• Kyodo

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The government will ease requirements for people to have their birth names or other given names on passports from April to facilitate smoother travel abroad, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said Friday.

The changes come as the Japanese government is promoting the wider use of birth names because many people face obstacles in their daily lives due to the Civil Code requirement for a married couple to share a surname.

Conventionally, the burden has largely fallen on women to change their names after marriage. Many Japanese women now continue using their maiden names at work even after they marry.

The government will no longer ask a passport applicant to submit documents proving the need to use their birth names, including middle names. At present, applicants must prepare papers, such as certification by their workplace, on the usage of those names and records of using such names overseas.

From April 1, individuals need to only submit a family register document, certificate of residence, or a My Number personal identity card that confirms an alternative name to have it added to the passport.

Birth names or other given names, including surnames of those holding dual citizenship or people whose spouses are non-Japanese, will be clearly written as “former surname” or “alternative surname” on the name field of the passports from April.

Currently, they are only added in brackets next to the legal names, causing problems with foreign immigration officials unfamiliar with the Japanese system.

There have been cases where a passport bearer needed to answer questions about the names written in brackets, according to a Foreign Ministry official.

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