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Name Standards

Name Standards

Last updated: November 6, 2020

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The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has implemented a set of standards for all nonimmigrant names entered in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). This user guide describes the new standards and their relationship to names written in passports.

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Standards for machine-readable passports were compiled by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). These standards have been adapted worldwide.
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For more information about machine-readable passport standards and international naming conventions, see:

The following resources are available on the SEVIS Help Hub:

Name standards help SEVIS users:

  • Comply with the standards governing machine-readable passports.
  • Convert foreign names into standardized formats.
  • Get better results when searching for names in government systems.
  • Improve the accuracy of name matching with other government systems.
  • Prevent the unacceptable entry of characters found in some names.

SEVIS Name Fields

SEVIS name fields will be long enough to capture the full name. Use the information entered in the Machine-Readable Zone (MRZ) of a passport as a guide when entering names in SEVIS.

Field Names Standards

Surname/Primary Name
(80-character limit)

  • Surname or the primary identifier as shown in the MRZ of the passport
  • Invalid entries:
    • LNU
    • Unknown
    • Not Applicable
    • None
  • UNK and NA entries will require confirmation that this is the actual nonimmigrant’s name
  • Required

Given Name
(80-character limit)

  • Names not in the Surname/Primary name
  • Secondary identifier in the MRZ
  • Invalid entries:
    • FNU
    • Unknown
    • Not Applicable
    • None
  • UNK and NA entries will require confirmation that this is the actual nonimmigrant’s name
Suffix
  • Drop-down list in SEVIS (no changes)
  • Not in the MRZ

Preferred Name
(180-character limit)

  • Pre-populated in SEVIS, if left blank
  • Editable
  • Allows entry in SEVIS of the name used by the school/sponsor, if different from the fields above. Examples:
    • Susan Zhang, instead of, Yibin Zhang
    • Helene Muller-Garcon, instead of, Hélène Müller-Garçon
  • Comma and one space allowed before a suffix
  • Period is allowed in suffix
  • Allows alphabetical characters with the following diacritical marks: ¨, ^, `, ´, °, ¸

Passport Name
(39-character limit)

  • Not pre-populated
  • Surname/Primary Name written first followed by the Given Name without a comma
  • May be truncated
  • Should reflect the primary and secondary identifiers as written in the MRZ

SEVIS Name Standards Tied to Standards for Machine-readable Passport

Here are the SEVIS name standards:

  • Upper- or lower-case
  • Roman alphabet only
  • No special characters
  • No hyphens, apostrophes, or commas; except in the Preferred Name field
  • One space between names

SEVIS names will be consistent with the standards in a passport’s MRZ, with a few exceptions.

Nonimmigrant names entered in SEVIS should match the name in the passport’s MRZ. The MRZ reflects the names entered in the Visual Inspection Zone (VIZ) of the biographic page. However, this is not always true.

1. Replace any letters with special characters with its SEVIS equivalent. The nonimmigrant’s country has determined how to transliterate any special characters. That transliteration is shown in the MRZ, if available. Refer to the Transliteration of Names if it is not.

2. Determine which parts of a nonimmigrant’s name belongs in which SEVIS name field. Use the MRZ as a guide to determine the order of the names. The nonimmigrant’s country has determined which parts of the name it considers to be the primary name.

Note: The MRZ is not always reliable. School and sponsor officials must use their discretion. 

Passport Machine Readable Zone
  • SEVP's preferred source for determining name order and transliteration of special characters in a name
  • Might not be available
  • Might not match what the nonimmigrants claim their names are 
U.S. Visa 
  • Another good guide
  • Might not be available
  • Might not match the MRZ
  • Might not match what the nonimmigrants claim their names are
School/Sponsor Official Discretion
  • Use the best judgment or information available
  • Names can be changed later to reflect the name on a passport or visa.

Understanding the Machine-readable Passport

The face page of a machine-readable passport has two parts:

  • Visual Inspection Zone (VIZ)
  • Machine-readable Zone (MRZ)

Passport names are broken down into two components used in the VIZ and the MRZ:

1. Primary identifier

2. Secondary identifier

Issuing countries determine how names are broken down into primary and secondary identifiers. The primary identifier may be the family name or include the entire name. Names not combined with the primary identifier may become part of the secondary identifier. Refer to figure below to determine how a name is shown in the MRZ.

The two sections of the page have different rules about the spelling of names.

Sample Passport Face Page

Name Standards in the Visual Inspection Zone (VIZ)

The VIZ contains the passport holder’s:

  • Biographic information
  • Photograph
  • Signature
  • Information about the passport itself

National characters are allowed in the VIZ. Transliterations into Roman-based characters should be provided for any names not written in Roman-based characters.

Name Standards in the Machine-readable Zone (MRZ)

The MRZ follows strict rules that determine how passport information is shown. The country that issues the passport converts non-Roman characters into Roman characters. These changes are based on two items:

  1. List of acceptable characters
  2. Rules for the conversion of names

ICAO Doc 9303 describes this information. It was copied into the Transliteration of Names section of this article.

MRZ-Allowable Characters

The following rules apply to the Name field in the MRZ:

  • Prefixes and suffixes are omitted
  • Numeric characters cannot be used
  • Punctuation cannot be used:
    • Apostrophes are omitted; O’CONNOR becomes OCONNOR
    • Hyphens are replaced by a filler character; MARIE-THERESE becomes MARIE<THERESE

Names in the MRZ are shown on the first line and limited to 39 characters. As a result, a name might be truncated to fit.

Breakdown of the MRZ Name Field

Transliteration of Names

The following table is from ICAO Doc 9303. It is a guide used to convert names that have special characters not allowed in the MRZ. SEVP recommends using the same transliteration for names with the following exceptions:

  • Ñ would be N or n not NXX
  • Ü would be Ue or ue not UXX

Sequence Number

National Character

Description

MRZ Recommended  Transliteration

1

Á

A acute

A

2

À

A grave

A

3

Â

A circumflex

A

4

Ä

A diaeresis

AE

5

Ã

A tilde

A

6

Ă

A breve

A

7

Å

A Ring

AA

8

Ā

A macron

A

9

Ą

A ogonek

A

10

Ć

C acute

C

11

Ĉ

C circumflex

C

12

Č

C caron

C

13

Ċ

C dot accent

C

14

Ç

C cedilla

C

15

Ð

Eth

D

16

Ď

D caron

D

17

É

E acute

E

18

È

E grave

E

19

Ê

E circumflex

E

20

Ë

E diaeresis

E

21

Ě

E caron

E

22

Ė

E dot accent

E

23

Ē

E macron

E

24

Ę

E ogonek

E

25

Ĕ

E breve

E

26

Ĝ

G circumflex

G

27

Ğ

G breve

G

28

Ġ

G dot accent

G

29

Ģ

G cedilla

G

30

Ħ

H bar

H

31

Ĥ

H circumflex

H

32

ı

I without dot (Turkey)

I

33

Í

I acute

I

34

ì

I grave

I

35

î

I circumflex

I

36

ï

I diaeresis

I

37

Ĩ

I tilde

I

38

İ

I dot accent

I

39

Ī

I macron

I

40

Į

I ogonek

I

41

Ĭ

I breve

I

42

Ĵ

J circumflex

J

43

Ķ

K cedilla

K

44

Ł

L slash

L

45

Ĺ

L acute

L

46

Ľ

L caron

L

47

Ļ

L cedilla

L

48

Ŀ

L dot

L

49

Ń

N acute

N

50

Ñ

N tilde

N

51

Ň

N caron

N

52

Ņ

N cedilla

N

53

Ŋ

Eng

N

54

Ø

O slash

OE

55

Ó

O acute

O

56

Ò

O grave

O

57

Ô

O circumflex

O

58

Ö

O diaeresis

OE

59

Õ

O tilde

O

60

Ő

O double acute

O

61

Ō

O macron

O

62

Ŏ

O breve

O

63

Ŕ

R acute

R

64

Ř

R caron

R

65

Ŗ

R cedilla

R

66

Ś

S acute

S

67

Ŝ

S circumflex

S

68

Š

S caron

S

69

Ş

S cedilla

S

70

Ŧ

T bar

T

71

Ť

T caron

T

72

Ţ

T cedilla

T

73

Ú

U acute

U

74

Ù

U grave

U

75

Û

U circumflex

U

76

Ü

U diaeresis

UE

77

Ũ

U tilde

U

78

Ŭ

U breve

U

79

Ű

U double acute

U

80

Ů

U ring

U

81

Ū

U macron

U

82

Ų

U ogonek

U

83

Ŵ

W circumflex

W

84

Ý

Y acute

Y

85

Ŷ

Y circumflex

Y

86

Ÿ

Y diaeresis

Y

87

Ź

Z acute

Z

88

Ž

Z caron

Z

89

Ż

Z dot

Z

90

Þ

Thorn (Iceland)

TH

91

Æ

Ligature A E

AE

92

IJ

Ligature IJ

IJ

93

Œ

Ligature OE

OE

94

ß

Double s (Germany)

SS

The following examples are not real. They are for a made-up country named Utopia. Utopia is shown as P<UTO in the first five characters of the MRZ.

The examples show how names in the MRZ should be placed correctly into SEVIS.

Example

1 Name Anna Maria Eriksson
  VIZ: ERIKSSON, ANNA MARIA
  MRZ: P<UTOERIKSSON<<ANNA<MARIA<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
  SEVIS:

*Surname/Primary Name: Eriksson

First Name: Anna Maria

Preferred Name: Anna Maria Eriksson

Passport Name: Eriksson Anna Maria
2 Name Susie Margaret Smith-Jones
  VIZ: SMITH-JONES, SUSIE MARGARET
  MRZ: P<UTOSMITH<JONES<<SUSIE<MARGARET<<<<<<<<<<<<
  SEVIS:

*Surname/Primary Name: Smith Jones

Given Name: Susie Margaret

Preferred Name: Susie Margaret Smith-Jones

Passport Name: Smith Jones Susie Margaret 
3 Name DEBORAH HENG MING LO
  VIZ: HENG, DEBORAH MING LO
  MRZ: P<UTOHENG<<DEBORAH<MING<LO<<<<<<<<<<<<
  SEVIS:

*Surname/Primary Name: Heng

Given Name: Deborah Ming Lo

Preferred Name: Deborah Heng Ming Lo

Passport Name: Heng Deborah Ming Lo
4 Name ENYA SIOBHAN O’CONNOR
  VIZ: O’CONNOR, ENYA SIOBHAN
  MRZ: P<UTOOCONNOR<<ENYA<SIOBHAN<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
  SEVIS:

*Surname/Primary Name: OConnor

Given Name: Enya Siobahn

Preferred Name: Enya Siobhan O’Connor

Passport Name: OConnor Enya Siobhan
5 Name Martin Van Der Muellen
  VIZ: VAN DER MUELLEN, MARTIN
  MRZ: P<UTOVAN<DER<MUELLEN<<MARTIN<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
  SEVIS:

*Surname/Primary Name: Van Der Muellen

Given Name: Martin

Preferred Name: Martin Van der Muellen

Passport Name: Van Der Muellen Martin 
6 Name Arkfreith (Single names must be entered in the Surname field, regardless of whether they are listed as given or family names in the passport VIZ.)
  VIZ: ARKFREITH
  MRZ: P<UTOARKFREITH<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
  SEVIS:

*Surname/Primary Name: Arkfreith

Given Name:

Preferred Name: Arkfreith

Passport Name: Arkfreith
7 Name Nilavadhanananda Chayapa Dejthamrong Krasuang
  VIZ: NILAVADHANANANDA, CHAYAPA DEJTHAMRONG KRASUANG
  MRZ: P<UTONILAVADHANANANDA<<CHAYAPA<DEJTHAMRONG<K
  SEVIS:

*Surname/Primary Name: Nilavadhanananda

Given Name: Chayapa Dejthamrong Krasuang

Preferred Name: Chayapa Nilavadhanananda

Passport Name: Nilavadhanananda Chayapa Dejthamrong K 

8 Name Sam MMA Smith
  VIZ: SMITH, SAM MMA
  MRZ: P<UTOSMITH<<SAM<MMA<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
  SEVIS:

*Surname/Primary Name: Smith

Given Name: Sam MMA

Preferred Name: Sam Smith

Passport Name: Smith Sam MMA

9 Name Hsiu-Chiao Fan
  VIZ:

FAN, HSIU-CHIAO

ALSO KNOWN AS: SALLY FAN
  MRZ: P<TWNFAN<<HSIU<CHIAO<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
  SEVIS:

*Surname/Primary Name: Fan

Given Name: Hsiu Chiao

Preferred Name: Sally Fan or Hsiu-Chiao Fan

Passport Name: Fan Hsiu Chiao

Not all passports comply with MRZ standards. Some are missing an MRZ altogether. The following examples offer guidance on how to handle those types of passports.

Note: School/sponsor officials always can make the final decision when entering names. 

Missing Passport MRZ

Name Fatima Haidari (Name as written on school application)
VIZ: FATIMA HAIDARI D/O MIR AHMAD (Note: d/o = daughter of)
MRZ: No MRZ available
SEVIS:

*Surname/Primary Name: Haidari

Given Name: Fatima

Preferred Name: Fatima Haidari

Passport Name:

Name Fardeen Osmany (Name as written on school application)
VIZ: FARDIN S/O ABDULLAH (Note: s/o = son of)
MRZ: No MRZ available
SEVIS:

*Surname/Primary Name: Abdullah

Given Name: Fardin

Preferred Name: Fardin Osmany

Passport Name:

In this case, the nonimmigrant explained that his given name is spelled either “Fardeen” or “Fardin.” Osmany is his surname. Abdullah is his father. There is no U.S. visa or passport MRZ to follow as a guide. In this case, use what is in the passport VIZ until you see a government document that shows something different. The name can be changed in SEVIS later.

SEVIS Name Order

Burma (Myanmar), India and Kuwait

Passports from Burma, India, and Kuwait list names in given to surname order in both the VIZ and MRZ. Follow the student’s request if:

  • You have information from the student on the correct order of his/her name.
  • The student’s information is backed up by a U.S. visa.

Note: Even if a U.S. visa is not available, but the name follows the pattern above, it is probably safe to use that format. If you need to change the name in SEVIS later, you can do that.

Burma (Myanmar)

Name Chan Myae Wathon
VIZ: CHAN MYAE WATHON
MRZ: PVMMRCHAN<MYAE<WATHON<<<<<<
SEVIS:

*Surname/Primary Name: Wathon

Given Name: Chan Myae

Preferred Name: Chan Myae Wathon

Passport Name: Chan Myae Wathon

India

Name Kumar Vivek (All appearing under given name. Nonimmigrant and U.S. visa indicate Kumar is given name and Vivek is surname.)
VIZ: KUMAR VIVEK
MRZ: P<IND<<KUMAR<VIVEK<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
SEVIS:

*Surname/Primary Name: Vivek

Given Name: Kumar

Preferred Name: Kumar Vivek

Passport Name: Kumar Vivek 
Name Sapna Gupta (All appearing under given name. Nonimmigrant and U.S. Visa indicate Sapna is given name and Gupta is surname.)
VIZ: SAPNA GUPTA
MRZ: P<IND<<SAPNA<GUPTA<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
SEVIS:

*Surname/Primary Name: Gupta

Given Name: Sapna

Preferred Name: Sapna Gupta

Passport Name: Sapna Gupta

Kuwait

Name Abdullah A I S Alibraheem (All appearing under given name. Nonimmigrant indicated Abdullah A I S are given and middle names and Alibraheem is surname.)
VIZ: ABDULLAH A I S ALIBRAHEEM
MRZ: P<KWTABDULLAH<A<I<S<ALIBRAHEEM<<<<<
SEVIS:

*Surname/Primary Name: Alibraheem

Given Name: Abdullah A I S

Preferred Name: Abdullah A I S Alibraheem

Passport Name: Abdullah A I S Alibraheem

Unclear Name Order

Some countries have a scrambled name order in passport VIZs and MRZs. They may list names in a different order from what we expect, but are relatively consistent in the order shown below.

Malaysia

In a passport’s VIZ and MRZ, Malaysian names seem relatively consistently ordered: 

1.Given name

2.Surname

3.Middle name (usually two, if Chinese).

The U.S. Consulate correctly identified the surname and given names in the visa. However, a few cases have surfaced where the names in the MRZ do not follow the above pattern. For Malaysian names, it seems safe to follow the nonimmigrants’ recommendations for the name order. Check that the passport and U.S. visa agree with the example:

Name Benjamin Hien Pin Lo (All appearing under given name. Nonimmigrant indicated Benjamin Hien Pin is given (and middle) name and Lo is surname.)
VIZ: BENJAMIN LO HIEN PIN 
MRZ: P<MYSBENJAMIN<LO<HIEN<PIN<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
SEVIS:

*Surname/Primary Name: Lo

Given Name: Benjamin Hien Pin

Preferred Name: Benjamin Hein Pin Lo

Passport Name: Benjamin Lo Hien Pin

 

Sudan

There are different naming conventions used by the Sudanese people. For formal and administrative purposes, they may use the Arabic naming conventions.

That is:

  1. Given name
  2. Father’s first name
  3. Grandfather’s first name
Name

Abdul-Aziz Bilal (Nonimmigrant indicated Abdul-Aziz is given (and middle) name. Bilal is his father’s name and Hussain is his grandfather’s name.)

This naming convention does not involve a surname. All the names are given names and appear on one “Full Name” line in the Sudanese passport.

VIZ: ABDUL-AZIZ BILAL HUSSAIN
MRZ: PBSDNABDUL
SEVIS:

*Surname/Primary Name: Hussain

Given Name: Abdul Aziz Bilal

Preferred Name: Abdul-Aziz Bilal
Passport Name: Abdul-Aziz Bilal

For more details on Sudanese naming conventions, see the North Sudanese Culture article under the Naming section on the Cultural Atlas website.

Vietnam

In a passport’s VIZ and MRZ, Vietnamese names seem to be consistently ordered:

1.Surname

2.Middle name

3.Given name

However, the U.S. visa shows the name in the correct order. For Vietnamese names, it seems safe to follow the nonimmigrants’ recommendations for the name order. Check that the passport and U.S. visa agree with the example: 

Name Hang Thu Ngo (All appearing under given name. Nonimmigrant indicated given name is Hang Thu and the surname is Ngo.)
VIZ: NGO THU HANG 
MRZ: P<VNMNGO<<THU<HANG<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
SEVIS:

*Surname/Primary Name: Ngo

Given Name: Hang Thu

Preferred Name: Hang Thu Ngo

Passport Name: Ngo Thu Hang

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