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Name Standards

Name Standards

Last updated: June 23, 2020

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This article describes the new SEVIS name standards and their relationship to names written in passports.


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 actually the 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 actually the nonimmigrant’s name
  • 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

Standards for machine-readable passports were put together by an international organization. Read about them here: Document 9303 Machine-readable Travel Documents Volume 1: Machine-readable Passports. These standards have been adapted worldwide.

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 in the Appendix 1, 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 3 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

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

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

The following table is from Document 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 ç A acute A
2 Ë A grave A
3 å A circumflex A
4 A diaeresis AE
5 Ì 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 C cedilla C
15 Ð Eth D
16 Ď D caron D
17 ƒ E acute E
18 é E grave E
19 æ E circumflex E
20 è 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 õ I without dot (Turkey) I
33 ê I acute I
34 I grave I
35 I circumflex I
36 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 N tilde N
51 Ň N caron N
52 Ņ N cedilla N
53 Ŋ Eng N
54 ¯ O slash O
55 î O acute O
56 ñ O grave O
57 ï O circumflex O
58 O diaeresis OE
59 Í 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 ò U acute U
74 ô U grave U
75 ó U circumflex U
76 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 Ù Y diaeresis Y
87 Ź Z acute Z
88 Ž Z caron Z
89 Ż Z dot Z
90 Þ Thorn (Iceland) TH
91 ® Ligature A E AE
92 IJ Ligature IJ IJ
93 Î Ligature OE OE
94 § 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.


1 Name Anna Maria Eriksson
  MRZ: P<UTOERIKSSON<<ANNA<MARIA<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

*Surname/Primary Name: Eriksson

First Name: Anna Maria

Preferred Name: Anna Maria Eriksson

Passport Name: Eriksson Anna Maria
2 Name Susie Margaret Smith-Jones

*Surname/Primary Name: Smith Jones

Given Name: Susie Margaret

Preferred Name: Susie Margaret Smith-Jones

Passport Name: Smith Jones Susie Margaret 

*Surname/Primary Name: Heng

Given Name: Deborah Ming Lo

Preferred Name: Deborah Heng Ming Lo

Passport Name: Heng Deborah Ming Lo
  MRZ: P<UTOOCONNOR<<ENYA<SIOBHAN<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

*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

*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.)
  MRZ: P<UTOARKFREITH<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

*Surname/Primary Name: Arkfreith

Given Name:

Preferred Name: Arkfreith

Passport Name: Arkfreith
7 Name Nilavadhanananda Chayapa Dejthamrong Krasuang

*Surname/Primary Name: Nilavadhanananda

Given Name: Chayapa Dejthamrong Krasuang

Preferred Name: Chayapa Nilavadhanananda

Passport Name: Nilavadhanananda Chayapa Dejthamrong K 

8 Name Sam MMA Smith
  MRZ: P<UTOSMITH<<SAM<MMA<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

*Surname/Primary Name: Smith

Given Name: Sam MMA

Preferred Name: Sam Smith

Passport Name: Smith Sam MMA

9 Name Hsiu-Chiao Fan


  MRZ: P<TWNFAN<<HSIU<CHIAO<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

*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 have the ability to 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

*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

*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

*Surname/Primary Name: Wathon

Given Name: Chan Myae

Preferred Name: Chan Myae Wathon

Passport Name: Chan Myae Wathon


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

*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.)
MRZ: P<IND<<SAPNA<GUPTA<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

*Surname/Primary Name: Gupta

Given Name: Sapna

Preferred Name: Sapna Gupta

Passport Name: Sapna Gupta


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.)

*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.


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

1.Given name


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.)

*Surname/Primary Name: Lo

Given Name: Benjamin Hien Pin

Preferred Name: Benjamin Hein Pin Lo

Passport Name: Benjamin Lo Hien Pin


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


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.)
MRZ: P<VNMNGO<<THU<HANG<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

*Surname/Primary Name: Ngo

Given Name: Hang Thu

Preferred Name: Hang Thu Ngo

Passport Name: Ngo Thu Hang

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