How the Wrong Name Can Wreak Havoc in Your Client’s Life

What’s in a name? To the unassuming foreign national, a name, incorrectly spelled, entered incorrectly into a database, or never updated in a database altogether can wreak havoc. It’s one of the reasons why immigration practitioners play such a critical role in educating and providing guidance to their clients when it comes to naming errors. An outdated name, name change, or misspelled name can cause various headaches for foreign national and naturalized citizens. You can help your clients nip it in the bud early by educating and encouraging them on consequences that may significantly affect them as a result of not updating/correcting their names.

Be Vigilant

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should always have a current and correct spelling of your client’s name. As practitioners, it’s important to double check documents issued by DHS to ensure that client’s names are correctly spelled and indicated. Otherwise, lengthy corrections may be warranted. Warning clients to ensure that their documents accurately reflect their names at the time the document is issued can be mean the difference between an immediate correction versus waiting weeks or months after the fact, when lengthy delays may inconvenience the client.

Be Encouraging

After a client legally changes his/her name, it’s important that relevant government agencies are notified in writing or in person, especially where benefit-granting agencies are concerned, starting with the most common agency: the Social Security Administration (SSA). The SSA’s numident database is utilized by many other federal agency databases for many purposes, including the E-Verify System. For example, an incorrect name reflected in the SSA’s numident database could trigger a tentative non-confirmation if an E-Verify case is initiated for your client. This could result in a lengthy work delays for both your client and your client’s employer, not to mention potentially unlawful employment termination. Furthermore, because annual income taxes are linked to an individual’s Social Security number (or Individual Tax Identification Number), clients who are required to file annual income taxes should update/correct their names when necessary.

Be Proactive

There are many instances where name changes or incorrect name spellings can affect your case preparation and/or your clients’ lives. How prepared are you to assist clients? One approach is to help clients become more proactive by being aware of when name changes might occur. Forewarning clients in advance of travel to be vigilant about immigration documents issued to them can also help. Client correspondence can also incorporate instructions for clients on how to manage and update their name change after a milestone immigration event, such as naturalization. Common reasons for name changes and naming errors include:

• Naturalization

• Derivative Naturalization

• Adoption

• Marriage

• Divorce

• Judicial decree

• Manual data entry on DHS records (including I-797 receipt notices and RFEs)

We may not always be able to avoid the occasional government misspelling but we can be proactive when we do catch those errors! What’s the most interesting (or worst) incident involving incorrect or outdated client name? How did you resolve it? Was it avoidable? We’d love to hear from you.