Identity management: Name structures and how to record them in the Global Case Management System (GCMS)

This section contains policy, procedures and guidance used by IRCC staff. It is posted on the department’s website as a courtesy to stakeholders.

Accuracy is a key consideration in name identification as it can have a significant impact on a client’s ease of travel, access to Canada, and access to Canadian services. It enhances program integrity and improves operational efficiency.

This section provides direction on various naming structures that can appear on foreign travel documents and how to record them in IRCC’s system of record.

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Name structures

Order of names

The name of the holder is generally represented on the travel document in two parts: the primary identifier and the secondary identifier. IRCC recognizes the family name as the primary identifier and the given name(s) as the secondary identifier. If a client has multiple (compound) given names or family names, they should not be arbitrarily broken down into various name fields in IRCC’s system of record. If it is unclear how the client’s name is broken into the primary and secondary identifiers, reviewing the document’s machine readable zone (MRZ) will indicate how the issuing authority has established the name.

If the MRZ and visual inspection zone (VIZ) provide similar precisions but are inconsistent in the order of the names, the MRZ will be relied upon to determine the order of the name in IRCC’s system of record and on documents issued by IRCC. The variations in the order of names will be recorded as an aka (alias) or other name in IRCC’s system of record.

Note: If an applicant requests the order of names to appear as per the VIZ rather than the MRZ, they must provide additional supporting documents, such as other government-issued documents, that clearly demonstrate the order of names under which the applicant is known.

For example, the name field of the VIZ indicates the name as Marie Elizabeth Smith and the MRZ displays the name as: ERIMarie<<Elizabeth<Smith. Marie is listed in the portion of the MRZ where the family name is to be displayed. Elizabeth and Smith are shown as the given name(s). However, the applicant provides other government-issued documents that show Smith as the family name and Marie and Elizabeth as given names.

In a situation such as this one, knowledge of local naming customs should be taken into consideration, and if there would be no impediment to the person’s travel to Canada, the primary name recorded for IRCC purposes and that will appear on IRCC-issued documents will show the family name as indicated on the other government-issued document. The order of names as per the MRZ will be entered into IRCC’s system of record as an aka (alias) or other name type.

Single name field

If a single name field is used for the name on the travel document’s VIZ, the secondary identifier should be separated from the primary identifier by a single comma (,). A comma is not needed if multiple fields are used to separate the identifiers.

Where the full name of the holder is recorded without distinction between family name and given name, the MRZ should be consulted to determine how the full name breaks down into given name(s) and family name(s).

For example, the MRZ on the document below shows Al-kaabi as the family name since it appears first and is separated from the other names by the double chevrons (<<). Therefore, Al-kaabi would be recorded in the family name field, and the other names in the MRZ would be recorded as the given names in IRCC’s system of record.

Where it is determined that the individual’s name cannot be divided into two parts, the name as it appears on the document will be defined as the primary identifier and will be recorded in the family name field in IRCC’s system of record. This is consistent with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)’s guidelines and will facilitate future name searches.

For instance, if a client’s travel document displays the name George in the given name field and the family name field is blank, George becomes the primary identifier and will be recorded in the family name field. The given name field will be left blank in IRCC’s system of record.

Punctuation characters

Punctuation characters are not allowed in the MRZ. Where these appear as part of a name, they should be treated as follows:

Hyphens

A hyphen in a name shall be recorded by the officer as the primary name when it is reproduced in the VIZ, even though it is shown in the MRZ with a chevron (<), which equates to a space. The name as it appears in the MRZ will be recorded as an aka (alias) or other name type.

As per the document sample below, the primary name would be recorded as Lin in the family name field and Mei-hua with the hyphen in the given name field. The aka (alias) or other name type would be recorded as Lin in the family name field and Mei Hua in the given name field.

Apostrophes

An apostrophe in a name shall be recorded by the officer as the primary name when it appears in the VIZ, even though it is omitted in the MRZ and there is no space between the parts of the name that are separated by an apostrophe in the VIZ. The name as it appears in the MRZ will be recorded as an aka (alias) or other name type.

For example, if a client’s family name appears as O’neill with the first name Robert in the VIZ, but is represented as Oneill<<Robert in the MRZ, the family name will be recorded as O’neill with the given name Robert as the primary name in IRCC’s system of record. The family name Oneill with the given name Robert will be recorded as an aka (alias) or other name type.

Truncated names in the MRZ

If a client’s name is truncated in the MRZ due to lack of space, but the full name appears in the VIZ and MRC (if available), the full name on the VIZ will be recorded as the primary name in IRCC’s system of record and on IRCC-issued documents. The truncated name will be recorded as an aka (alias) or other name in IRCC’s system of record.

When “Observations” override the MRZ

Some passports or travel documents will contain an official amendment in the “Observations” section of the travel document (for example, a married name). In such cases, the amendment in the “Observations” will be relied upon to establish the primary name in IRCC’s system of record. The name in the MRZ of the passport must be recorded as an aka (alias) or other name in IRCC’s system of record.

Naming conventions on travel documents

Uncommon name fields in the VIZ

In some instances, travel documents may include a field in the VIZ such as postname or community name. In such cases, the MRZ is to be used to provide information as to whether that name will be recorded as the primary name in IRCC’s system of record. If the name in an uncommon name field is not indicated in the MRZ, the name will be recorded as an aka (alias) or other name type in IRCC’s system of record.

Using the document below as an example, the name Lin would be recorded as the family name as per the MRZ, and the name Chien-sheng would be recorded as the given name(s), with a hyphen as indicated in the VIZ portion of the passport. The name "Peterson Lin” would be recorded as an aka (alias) or other name type in IRCC’s system of record.

Note: If an applicant requests that the uncommon name in the VIZ be recorded as part of their primary name record in GCMS, they must provide additional supporting documents, such as other government-issued documents, that clearly demonstrate that the uncommon name is part of their legal name.

Patronymics and matronymics in names

A patronymic is a component of a name based on the given name from one’s father, grandfather or an earlier male ancestor. A component of a name based on the given name of one’s mother or a female ancestor is a matronymic.

There are various ways to indicate patronymics and matronymics. For example, a patronymic in Russia is derived from the father’s personal name and applies equally to children of both genders, but with different endings:

  • A Russian man whose father’s given name is Ivan may be Mikhail Ivanovich Karlov (given name + patronymic + family name).
  • A Russian woman whose father’s given name is Ivan may be Anastassia Ivanovna Karlova (given name + patronymic + family name).

Patronymics and matronymics will be recorded in IRCC’s system of record if they are identified as part of the name in the MRZ of the travel document. For instance, if a patronymic is found in the family name portion of the MRZ, it must be recorded in the family name field in IRCC’s system of record.

If no MRZ is present, patronymics and matronymics will be identified as part of the name only if they are found in Roman alphabet on the document used to identify the name. Patronymics and matronymics shall not be identified in the primary name if they do not appear on the primary document used to identify the name. They must, however, be recorded as an aka (alias) or other name type in IRCC’s system of record.

Titles, prefixes, degrees or decorations

Titles, prefixes, suffixes, professional and academic qualifications, decorations, honours, awards, and hereditary status should not be identified as part of the name, unless they are included in a document’s MRZ, which means that the issuing state considers it to be an integral part of the name.

In the example below, the VIZ includes the title “mr.” in the given name field, but it does not appear in the MRZ. Therefore, “mr.” should not be recorded in IRCC’s system of record.

Spousal relationship indicated in a name

Where an issuing state has included a spousal relationship in the MRZ or VIZ of a document, the officer will omit this as part of the primary name. The other name will be recorded as name type aka (alias) or other name in IRCC’s system of record. Spousal relationships are usually indicated as the following:

  • épouse de
  • epse
  • ep.
  • “spouse of”
  • “wife of”
  • “husband of”

For example, if the client’s passport indicates Nour ep. paul sajan in the family name field, the family name will be recorded as Nour. The version of the name that includes the spouse’s name will be recorded as name type aka (alias) or other in IRCC’s system of record.

Filial relationship indicated in a name

Where an issuing state has included “son of” or “daughter of” and the parent’s name in the MRZ or VIZ of a document, the officer will omit this as part of the primary name. The name that includes “son of” or “daughter of” will be recorded as name type aka (alias) or other in IRCC’s system of record.

Note: Prior to April 29, 2021, IRCC treated “Bin” or “Bint” as a filial relationship and officers omitted this as part of the primary name in IRCC’s system of record. However, the naming policy has since been revised and if “Bin or “Bint” appears on the MRZ of the client’s travel document, it must be included as part of the primary name in IRCC’s system of record. If an officer receives an application from an existing client where “Bin” or “Bint” was previously omitted them their GCMS record, the client should be contacted to confirm whether or not they would like to amend their primary name record accordingly. Officers should record the client’s decision in GCMS Notes.

Names containing “aka” or “alias” in the MRZ

In some instances, issuing states will include an “aka” or “alias” name on a document. If the alias name only appears in the VIZ, the officer should record the primary name as per the MRZ, and the alias name will be recorded as name type aka (alias) or other in IRCC’s system of record.

If the alias name also appears in the MRZ and the client does not specify which name is preferred on their application, the first variation that appears on the MRZ should be recorded as the primary name and all other name combinations should be included as name type aka (alias) or other in IRCC’s system of record.

For example, the MRZ of an Indian passport indicates the following as a single name: indnour<<Manpreet<alias<Chanpreet. The client completed the name section of the application form by transcribing exactly what appears on their passport. Therefore, the first name will be recorded as the primary name and all other combinations will be recorded in GCMS as name type aka (alias) or other:

  • Primary name: Nour, Manpreet
  • aka (Alias) or Other: Nour, Manpreet alias Chanpreet
  • aka (Alias) or Other: Nour, Chanpreet

Transliterations

Issuing states are responsible for the transliteration of identifiers on their travel documents into the Roman alphabet. The spelling on the document in the Roman alphabet, with the exception of French accents, is primarily used to establish the name record in IRCC’s system of record and will be printed on IRCC-issued documents. This includes cases for which no transliteration standards exist within a state.

French accent exceptions

If a document used to identify a name contains a name with French accents in the VIZ, the same spelling can be used when establishing a name record in IRCC’s system of record. GCMS accepts the following French accents: Â - À - É - Ê - Ë - È - Ï - Î - Ô - Ü - Ù - Û - Ç.

Characters of a foreign alphabet

If a document used to identify a name contains a name or part of a name in a foreign alphabet, the MRZ will take precedence over the VIZ to determine the name and its spelling.

For example, the VIZ of a Swedish passport could present the name as “Pöllä” while the transliteration in the MRZ indicates “Poellae”. In such a case, the spelling of the name as it appears on the MRZ is to take precedence over any other spelling.

Transliteration variations in the MRZ

In some cases, a travel document issued in another language may include multiple transliteration variations in both the VIZ and the MRZ. If the client does not specify which spelling variation is preferred on their application form and has no supporting documents to indicate preference, the first spelling variation in the MRZ will take precedence. All other name combinations will be recorded as an aka (alias) or other name in IRCC’s system of record.

For example:

  • The MRZ of a Greek passport indicates the family name as “Souti or Shuti” and the given name as “Maria or Mary”. The client completed the name section of the application form by transcribing exactly what appears on their passport. Therefore, the first spelling variation will be the primary name and all other combinations will be recorded in GCMS as name type aka (alias) or other:
    • Primary name: Souti, Maria
    • aka (Alias) or Other: Souti or Shuti, Maria or Mary  
    • aka (Alias) or Other: Shuti, Maria
    • aka (Alias) or Other: Shuti, Mary
    • aka (Alias) or Other: Souti, Mary

Non-transliterated names or portions of names

In cases where the acceptable document contains both a name transliterated into the Roman alphabet and a name in the original language, the transliterated name will be the name used for official purposes. This also applies to cases where the name in Roman alphabet is not as complete as the name in the original language. ICAO transliteration guidelines, which may be found in Appendix 9 of ICAO Document 9303 at www.icao.int, should be used as reference tool.

If the document contains no transliterations into the Roman alphabet, the applicant must provide an official translation.

Any request for a variation in transliteration that cannot be supported with additional government-issued documents should be treated as a change of name request.

Considerations when recording the name in GCMS

Character limitations and truncation in GCMS

When a client’s name is recorded in GCMS, there are 50 characters each for the family name(s) and given name(s). Therefore, the client’s full name, as it appears on the documentation used to identify the name will be recorded in GCMS in the exact order found on the document.

Any names omitted due to space constraints will be recorded as an aka (alias) or other name and an explanation note must be inserted into the client’s file.

Promoting names from FOSS to GCMS

When promoting a client from the Field Operations Support System (FOSS) to GCMS, ensure that the client’s name is correct and that the name that appears in GCMS is accurate and not truncated. If there are any errors, the officer should correct them immediately. The name that appears in GCMS should be the same as the one on the primary document.

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