TN 1 (02-10)

RM 10212.001 Defining the Legal Name for an SSN

A. What is the legal name

For SSA enumeration purposes, a legal name consists of a:

  • first name; and

  • last name (or surname).

The legal name is the name used to sign legal documents, deeds, or contracts.

1. Middle name and suffix

We do not consider the middle name or suffix part of the legal name. Whether the middle name or suffix is included, omitted or incorrectly shown on evidentiary documents submitted with an SS-5 (Application for a Social Security number Card) does not matter.

NOTE: Both the middle name and suffix, even if not part of the legal name by SSA’s definition, should be used to resolve situations where the identity of the applicant or number holder is in question.

2. Given name and Family name

Translate given names and family names shown on documents submitted as SSN evidence to the first and last name on the SSN application, respectively, as follows:

  • given name(s) = full first name and middle name, either of which may have more than one part; and

  • family name = full last name, surname, or family name, which may have more than one part. A suffix (i.e., Junior, II, Senior) may also be shown as part of the family name.

Since a person’s middle name(s) or suffix is not considered part of the legal name by SSA, a middle name shown as part of the given name or a suffix shown as part of the family name can be omitted or entered in the middle name and suffix fields of the Enumeration system. If the applicant has a given name with multiple parts and does not allege having a middle name then the multiple parts should be entered as the first name.

Different versions of the name, which are not the legal name, must be shown in the other name fields in the Enumeration system following RM 10205.130.

B. Evidence of legal name

1. US born individual

In general, a US born person’s legal name is the name shown on his or her U.S. birth certificate (includes hyphens and apostrophes) unless the person’s name has changed based on certain events, such as a marriage or a valid court order for a name change.

NOTE: The Numident will not display hyphens or apostrophes when entered in any of the name fields in the Enumeration system.

2. Foreign born individual

A foreign-born person’s legal name is the name shown on his or her immigration document (includes hyphens and apostrophes).

The only time you may process an SSN application in a name that does not agree with the name shown on the immigration document is if the person legally changed his or her name after the immigration document is issued. In these situations, the legal name is the name shown on the evidence of the name change. For information on evidence of a name change, see RM 10212.010.

NOTE: For foreign students (F-1 and M-1) consider the name on Form I-20 the legal name. For exchange visitors (J-1), consider the name on the DS-2019 the legal name. For additional information see RM 10211.295 and RM 10211.375.

Name on immigration document and other evidence for an SSN are different

When the name shown on the immigration document differs from the name shown on other evidence submitted for an SSN, process the SSN in the name on the immigration document as long as the name can be derived from the other evidence (e.g., foreign passport). Different versions of the name shown on other required documents must be shown in the other name fields in the Enumeration system following RM 10205.130.

If the individual has a single name, see RM 10205.130B for instructions on entering the name shown on the immigration document in the “Other name used by number holder” field.

If the required documents show clearly different names, do not accept the evidence to process the SSN application. In these situations, the applicant must submit SSN evidence showing the same name or submit evidence of a name change after the immigration document was issued per RM 10212.010.

C. Background on legal name for foreign born SSN applicants

There may be events outside the US that are taken into account by foreign government or US agencies (e.g. Department of State) when issuing immigration documents bearing a person’s legal name.

When issuing immigration documents, the Department of Sta