Passport rules on maiden names to ease for married women

Kyodo, Staff Report

The government plans to ease passport regulations that allow married women to have both their maiden name and legal family name included on their passports starting as early as fiscal 2019 — a move intended to promote more female participation in the workforce.

The rationale is that this could reduce confusion and hassle on overseas business trips for women who continue to use their maiden names in the workplace even after they legally adopt their husbands’ names.

A panel headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expects to announce the plan as early as next week as part of the government’s female empowerment guidelines for the current fiscal year, ending March 2018.

Currently, passports only show the legal family name unless the passport holder can prove the use of the maiden name at work or on research papers, according to the Foreign Ministry.

But getting the approval to have both names printed is currently time consuming, as it requires the passport holder to prepare evidence for screening, including asking employers to provide necessary documents. The government is set to loosen these conditions to ease the burden and give the option of including two names on passports to more married people.

It also plans to consider changing the current format where maiden names are printed in brackets.

The government may also urge financial companies to make it easier for people to use their maiden names for bank accounts.

The Civil Code obliges couples to adopt the same family name when registering their marriage. Since more than 90 percent of married women adopt the husband’s name, many working women have faced inconvenience in the workplace where they are known by their birth name.

While many opt to continue using their birth name at work, some companies ban the practice due to the complexity of managing people with more than one family name.