A person’s legal name is very important in immigration documents. An applicant must make sure to provide their correct and complete names — with no typographical errors, no excess or lacking letters, etc. Just purely what shows up in their birth certificate and other legal documents.

It sounds easy enough — but not for everyone. There are some people with names that can cause problems with immigration, such as if their names are too long, if they only have one name, or their names are in another language and have a different meaning in the U.S.

Common Issues With Names in Immigration Petitions

Names That are Too Long

Some people have names that are extremely long, but the problem is that there are only limited letterboxes in an immigration petition. Their whole names may not fit in an immigration form, and the only choice is to write down what can fit and drop the other letters. The applicant or their immigration lawyer must then provide an explanation of their full name to be attached with their application.

Although the form will be valid and accepted, provided that an explanation is given, there’s a high chance that the applicant’s full name will not be reflected in their legal documents, including their green cards and work cards.

Only One Name

The US standard is that people are given at least two names: a first name and a last name. But there are individuals that are only given one name to identify themselves with. Some only have a first name, while others can only have a last name.

In case a person only has one name, it should be indicated as their last name in the immigration form, regardless of whether they regularly use it as their first name or last name. In the boxes for the first name, the applicant must write the letters “FNU,” which stands for First Name Unknown.

Immigration’s system requires that the one name available be listed as a last name so that they can easily search their database and identify the applicants.

Names With Different Meanings in Other Languages

In other instances, a person from another country may be given a name in their national language. Their names may have a unique meaning in their mother tongue but represent or stand for something completely different in the United States. In these instances, an immigration lawyer may provide the applicant with options of how to deal with their names.

Solutions for Common Name Problems

In immigration cases with problematic names like those listed above, there are two solutions that may be recommended by an immigration lawyer.

Legal Name Change

The first option is to request a legal name change. The individual will have to go to their local court and stand before a judge requesting to change their names prior to submitting an immigration form. When the legal name change has been ordered, they can proceed to file their documents with the immigration center and must also submit proof of the legal name change.


Another way to change a legal name is by applying for naturalization. Also done before a court, the applicant will include a request for a name change in the N400 form and indicate their new chosen name. When they are sworn in as naturalized U.S. citizens by a federal judge, their name change will have the force of law and be considered their new legal name.

Solving Name Problems With an Immigration Attorney

Immigration issues stemming from names are more common than most people think. An immigration attorney can provide solutions for common issues, as well as recommend and assist in legal courses of action.