My 2-year-old Anglo-Russian granddaughter has just received her first Russian passport for a family trip to the UK in July (The family lives in Russia and she was born there). Her British passport is on its way. In her British passport, her name will be spelled the same as her father, my son's name. Not revealing the name but let's pretend it is Smith Cook. But in her Russian passport it has been transliterated to - let's pretend - Smif Kuk. All other details match exactly and they'll be taking her Russian birth certificate and their marriage certificate to prove she is the daughter of a British father and a Russian mother.

But we are panicking now in case she is refused exit from Russia because of the name discrepancy and thus they will all miss her first trip. (Flying via Istanbul btw) Any comments please?

  • I presume her ticket is under the name "Smith Cook"? Will she have both passports with her at the time of the flight? Commented May 6 at 12:02
  • her ticket will be in whichever name we think will work best - Smith Cook or Smif Kuk :) (not purchased yet)And yes she will have both passports and will presumably present them both
    – Taverner
    Commented May 6 at 12:37
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    Re "the Russian authorities don't need to see the British passport" - but they do, in order to check she is allowed to go to the UK -because (unlike her Russian mother) she won't have a UK tourist visa in her Russian passport)
    – Taverner
    Commented May 6 at 13:16
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    Not the authorities, but the airline. They're the ones doing that checking.
    – user138870
    Commented May 6 at 14:10
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    Note that there's possibility (not well advertised) to have a name in Russian passport transliterated (written in latin letter) the way you ask if you provide any kind of document with "correct" transliteration. So, next time you apply for a passport you can ask for spelling "as in UK passport". Source: did that
    – RiaD
    Commented May 7 at 8:29

2 Answers 2


This is normal, there is no discrepancy as such. Russian doesn't have a letter representing the sound of the 'th' in Smith, so it's transliterated to 'ф', which is probably the closest thing the Cyrillic alphabet has. Two 'о's in Cyrillic would not be read as the sound the two 'o's in "Cook" represent, so they too are replaced by something which more or less replicates the sound.

Sticking with your example of Smith Cook becoming СМИФ КУК, how else would you write it in Cyrillic? Maybe your concern is because of the Latin SMIF KUK which will appear in the machine-readable zone at the bottom of the passport's main details page. While this is written in Latin, it reflects the Cyrillic spelling given on the document, not the Latin name, and there are established conventions for how the transliteration is performed.

I visited Russia a few times several years ago, and my visas always carried my first name (Christopher) as КРИСТОФЕР, transliterated in the machine-readable zone as KRISTOFER (and made an even bigger mess of my middle name and surname, but for privacy I'll keep them to myself). It was never an issue - how else should my name be written in Cyrillic?

Now admittedly a visa in a passport isn't exactly the same scenario as two passports, but as far as the relevance of this "discrepancy" goes it's the same thing. Anybody you encounter at the border will be familiar with the transliteration process, there is no reason that it should cause any issues.

  • 3
    @Taverner see an example, she's in a good company. The transliteration rules are here
    – littleadv
    Commented May 6 at 17:05
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    @littleadv yes.. but.. William Shakespeare's British passport would say William Shakespeare. His Russian passport would say Уильям Шекспир and it might be transliterated as Uiliam Shekspir.. That's the crux of our concern. Does this matter at border control?
    – Taverner
    Commented May 6 at 17:59
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    @Taverner As the answer says - unlikely.
    – littleadv
    Commented May 6 at 18:23
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    @Taverner I know the name in the question was an example, not the real name. It's just easier to explain using an example, so I used the one you'd used in the question. As I explained in the answer, the Latin text in Russian documents is a representation of the name as it is written in Cyrillic. There are conventions for how the Cyrillic is transliterated to Latin, it is not intended to reproduce any original Latin form (which in many cases won't even exist). Nobody you encounter at the border will be surprised by this, it will not be any kind of problem.
    – Chris H
    Commented May 7 at 6:56
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    I am reminded of Wolowitz's space station name tag on Big Bang Theory, where his name is rendered in Cyrillic as Воловитз. When I first saw it I thought, "that can't be right." Indeed, Russian Wikipedia uses Воловиц. The bigger point (@Taverner) is that this goes both ways, and a hefty grain of salt is needed. Many English words can be transliterated into Russian in multiple ways and vice versa, and the people you'll be dealing with will know that, seeing as they do hundreds or thousands of passports every day.
    – phoog
    Commented May 7 at 20:13

Very seldom (almost never) does it matter if two passports differ.

If you can, your airline ticket should match your entry passport and your entry visa

The fact that a person has a second passport, in another name, becomes important if that person is arrested, charged with a crime, and applies for bail. In almost all other circumstances, it's simply irrelevant.

In most countries, it is required to use the local passport at exit controls. As I understand it, Russia has exit permits for some foreign visa holders, which would be an additional reason for using the Russian passport at exit controls.

Exit controls are generally different to airline controls, and generally you would expect to present a passport twice: once to the airline, and once to the exit control. The airline needs to see that you can enter the other country: exit control wishes to identify people who are leaving. Neither one needs or wants to see both passports.

  • "Neither one needs or wants to see both passports" - this isn't quite true, recently when flying from South Korea to Europe I needed to show the airline both the passport I had entered South Korea on and the passport that let me enter the Schengen zone without a visa - in fact the automated check in machines kept referring me to speak to a member of staff and then when I checked in at the desk they explicitly asked for the first passport when I showed them the first (EU) one.
    – Edd
    Commented May 8 at 7:33
  • @Edd what airline was that? Both inbound and outbound flight booked as a single booking?
    – david
    Commented May 9 at 0:25
  • All one one booking, outbound (Europe->South Korea) was Air France and inbound was Korean Air (codeshare with KLM and booked as KLM)
    – Edd
    Commented May 9 at 21:38

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