I had a question regarding how to put the first and last names for passports that don't have separate spaces for the two. Specifically Malaysian passports in this case.

What I mean is that for many passports like those of the US, you have a separate space for first name and last name, but for Malaysia you only have one long line that says "Name."

This wouldn't be a problem normally, but in my case the passport's name is "[English first name] [last name] [Chinese first name]" all in one line, and so I've been having problems because if I only put, for example, "Michael" and "Tan" in the first and last names, then I have my Chinese name remaining and it's not really my middle name either.

What should one do in these situations? Should I just stick to the first and last name?

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    Where exactly are you trying to put this information? Jan 12, 2020 at 5:50
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    Hmm. I did some reading about it. It seems names in Malaysia can be really complicated as there are many cultures there, all with different conventions, and people may not even have surnames as Westerners think of them. I'd check the machine-readable section of the data page for what appears after P<MYS. All your names should appear with < between each of them. AFAIK most travel situations expect only the first two (if there even are as many as two) to be used. The interesting bit is that countries with surnames list the surname first, but it appears Malaysia does not necessarily do so. Jan 12, 2020 at 6:01
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    But reversed names are common enough so nobody cares about that. If it were me I'd just use the first two names in the data line. Jan 12, 2020 at 6:02
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    Ah I see, thanks for the insight. Right now the way that my name is written is "Michael Tan Ying Qin," and the first two are the ones I usually use with the latter two words being my Chinese given name. As you suggested, I checked my passport and it says P<MYS<MICHAEL<TAN<YING<QIN, so would that mean I should write Michael as my first name and only Tan as my last?
    – Sean
    Jan 12, 2020 at 6:06
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    @Michael Hampton Your comments add up to a really great answer :-)
    – Traveller
    Jan 12, 2020 at 9:42

1 Answer 1


Actually, I read up on this a lot as I have a Bruneian passport with the same issue. Your name should be written "Michael Tan Ying Qin" in last name, and if possible, you should indicate your passport has no first name. The first identifier in an MRZ is last name. Brunei and Malaysia don't differentiate because of the different cultures (even though Singapore is able to, go figure).

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