I'm Indian and my full name is X Y Z (such as John Doe Johnson). In my passport, Given Name is X and Surname is Y Z. Would that be any issue? Or should I get it corrected to update Given Name to X Y and Surname to Z?

Would having Y Z as the surname be any issue in the US?

  • 3
    At some point a paperwork drone is going to make a mistake and it'll be a pain in the ass to fix, but that probably happens to you now, too
    – user133933
    Commented Mar 18, 2021 at 13:44
  • This question may be better suited to the Travel SE
    – Bookworm
    Commented Mar 18, 2021 at 13:46
  • 4
    What do you mean by "my full name is X Y X"? Where is Z?
    – Nobody
    Commented Mar 18, 2021 at 13:54
  • 2
    Just always use 'Y Z' as surname. What causes trouble is when you have some records under X Y and others under X Z. - I used to work for ETS/College Board
    – Affe
    Commented Mar 19, 2021 at 23:56

5 Answers 5


I am Latino, and as a result have an even worse version of this issue. My full name is of the form A B C D E, with A and B being given names, and C D and E being surnames. An extra complication is that D is not a name by itself, it's just a preposition.

I have given the TOEFL and GRE tests before and that has not been an issue. Minor errors may occur depending on who handles the documentation, but they have never been an actual issue. For example, my names have been agglutinated as CDE, AB (surname, first name). In a visa, I had it once written as B C D E, A. In academic papers, it has been cited as E, A B C D; D E, A B C; C D E, AB; B C D E, A. The preposition itself sometimes vanishes leading to C E, A B.

No clerk has ever questioned my authorship, or my documentation in my travels.

  • 2
    Agreed. I am from the US but have two Italian words separated by a space for a last name. It has never been an issue aside from some systems (or careless data entry) smooshing them together without the space.
    – App-Devon
    Commented Mar 19, 2021 at 1:41

No, it is not going to be a problem. People in Spain usually have names consisting of several parts, for example.

  • 1
    The correct answer is: This likely will be a problem, but a log of people are facing these problems and you should be fine.
    – usr1234567
    Commented Mar 19, 2021 at 12:29
  • @usr1234567: As I wrote there is no problem. Many Spanish people were and are grad students in the US.
    – user135405
    Commented Mar 19, 2021 at 14:18
  • 3
    @dodd: and how many did you ask about whether it ever caused them problems? I've seen enough people have problems with others getting their slightly unusual names wrong all over the world, that I'd be very skeptical that it never causes problems in the US. Fixable problems, but problems nevertheless
    – Max
    Commented Mar 19, 2021 at 14:30
  • @Max: I know many. None of them had any problems worth mentioning.
    – user135405
    Commented Mar 19, 2021 at 14:33
  • @Max: Perhaps you're considering it a "problem" if anyone gets your name wrong, ever. That's just something that a lot of people have learned to put up with from bureaucracies, I guess, and the point other people are making is that that problem (which might offend you personally), won't stop you or even slow you down when dealing with bureaucracies. (Presumably any time a human is checking something, they know their computer system mangles some kinds of names.) Commented Mar 19, 2021 at 23:40

(I used to work for ETS/College Board)

As long as all of your records always use 'Y Z' as your surname you shouldn't worry.

The stories/rumors you've perhaps heard from colleagues happen when the student or their parent is inconsistent, such as:

Sometimes you see a student who has something like a Secondary Diploma 'X Y' Undergraduate Diploma 'X Z' and TOEFL score 'X Y Z'. Generally none of these institutions will alter the name on the record so you're down to trying to convince the school you're applying to that they're all you.

(Orthogonally avoid changing what's on your passport at all cost if it's not truly just wrong unless you want to have to fill out the 'also known as' section on every immigration application related to studying outside the country for the rest of your life.)

  • In terms of moving abroad, filling out the "also known as" section is quite minor haha Commented Mar 22, 2021 at 16:42

Nope. My last name is 2 words, and it hasn't been a big problem in most places. Sometimes at the pharmacy or something, I have to ask them to check my last name as one word though. But it's rare.


Probably not.

In English speaking countries, there is a fairly common practice of giving children three names: a personal name, a middle name, and a surname. The middle name is almost entirely disregarded in common use and official documentation, but people still have them. It's unlikely that any of the staff will find a name of the form "A B C" unusual at all.

Most likely, if any error occurs at all, the university staff handling your application will simply assume that, upon receiving an application with a name taking the form A B C, that A is your personal name, B is your middle name, and C is your family name, and enter your name into their systems as such. It's unlikely to result in any difficulties in applying, but it might result in them only entering the first letter of B into their systems under "middle initial" or omitting it altogether.

If this occurs, once you've enrolled, I imagine that you would likely be able to just show up at their student administration office and get them to change the name stored in their systems. Students change their names all the time; women in English-speaking names often change their family names when they get married, and transgender individuals often change their personal names when they come out and start transitioning. As a result, it should be a fairly straight-forward process for them to correct any mistakes recording your name in their systems.

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