I am sharing a real-life example of the name “FNU” (meaning First Name Unknown). If you don't have a surname (blank/empty surname which is quite common in India) on your passport, what issues or problems might you encounter in the United States, and what are the potential solutions?
I am going to cover each problem one by one, starting with how to fill out DS-160 for FNUs, having an FNU name on a US visa, booking FNU airline tickets, encountering FNU on the I-94 form, dealing with the SSN office, dealing with an FNU name on a Driver's License, getting an EAD card, FNU's I-9 employment verification (e-verify), understanding how to file taxes, buying a house or car in the US, getting credit cards, securing loan, etc.
Table of Contents: Fnu name
I will try to cover everything you need to know if your name has FNU. It's been over 10 years now and FNU is not a show-stopper so far.
FNU Indian Name
Well, FNU is not an Indian name but a significant number of FNU names come from Indian origin. It's due to the practice of having only a first name in India, where the last name is not mandatory.
However, when you travel to foreign countries like the USA, Canada, Australia, Europe, etc. surnames become mandatory and many Indian visa applicants without surnames often receive visas with FNU as the first name and their actual name as the last name. That's the starting point where you will encounter the FNU name.
FNU Problem Solution
How did I become familiar with "FNU" name problems and solutions? Well, my husband has only one name (a single name like Rihanna, the Barbadian singer) and he is called "FNU" (pronounced as "fuh-new") in the United States. Due to this, I am aware of most of the problems which FNU might encounter. Throughout the blog, I will provide examples using my name.
I am here to share our journey, all the problems we faced with the FNU name, and what solutions we employed. My aim is to help others navigate FNU name-related problems.
Please feel free to comment if you are in a similar situation with the name FNU, I will try to answer those questions to the best of my experience.
01. FNU Meaning
FNU name means "First Name Unknown", pronounced as “fuh-new”. If you don't have a last name i.e. it’s blank/missing on your passport then your US visa will be issued as "FNU". Your first name will be issued as FNU and your given name on your passport will become your last name on the US visa.
Case 01: If your Indian passport has only one name like the Given name: "Hina" and Last name: <empty> then your US visa will have your First name: "FNU", and Last name: "Hina" so your name becomes "FNU Hina".
Case 02: Suppose your Indian passport has a name like the Given name: "Hina Singh" and Last name: <empty> then your US visa will have your First name: "FNU", and Last name: "Hina Singh" so your name will be "FNU Hina Singh".
Note: If you fall into case 2, it's good to rectify your name on your Indian passport so that your Given name is "Hina" and your Last name is "Singh". Do not get yourself into the FNU hassle. Fix it before it becomes more complicated.
Related post: How to renew your passport in the USA?
02. FNU in DS-160 Form
Form DS-160 is at the heart of all the problems. If your passport lacks a last name, then this will be the first time you will encounter the term “FNU“ while completing the DS-160 form.
Whether you are applying for a tourist visa or a work visa, if your passport doesn't have a last name, you'll need to enter 'FNU' as your first name and your given name as your last name.
There's no alternative solution for this issue (except rectifying the passport name by adding a last name, as discussed in case 2 earlier). In many instances, making this correction within such a short timeframe is challenging, so let us just move forward.
As shown in the DS-160 form screenshot above, you can see the explanation in the “Help: Given Names” section, so nothing to worry about, just fill out the DS-160 form as instructed.
Related post: Sample sponsorship letter for a B1/B2 tourist visa
Case 01: If you have one name then it will be filled in Surname. For example, if the name is just “Hina” then the Surname will be “Hina” and the Given Name will be filled as FNU.
Case 02: If your name is “Hina Singh” as the given name then it will be filled in Surname as “Hina Singh” and Given Name as FNU so in this case, your name becomes "FNU Hina Singh".
Even if you fill out DS-160 with your first name as “Hina” and last name as “Singh”, it doesn’t matter, you will get the visa as "FNU Hina Singh". USCIS will process your application as FNU.
Result: FNU Hina or FNU Hina Singh
03. FNU on Visa
After filling out the DS-160 and going through the visa interview process you will be granted a US visa. There will be no issues here.
You might see minor hiccups during biometrics or the interview process where they will try to find your name, but nothing to worry about. Most of the officers are aware of the FNU name and you will get through this.
Related: Tourist visa interview questions
When you get the visa, notice the name printed on your US visa, Your first name will be FNU and your last name will be your actual name.
We are just scratching the surface and this is just the beginning but it should not be a problem as long as you are comfortable with your new name "FNU". Even if you are not, get used to it. 😊
Result: FNU Hina or FNU Hina Singh
04. FNU Airline Ticket
Once you get your US visa, the next step is to get the airline tickets.
Case 01: This could be a little tricky if you have a single name like just “Hina”. You should talk to airlines about how they handle situations like this because each airline has its own policy.
Sometimes they prefer doing the same as visa like “Fnu Hina” but sometimes they might even do “Hina Hina”, sometimes “Mrs. Hina”, "Hina ." (dot in the last name), or "Hina LNU" (Last Name Unknown), or "Unknown Hina".
It varies depending on airline policies for domestic and international travel, or which country you are traveling to. So talk to the airlines before booking your tickets.
For example, if you are booking tickets with Air India and you don't have a last name, they would ask you to repeat the first name in the last name field like "Hina Hina" for domestic travel, "FNU Hina" for international travel to the US & Canada, "Unknown Hina" for Australia, "Hina Hina" for UAE and so on.
You can find the Air India details in the below link. I have also included a few other airline resources that might help you while booking the tickets.
However, the safest bet will be "Fnu Hina" i.e. same as your US visa. We have traveled to the US with Qatar, KLM, United, and Delta with "FNU" as the first name and never faced any issues.
Case 02: For names like “Hina Singh” as a given name and “blank” surnames on passports, do not over-complicate it. Just book your flight tickets with your First name as "Hina" and your Last name as "Singh".
Just temporarily ignore what’s printed on the visa i.e. "FNU Hina Singh". So in this case, your air ticket will be booked as "Hina Singh" and it will match your passport.
Again check the airline name policy before you make final bookings. I have mentioned the links above, these policies might change with time.
Result: Varies for each airline
05. I-94 form for FNU
As soon as your immigration is done at the US port of entry your electronic I-94 should be ready. If not, give it at least 24 hours. You need to go to the Department of Homeland Security website to download your most recent I-94 form.
Finding your I-94 could be tricky if you don’t have a surname and it totally depends upon the immigration officer who did your immigration at the US airport (port of entry).
When you look up your name for the I-94 form you can try the following combinations. I understand it's funny sometimes but that's how it is!
Case 00: Rare case scenario but if you have a name like "FNU Hina Singh" on the visa, try searching with the first name as "Hina" and the last name as "Singh" and you might be lucky to find your name as "Hina Singh" on I-94.
But honestly speaking this is not good news, technically if your name on I-94 is "FNU Hina Singh" which matches your US visa, it's good for you. Try contacting CBP customer service and request them to keep it the same.
Case 01: Search with your actual name in the last name (not in the first name). Remember that your first name is FNU and your last name is your actual name now. For example ”FNU Hina” in this case.
Case 02: If you can’t find I-94 with FNU then try searching with LNU in your last name and your actual name as the first name.
For example “Hina LNU”. LNU stands for "Last Name Unknown". As I mentioned it all depends upon the immigration officer what he entered during your immigration.
Case 03: If not, try searching like "Unknown Hina" or "No name given Hina". Basically, try the first name as "Unknown" or "No name given".
Suppose your name is shown as “Hina LNU” or "Unknown Hina" or "No name given Hina" in I-94 then contact CBP customer service and try to get the name same as your visa i.e. “FNU Hina”. Explain on call that you want to keep the name as your visa and they should understand your situation.
Note: This is really important to keep the names in sync across all the legal documents in the US. So it's better to start from I-94. The ultimate goal is to keep "FNU <your name>" across all the US documents wherever possible. Avoid having different names on different documents like LNU, "No Name Given", or "Unknown" and just stick to FNU. Trust me this will make your life easier.
Result: FNU Hina or FNU Hina Singh
06. FNU in SSN
Now, the next step is to get your social security. You need to apply for a social security number within 2 weeks of arrival if you are on a work visa. Social Security Administration has a different "system" from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) which issues you I-94.
Social Security Administration doesn't allow FNU or similar terms in your name. They will not consider "FNU" which is mentioned on your visa.
They will just check the name on your passport and I-94. But nothing to worry about, the SSN office has a better solution for this type of situation and I wish DHS had a similar option.
The good thing is SSN system accepts single names. Their system has the option of the applicant having a single name or no surname.
You can read about it on the Social Security Administration website. It states that if the individual has a single name and the immigration document shows FNU (First Name Unknown) or another acronym indicating the person does not have a first name, process the SSN in the applicant’s single name (Case 1).
Case 01: Suppose you have a single name like "Hina" then you will be issued an SSN card as "Hina". But on the SSN envelope letter (which you will receive from the Social Security Administration) right above your mailing address, your name will be mentioned as "Unknown Hina" which is okay. There is nothing to worry about that.
Case 02: Imagine your name is "Hina Singh," and your surname is blank. In this case, your issued SSN will be "Hina Singh." Although it may seem like the SSN processed your first name as "Hina" and last name as "Singh," it's actually processed as a single name in their system same as Case 01. However, it will appear perfectly on the SSN card.
Result: Hina Singh
Again, avoid names like "Hina LNU", "No name given Hina", "Unknown Hina" or "Hina Singh LNU" on SSN. If you get an SSN card like this please try to get it fixed. SSN card as "Hina" or "Hina Singh" is good for you.
FNU Name Change in SSN
In order to fix your name in your SSN, and to get rid of FNU, you would need an updated passport with the correct name, updated visa stamp, updated I-94, and updated immigration document like your petition I-797 if you are on an H1B visa, or L1, or updated DS-2019 if you are J1 visa or updated I-20 if you are on F1 visa.
07. FNU Driver's License
The next step is to visit DMV to get a driver's license. In the US, it's really tough to live without a driver's license as there is very limited public transport service depending upon which city you live in, plus it is costly to use transport services like Uber, Lyft, etc.
The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has an online application where you will fill in your name details before visiting the DMV office.
Here is the trick, in the application form, you will notice First Name is not a mandatory field. Last Name is a mandatory field though (see the red asterisk * next to LAST NAME in the following screenshot). This is a screenshot of the DMV online application form.
When you fill out the DMV form, keep your First Name <blank> and enter your given name as your Last Name.
For example, if your name is "FNU Hina" on your visa and "Hina" on your SSN, then your name on the DL application form will be First Name: <blank, yes do not enter anything> and Last Name: Hina.
Once the DMV person processes your application for fingerprint and photograph - this will go smoothly as far as your name in your SSN is "Hina" (case 1).
Do not fill in "FNU Hina" or "FNU Hina Singh" in the DMV form, this will definitely mismatch with your SSN and your application will not go through due to SSN mismatch. The DMV officer will ask you to visit the SSN office and get your name fixed, but the SSN office does not accept FNU so don't waste your time there.
If your SSN has names like "Hina LNU", "No name given Hina", "Unknown Hina" or "Hina Singh LNU" it's a problem, and the DMV officer will face a problem while submitting your application as your name will not match with Social Security Administration records and he will ask you to get your name fixed in SSN.
If everything goes smoothly, your driver's license will be issued as First Name: <blank> Last Name: Hina, My husband's driver's license is the same. He has nothing in his first name, it's literally <empty>. Weird right? But that's how it is.
I have not seen DL with cases like a blank first name but a last name as "Hina Singh" but I would not be surprised if someone has. Comment if you have a license with an empty first name and both the names in the last name.
Result: <empty> Hina
Same first and last name on DL
Another case we have seen is the same first and last name like "Hina Hina". It was like this when my husband was in New Jersey, but later when my husband moved to California, DMV didn't accept the same first and last name as SSN verification was failing.
New Jersey DMV (manager) was nice and he manually approved the case (even after the SSN mismatch), so even if your SSN has "Hina", a driver's license can be issued as "Hina Hina", it all depends upon the mercy of DMV officer.
Result: Hina Hina
Try talking to the DMV's office manager, if not just submit your application as an empty first name as suggested earlier and you should be fine. DMV has to process your case. There is no way out. As far as your SSN has a single name, the DMV application will match your SSN and you will get a DL with an empty first name.
08. I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification for FNU
I-9 employment verification will be required on your first day of joining if you are going to work in the US. As far as your name on your SSN is "Hina" and your visa has "FNU Hina" you should be fine.
Just enter "FNU" in your first name and "Hina" in your last name while doing the I-9 paperwork and this should go smoothly.
You can also perform a self-check if you are not sure what will happen on the day of I-9 verification. Refer to this link. Worst case, suppose I-9 verification fails you will be issued a tentative non-confirmation (TNC) number, then you just need to visit the SSN office with the TNC printout provided by the employer and SSA would be able to resolve your case manually in their system.
Result: FNU Hina or FNU Hina Singh
09. FNU on EAD and FNU Green Card
Suppose you are a dependent of a primary visa holder like H1B, L1, or J1 and you need to work in the US. Even if you are on an F1 visa based on OPT or STEM OPT, you would need to fill out the I-765 form to apply for an EAD card.
L2 visa holders don't need EAD anymore if they have the L2S category mentioned on I-94. Refer to this blog for details.
In this case, fill your name as First Name: FNU and Last Name: Hina and you should be able to get EAD with "FNU Hina".
Tip: Once you get the receipt notice of I-765, check what's your name on the receipt notice. Most probably it will be "No Name Given <your name>", for example, First Name will be "No Name Given" and the Last Name will be "Hina". In this case, submit a typographic error correction as soon as possible and request that you keep your name the same as your visa and other legal documents like I-94 so please update it to "FNU <your name>" and they will update it. We have done it a couple of times and we successfully received an EAD card with "FNU".
The same applies to the green card, you will file your I-140 and I-485 with your name as "FNU <your name>, for example, "FNU Hina". My husband received his green card with FNU. No issue was encountered.
Result: FNU Hina or FNU Hina Singh
10. Buying a Car, House, and getting a Credit Card/ Bank Account
The formula is simple, as long as you stick to "FNU <your name>" you should be good, for example, "FNU Hina" or "FNU Hina Singh". My husband has bought 2 cars so far, changed apartments 3 to 4 times, bought a house, successfully got a home loan, has multiple credit cards with FNU (same name as bank account), filed taxes with FNU, and never faced any issues.
Result: FNU Hina or FNU Hina Singh
11. IRS Tax Filing for FNU
For tax filing, you would need your W2. As you all know W2s' are provided by the employer so there could be a scenario where your name on the visa/passport is different from your name in the W2s. Like companies, they might have their own policies for no surname.
Case 01: The name on W2 is "Hina Singh", US visa has "FNU Hina", and SSN has only "Hina". This is not an issue, just file your taxes as "FNU Hina" and it will go through. My husband had the same case when he came to the United States. After 3 years, he changed the company and he fixed the name to match "FNU Hina" which you will see in case 02.
But in this case with W2 as "Hina Singh" and filing taxes as "FNU Hina" is not a problem. It should go smoothly. We filed taxes for 3-4 years like that and never had issues.
Result: FNU Hina
Case 02: The name on W2 is "FNU Hina", US visa has "FNU Hina", and SSN has only "Hina". This is even better than case 01. This is why my husband changed the company he updated the name to FNU so that it's in sync with the W2, visa, and I-9. File your taxes with "FNU Hina" and it should go smoothly.
Result: FNU Hina
No Name Given vs FNU
Both the names whether you are assigned "No name given" in the first name or "FNU", will be due to the same issue i.e. you don't have a surname on your passport, As far as problems are concerned it's better to keep "FNU" because that way you can keep your all other documents consistent.
Imagine filling out "No Name Given" as your first name. Pretty awkward right? So it's better to request USCIS a typographical correction (to FNU) if any of your applications are processed as "No name given".
Every USCIS officer handles the case differently, a few of them might be even unaware of FNU. Or they might think "No name given" and "First name unknown" are the same thing and have no downsides. But we know that will create inconsistency across our documents.
When you submit any form to USCIS, you will receive the receipt notice within 5 to 10 days. Try to validate your name on the receipt notice, Even if you had filed "FNU" in the first name during submitting your form, the USCIS officer might process your form as "No name given" while handling your case.
So it's always better to validate your receipt notice as soon as you get it and if it has "No name given", submit a typographical error service request ASAP. Do not wait for final approval to correct your name, you will waste time if you do so.
FAQs on FNU Name
How to change FNU in a US visa?
I'm aware of four methods that can help you rectify the "FNU" name issue:
Passport Renewal with Name Split: If you're planning to renew your Indian passport in the US, select the service to split your name. You can refer to my passport renewal blog for detailed guidance; the name split process is quite similar. Please note that if you have a single name, this option may not be suitable for you.
Adopt Your Spouse's Surname: If you have a single name and you are married then just adopt your spouse's surname. This is the simplest and most straightforward way to correct your name on your passport. You can do this during the passport renewal process in the US and it's very easy.
Wait for Naturalization: After holding a FNU green card for five years, you can go through the naturalization process. During this process, you have the opportunity to change your name legally in the US – it's a hassle-free way to legally change your name.
Newspaper Advertisement and Affidavit: While I haven't personally undergone this process, I would strongly recommend consulting with a lawyer for this particular method. It entails placing an advertisement in a newspaper and obtaining an affidavit to change your name. It's worth noting that this approach is generally perceived as more complex and time-consuming.
Each of these methods has its own advantages and considerations, so choose the one that best suits your situation and preferences.
What is the solution for an FNU (First Name Unknown) on a driver's license at the DMV?
The DMV factsheet indicates that if the applicant has a single name, they should process the driver's license or state ID with 'FNU'. Reference NAFSA (National Association of Foreign Student Advisers).
If the nonimmigrant has only one name, it must be used as the last name. Use the letters FNU (First Name Unknown) in the First Name field. Nonimmigrants with one name should be aware that some government officials are not familiar with the FNU acronym and may look for the nonimmigrant to show that his or her first name is FNU. The nonimmigrant should be able to explain the acronym if it is causing validation problems with any government process.
There will still be scenarios when the DMV does not agree, and you may find yourself running out of options. Here are some steps that might assist you:
If a DMV officer denies your application, inquire about speaking with their manager. The DMV officer might not be familiar with the 'FNU' name, but the manager could have prior experience with such cases.
If the manager also disagrees, consider contacting another nearby DMV office. You can submit your application with an empty first name and your last name as your name. I personally had to visit three DMV offices in New Jersey before a manager agreed to help me; they were very kind.
Some DMV registration centers accept driver's license applications but do not conduct tests. You can apply at one of these centers and take the test at a different location.
There are no issues having "FNU" in your name as far as you are keeping it consistent throughout your legal documents in the US except few documents like SSN & DL which can have a single name (First name is not mandatory there).
Hopefully, you find this article helpful. Please drop me a line in the comments section below if you have any questions. Happy to help, good luck!
Even if you are aware of some FNU problems and solutions that might help others please comment. It's sometimes really frustrating to get through FNU problems and your small suggestion might help thousands of readers out there.
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