Filipino Star News - ImmigrationWhat’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”  — William Shakespeare, ‘Romeo and Juliet’

One of the greatest poets and playwrights of all times, Shakespeare wrote this line in that famous love story some 400 years ago. Juliet’s family was at war with Romeo’s but to the besotted girl whatever his last name is he still had a rosy smell.

Rightly so, a person’s name is for identification only; it does not necessarily define who you are (hopefully). However, in the world we live, with heightened security measures in place and the propensity for identity fraud, using one’s correct name is of paramount importance.

In U.S. immigration, although having another name (such as in the case of married women, adopted or legitimated children) is acceptable, having the exact name on record for identity purposes is still preferred in order to avoid confusion,  waste of time and  unnecessary expense  of correcting it. 

Consider the following: (Case No. 1) A U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident fills out application forms for his spouse in order to bring her to the United States.  Unsure of what to write, he puts his wife’s maiden name instead of her married name in the application. When the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) receives the application packet, the officers do not question it. After all, a woman’s right to retain her maiden name after marriage is accepted.

After the wife’s petition is approved with her maiden name on it, it becomes her record with USCIS. The couple really intended to use the husband’s family name in the green-card application but did not know that they could. Moreover, the wife did not change her name in her passport. So far, there is no problem.

Upon entry to the US, however, the confusion starts. The Social Security office will ask for her status and marriage certificate and issue a card with her married name.  Based on this information in the Social Security card, the Department of Motor Vehicles or Secretary of State will issue the wife’s state I.D. or driver’s license bearing her married name.  Both of these cards are inconsistent with the name appearing in the wife’s green card. In this case, when she travels abroad, it is advisable to always bring a marriage certificate to explain the discrepancy, if questioned.

The confusion and inconvenience would not happen if at the time the petition was filed based on marriage, the wife’s name had been changed to her husband’s last name. Measures to change the wife’s last name at USCIS are available, but it is an added expense and could be a waste of time.

Most petitioners opt to simply wait until it’s time to file for U.S. citizenship because then an immigrant is allowed to change her name to whatever she likes.

(Case No. 2) A mother petitions her 19-year-old child whose name everybody knows as “Jeremiah”, but the birth certificate refers to him as “Jeremy.” All his school, medical and other records bear the name “Jeremiah.”

If the name “Jeremiah” appears in any of the child’s official records, USCIS will require a justification for the discrepancy in names and to execute an affidavit of identity.  Such unnecessary mistake could prolong the processing of the visa request and even result in the child “aging-out.” thereby dropping to a different visa category and further prolonging the waiting period.

The Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State have been very strict to require visa applicants to submit birth certificates from the proper and credible government office tasked to officially issue such documents

So what’s in a name?  Outside of Romeo and Juliet’s love story, there is a lot.  The latest security measure implemented by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at the port of entry is to fingerprint even those carrying visitor’s visas and all other non-immigrant visas so that the fingerprints will match those of the name of the person appearing on the visa.

In the future, no one can claim to be a Montague when in fact he is actually a Capulet.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here