Even after receiving their birth certificate, there can be problems. Sometimes, the name listed on a birth certificate is wrong or does not match the name the person has used or wants to use. We assist in resolving these issues by either requesting an administrative correction to the birth certificate or by filing court documents to legally change the client’s name.

Some of our clients need legal identification documents that confirm their chosen names. We provide assistance with name changes for transgender clients, survivors of intimate partner violence, and other vulnerable individuals.

Name changes through the AIDS Law Project’s Jaci Adams Identity Initiative are available for Philadelphians living with HIV, or who have a high likelihood of acquiring HIV, and who can meet the legal standard of a non-fraudulent reason for changing their name.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health waives the fee for birth certificates requested by applicants who are affected by opioid use disorder or experiencing homelessness. 

The application for those experiencing homeless is here

Additionally, Act 131 of 2020 makes it possible for Pennsylvanians experiencing homelessness to be issued a free initial photo ID or renewal. Individuals are required to apply in person at a PennDOT Driver License Center and must meet identification and other requirements. Additional information can be found on the Driver and Vehicle Services website, This section of the law is effective January 25, 2021.