How I Ended Up With Two Different Names In The American System (And What You Can Do So It Doesn’t Happen To You)

Different countries have different ways of naming people. For example, in South America, people tend to have two different last names and they both appear on all official documents – the father’s last name followed by the mother’s last name. However, in normal day to day, most people tend to only use the father’s last name. 

When I applied to college, out of habit, I only listed my father’s last name. So, when the International Student advisor at my school prepared my I-20, that was the name that appeared. I didn’t even notice or thought anything of it. I applied for my social security number and the name on my card appeared as the one on my I-20. When I applied for my drivers license, however, they asked for my name to appear as it does in my F-1 visa: with both last names listed under “surname.” And so my journey of having two different names began. 

I file my taxes with the name that appears on my social security card but I applied for my current TN visa with the name that appears on my drivers license. It’s confusing and I probably need to change my social security name at some point, although for now, I haven’t had any issues. 

I share this story to make sure you’re careful when listing your name on different US official documents so you can make sure everything’s consistent with your passport name. Pay attention to how you list your name on your college application and double check all documents before you embark on your American journey. 

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