It wasn’t something I ever really thought of, but I guess it’s true, depending on the circumstances.
Imagine being a passport holder – in fact, even being a soldier for 8 years! – and when the time came to renew your passport, the government said no, because of your name. That’s exactly what happened to a man in the U.K. not long ago.
Born Kenny Kennard, a man changed his name to “Coco Kenny” when he was 16. But when he joined the Army 3 years later, he was told to change it because it was “immature.”
After 8 years of service, he left the Army and decided to change his name to something that had, as he said, “a bit more ‘fun’ about it.” He apparently considered going all out with a curse word, but didn’t want something that would get him in trouble. So in 2016, he settled for “Fu-Kennard” as a surname. It was innocent enough for people who didn’t get the joke, and was accepted on job applications and even on his driver’s license, so he figured he was OK.
Unfortunately, when the time came for him to renew his passport, the joke ended; his application was denied because his name “may cause offense.”
Kenny contested the verdict 3 times but the government has refused to change their decision. Apparently, the official guidelines for getting a passport list a series of names that could potentially cause offense or outrage and therefore could be categorized as “unacceptable” for a passport. So if your name includes the use of swear words, sexually explicit references, inappropriate religious connotation, vulgarity, anything that is offensive or libelous to an individual or makes use of a name of a person living or dead which may cause public concern, for example, your request, as Kenny found out, can be denied. This applies to phonetic, as well as the actual use of words comprising of part or the entire name.
A Change.org petition was started to “Give Kenny Fu-Kennard his Passport” – to date, it has 259 signatures.
Says Kenny: “I’m finding it hard to believe the name could be construed as anything but funny and slightly ridiculous. It’s just a joke. I agree with Home Office policy that not all names are acceptable, such as racial hate words or anything that invokes hatred but ‘Fu-Kennard’ is not offensive, and I object to them denying my chosen name.”
Kenny also doesn’t want to change his name again – he says he likes it – so his international travel days are apparently over.
The courts in the United States have similar rules regarding name changes – you generally can’t choose a name that would intimidate, offend, be considered obscene, or is a racial slur. I would think that requesting a passport with “that” kind of name would be denied for similar reasons.
So yeah, you can be denied a passport because of your name. Granted, the chances of it happening are pretty small – and the ball is definitely in your court as to whether or not it happens – but occasionally it does come up.
So if you were planning on changing your name to, oh I dunno, the same one as Steve Martin’s dog in The Jerk, maybe think twice. 😉
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary