Most people have the last name or family name and first name filled with information in their passport. But, few have blank family names or surnames. When you apply for US Visa, you would need to fill out your first and last names separately. In that case, how do we handle blank family names or first names, and what to enter on the DS-160 form is the issue.
In this article, we will give you background on first name, last name, how it works and the importance of them in US immigration forms. Also, one of our readers, NK, had the same issue with a blank surname. He attended H1B and H4 visa stamping in Mumbai and has shared his experience filling up the DS-160 form with common FAQs and guidance on how to fill it. Thanks to NK for sharing his experience.
Before we get into the issue, let’s try to understand the common terms and the source for confusion.
What are First Name, Given Name, Last Name, Surname, Family Name ?
The terms first name, given name, last name, family name, and surname are used commonly and it can be very confusing at times. Below are what they mean
- First Name, Given Name : First name is the name that is typically used to call a person. Usually, when you write the name, you would see this in the first, when you write the name. Hence called first name. Example : John Vader. In this, John is the first name. Depending on the country, the ‘First name’ is also called as ‘Given Name’. So, both ‘First name’ and ‘Given name’ are same, do not be confused.
- Family Name, Surname, Last Name : Last name is the name that indicates the roots or family details of a person. Usually it appears at the last, when you write the name. Hence, called last name. Example : John Vader. In this Vader is the last name. Depending on the country , the ‘Last Name’ is also called as ‘Family Name’ or ‘Surname’. They all mean the same, so do not be confused.
Importance of Last Name / Family Name / Surname for US Immigration
In US Immigration Context, Last Name/ Family Name/ Surname is the most important field. It cannot be blank. A person has to have a family name. If the family name is blank, the US immigration officers would move the first name to the family name. This is a common practice.
In some countries like India, you would see people use ‘initials’ for the family/last name. Though it is a common practice there, ideally, you would need to expand your family name instead of just one letter initial, when you fill the US immigration forms or when you get your passport to avoid issues.
What are FNU, LNU in context of US Visas, Immigration ?
Before we go to the issue, there are two important terms you need to know FNU and LNU.
- FNU stands for First Name Unknown as per US Embassy. This term is often used in your US Visa / Immigration documents, when there is no first name for the user or applicant.
- LNU stands for Last Name Unknown. This is typically used, when there is no Last Name for the user. In reality, LNU is not used as often as you would see FNU. The simple reason is, Family Name or Last Name ( Surname) is a key field in most of the US Immigration/ Visas and they would usually fill the name given by applicant as Last Name.
Now that we know the background, let’s look at the issue.
Missing Surname in Passport – How to fill DS-160 forms
I don’t have any Surname/ Family Name printed on my passport.
- My full name – XXXX YYYY is printed under “Given Name” on my passport.
On top of this, my existing B1 visa and H-1B petition have YYYY as my surname and XXXX as my given name.
So I filled up two DS-160 forms with the following details:
- DS-160-1: Given name : XXXX, Surname: YYYY.
- DS160-2: Given name: FNU, Surname: XXXX YYYY [FNU stands for First Name Unknown].
I first gave them the first DS-160 form (as described in DS-160-1 above) which they didn’t accept as asked me to “go to a cyber café” and fix the error. Then I gave them the second DS-160 (as described in DS160-2 above) which they accepted. This saved me the hassle of going to the cyber café and getting my DS 160 fixed. See the below screenshot.
Accepted way in DS-160 to fill out First Name and Last Name :
- Surname / Last Name : Complete Given Name/ First Name as it is in Passport
- First Name / Given Name : FNU
In case of any confusion – don’t make any changes, fill up as many DS-160 as you want, and take the bar code printout of all the forms with you. You can give them whichever you like based on the situation. This saved me a lot of time and money.
You enter the First Name that appears in the passport in the Last Name field in DS-160. You also enter FNU as the First name in the DS-160.
No, it will not be rejected for that reason only. It does not play a part. As the name is not full, there may be additional security checks that may happen, but will not directly impact the approval chances.
Yes, absolutely, you should fix your passport with a blank last name or family name. It will save you some hassle in the US after you arrive.
Did you have a missing Surname or Last name in your Passport? How did you handle your DS-160 form ? Any other info that you know for such cases?