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Surname Problems – Passport vs Certificates, Marksheets and Documents

Mostly people panic after reading single blog post about potential problem they can face when names mismatch (or empty surname) in passport and  send an email or post a comment right away.  I received couple questions this week in surname problems (mainly Indians).

Arun Asks

My name is Arun M V. I came to know that last name is important in US. So, did Indian passport will be issued in name format Arun M VXXX. Because the full name Arun MXXX VXXX is too much long. I have all the records as Arun M V. Is the name in GRE,TOEFL should be same as in the University application.

I have seen many people, University Faculty in US of Indian origin have their names in format Arun M VXXX. If the Indian Passport does’nt allow this,how it can be possible?
Or can I give my name as Arun VXXX eliminating my Middle name.

Pankil Asks

I have a problem/confusion. My name is mentioned as

Given Names: Pankil DXXX
Last Name: SXXX in passport.

My degrees have it as SXXX Pankil DXXX. I am already in US and working on H1B. So I have SSN which has my first name Last name. Should I be worried about having different names on these documents? I plan to take GMAT by end of 2010. Any information you can provide will be very helpful.

Surname – Passport vs Certificates

In India, we are used to have names with initials, instead of using Full Name. When applying for passport, well those dang travel agents mess up the things, don’t they? Most of us unaware of potential problems that one can run into while applying for GRE Exam, TOEFL, F1 Visa, SSN, Driving License, etc.

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Possible Name Combination’s

  • Certificates – Arun MV
  • Birth Certificate – MV Arun
  • College Marksheets – MV Arun
  • Documents – Arun V (or MXXX Arun VXXX)

You have to remember this – Name mismatch between passport and certificates not a major problem at all. Thats something that can be will fixed. Don’t worry about changing names in your certificates and documents.

Names in Passport

Having cleared one problem above, lets talk about name’s in the passport. I can think of possible variations

Combination 1 :

  • Given Name – Arun
  • Middle Name – MXXX
  • Surname – VXXX

Combination 2:

  • Given Name – Arun MXXX
  • Middle Name – Empty
  • Surname – VXXX

Combination 3:

  • Given Name – Arun M V
  • Middle Name – Empty
  • Surname – Empty

Of all the above 3 possibilities, the last one is the problematic. As long as you have Surname in your passport, you will not have MAJOR problems. If there is no surname in your passport, stop right here and get your name changes in your passport first before going forward with any application or study abroad process.

Empty (or blank) Surname in Passport equals TROUBLE.

If you already applied (or received) passport without surname, get that fixed. Talk to local passport office to find out passport name chnage procedure and get it done. NOW. You may have additional if’s and buts like

I already booked dates for GRE Exam? What shall I do?

Answer is the same, change the name in passport, rebook GRE again. If you try to save GRE exam fees, you have bigger problems awaiting you.

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GRE, TOEFL and College Application

Now, we have cleared 2 issues related to names (documents and passport). Now, lets assume you have passport with surname that doesn’t match with names on your documents.

  • GRE, TOEFL, GMAT (or other exams) – Book dates based on name in passport, not documents. Use the name as provided in the passport.
  • College Application – Use the name as per passport. Remember that name in your passport will be your identity.

Going forward use the name “as-is” from your passport. It’s absolutely ok to have different names from your degree certificates. Only university is going to use your certificates, but every other department is going to use your passport. Thats one of the reason, you have to include a copy of passport front page with your application documents.

While filling out college application, you will see a question (or similar)

  • List other names used in your application documents.

You would have to enter various names used in your documents. If there is no such question, attach additional page to list the various names in different documents. That document must clearly state that documents submitted along with application will have following names, which will be different from the name in the passport.

Bottom line is this

1) Your passport must contain surname (last name); 2) Name in GRE score report should match with name in passport.

Questions? Please comment.


  1. My father’s name is “Ramesh Singh” and Mother’s is “Sunita Singh” in all their documents. We, three children, have different variations of names on our passports, with and without Surname/Lastname.
    My passport says, “Ramesh Singh Rana” as my father’s name and “Sunita Singh Rana” as my Mother’s name.
    My brother’s passport says, “Ramesh Singh Rana” as my father’s name and “Sunita Singh” as my Mother’s name.
    My sister’s passport says, “Ramesh Singh” as my father’s name and “Sunita Singh” as my Mother’s name.

    What names should be on my parent’s passports so that they can get dependent visas from USA or Australia or Canada, so that no problems occur during immigration and/or getting dependent visas?

  2. Hi,

    My surname in my passport does not match my dad’s name or surname. Will this affect my f1 visa application?



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