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I am a Singaporean(Indian origin). My Singapore passport and IC shows my Name as FirstName S/O LastName. There is no separate first and last name in passport or IC, its printed as:

Example Name: Hari S/O Kumar
Machine Readable Zone from 6th character: HARI<SO<KUMAR

I recently received my US non immigration visa. In the US visa page my name is listed as:

GivenName: FNU 
Surname: Hari

I did traveled to US as a tourist previously(last year) under US visa waiver program(had ESTA). My I-94 record for it shows my name correctly as follows:

GivenName: Hari
Surname: Kumar

Will this naming in US visa stamping page cause problem while I enter US? or will it cause issue when I apply for SSC and Driving License.

My flights are in 2 weeks time. What are my best course of action to resolve this, if this is a issue? If the US embassy asks for proof of my first name and last name to perform this change, what should I show because name mentioned in my passport and IC doesn't mention first and last name separately.

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    How is your name shown in the machine readable zone? That is the area with two lines of text in a distinctive font at the bottom of the page bearing your photograph and other identifying data. Your name should start at position six and be no more than 39 characters long. Also, did you have ESTA authorization last year?
    – phoog
    Commented Jul 16, 2018 at 18:18
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    Did the markdown eat some of your characters? You can prevent that by enclosing them in backticks (`). For example, I would expect the MRZ in your visa to read HARI<SO<KUMAR<<FNU.
    – phoog
    Commented Jul 16, 2018 at 18:33

3 Answers 3

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You mentioned Social Security and Driver's License. Your results will depend not only on your passport and visa, but also on other factors. What kind of visa is it, what other official migration documents do you have (like I-20 for F-1, DS-2019 for J-1, etc.), and what state are you applying for Driver's License in?

In general, both Social Security and Driver's License offices expect your name to be identical on all official documents including passport, current visa, current I-94, and other current official migration documents. This can be a problem for passports that don't separate surname from given name. But the problem is less likely if the documents are close to matching. It would actually be ideal to get a passport that separates surname from given name before applying for the visa. But at least you should try to get the visa to show the same names as the passport.

(FNU stands for First Name Unknown. It is sometimes put on visas especially if the person has only one name. This isn't necessarily a problem. But it is sometimes then copied onto I-94, Social Security and Driver's License, which can be a problem.)

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  • With the advent of Real ID, an I-94 is indeed necessary for a driver's license, at least in some states.
    – phoog
    Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 2:07
  • @phoog I see that was unclear, I meant only the new I-94 will be needed. Edited to clarify.
    – krubo
    Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 2:20
  • @ratbaby I believe for consular L1 you should also have Form I-797B with the identical name. Also ask your company's lawyer about this.
    – krubo
    Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 2:25
  • Doesn't any I-94 replace any previous I-94? Earlier I-94s may be valuable as evidence of past compliance, but they have no bearing on current immigration status.
    – phoog
    Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 2:29
  • @ratbaby I don't know Virginia's DL rules, but you may want to check here and contact them here to ask if/how they'll handle your name difference.
    – krubo
    Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 2:31
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I suspect that the name is shown in your I-94 record just as you entered it on your ESTA application. This also differs from the way it is encoded in your passport.

The ICAO standard specifies that the name in the machine readable zone be broken into two parts, where it is possible. The first part is the "primary identifier," which corresponds to the US "last name," while the second part is the "secondary identifier," corresponding to the US first and middle names. (The last name is also known as a surname or family name, and the first and middle names are also known together as given names.)

Any spaces or characters other than letters are either omitted or indicated with the specified filler character, which is the less-than sign (<). The primary and secondary identifiers are separated by two filler characters.

In a comment, you give this for your MRZ:

HARI<SO<KUMAR

The name that would match your ESTA record, however, is

KUMAR<<HARI

So you can see that you've already entered the US with a mismatched name.

There's a lot of confusion in the US with Asian naming conventions. There's even confusion with some European naming conventions. Having the various parts of your name distributed differently in your passport and visa is unlikely to pose a problem. They must see things like this on a daily basis.

If I were you, I would not try to get them to put your first and last name on the visa "properly," but I would point out to them that they have not copied your entire name from your passport. It seems reasonable to expect that your visa should reflect the passport by including the entire name given in the passport as your "last name":

HARI<SO<KUMAR<<FNU

But if they don't seem happy with that request, I would leave it. Since the name on the visa is what US officials came up with when they were given your passport, another US official ought to accept the name on the visa when given your passport.

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I suggest you give some thought to what you want your first and last name to be. If you sign some document in the Singapore, what do you write, "Hari Kumar" or something else? When you sign some document in the US, what do you want to write, "Hari Kumar" or something else?

The Social Security Administration has a webpage which contains a link to a PDF "Social Security Numbers for Noncitizens". It appears that if you don't obtain the Social Security number before you leave, you should wait 10 days after arrival and then apply in person at a Social Security office. If possible you should bring your birth certificate as proof of age. The documents I linked to don't say so, but it seems to me you would want to have an English translation of the birth certificate. I don't know if Social Security will consider the birth certificate if you tell them what you want as your first and last name.

I don't know the exact procedures used in Virginia, but for the most desirable driver licenses (RealID, which can be used to travel by air within the US when that rule finally goes into effect in 2025) the department of motor vehicles will automatically check with the Social Security Administration and will require the first and last name to agree with the Social Security account.

In general the custom in the US is that everyone has a given name, that is, a name that distinguishes people from their brothers and sisters, which is usually written first. There is another name that is usually written last which identifies what family the person belongs to. So if Hari distinguishes you from your brothers and sisters, and Kumar is part of the name of all your brothers and sisters, then using the name "Hari Kumar" would be in keeping with American tradition.

When preparing lists of names in alphabetical order, or searching for a name in a computer, the family name is considered most important. When only one name exists, or can be put in a computer, that name is usually put in the last name field, even if it would be more correct to consider it a given name. This contradiction makes things difficult for people who only have one name, or who have a character (such as "/") in one of their names that can't be entered into the name field of a computer.

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