Naming procedures: How to read travel documents (MRZ, MRC, VIZ)

Zones on passport / travel document

Naming Procedures: Machine Readable Zone (MRZ) and Visual Inspection Zone (VIZ)

The format of the Machine Readable Zone on a travel document is as follows:

  1. The family name is recorded first, then
  2. The double chevron character (<<) separates the family name(s) from the given name(s).
  3. The single chevron (<) separates multiple family names and multiple given names.

Example:

Image of a passport photo of Sarah Martin

A Canadian woman with the given name Anna Maria and family name Eriksson would be encoded as:
P<CANERIKSSON<<ANNA<MARIA<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
A Canadian man with the given name George Michael and family name Richards Stevens would be encoded as:
P<CANRICHARDS<STEVENS<<GEORGE<MICHAEL<<<<<<<

The MRZ is the main area that should be relied upon to establish the client’s primary name. The VIZ is to be used only in specific instances when the name in MRZ is truncated (see "Truncated names in MRZ" section for more detail) or the name contains a hyphen or an apostrophe (see "The VIZ, the MRZ, the MRC and hyphens" and "The VIZ, the MRZ, the MRC and apostrophes" sections for more detail).

Naming Procedures: MRC

A MRC is an electronic feature that enhances a document’s security features. When a passport contains a MRC, there will be a small image of a camera displayed on its cover, as indicated in the example below:

Image of Canadian passport cover as described above

Naming Procedures Discrepancies between the MRZ, the MRC and the VIZ

Order of names

If the MRZ, MRC and VIZ provide similar precisions but are inconsistent in the order of the names, the MRZ will be relied upon just to determine the order of the name in CIC’s system of record and on CIC issued documents issued by CIC. The name(s) with the different order will be recorded as an AKA (alias) or other name in CIC’s system of record.

e.g.

  • VIZ: Mopumgamboyo
  • MRZ: Mopumga<<Mboyo

The primary name shall be recorded in CIC’s system of record with Mopumga as the family name and Mboyo as the given name.
Mopumgamboyo shall be recored as an AKA (alias) or other name.

e.g.

  • VIZ: Ramsay, Robert Martin Sebastian
  • MRZ: Ramsay<<Martin<Robert<Sebastian

The primary name shall be recorded in CIC’s system of record with Ramsay as the family name(s)] and Martin Robert Sebastian as the given name(s).
Ramsay, Robert Martin Sebastian shall be recorded in CIC’s system of record as an AKA (alias) or other name.

Hyphens

A document’s VIZ, MRZ, and MRC, if available, should be used to obtain as much precision as possible about a name. A hyphen in a name should be recorded by the officer when it is reproduced in the VIZ, even though it is shown in the MRZ with a chevron ‘<’, which equates to a space).

Example:

Image of passport with hyphenated name as described below

In the example above, Lin would be recorded in the family name field, and Mei-Hua would be recorded with the hyphen in the given name field of CIC’s system of records, because it appears in the VIZ. Please see Uncommon fields found in VIZ section, for information about recording the name in the also known as field of the VIZ.

Apostrophes

An apostrophe in a name shall be recorded in the primary name by the officer because it is reproduced in a VIZ (but is not reproduced in the MRZ or MRC, if available, where it is omitted and there is no space between the parts of the name that are separated by an apostrophe in the VIZ.

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 CIC’s system of record. The family name ONEILL with the given name ROBERT will be recorded as an alias or other name.

VIZ and MRZ indicate full name and family name, instead of given name(s) and family name

In cases where the issuing state has included full name including the family name in the ‘given name(s)’ field of VIZ and MRZ and also lists family name separately in a ‘family name’ field, thus listing family name twice, a new client record in CIC’s system of record should not record the family name twice. The name listed in MRZ must be recorded as an AKA (alias) in CIC’s system of record. For example:

A Canadian woman with the given names Anna Maria and family name Eriksson and full name Anna Maria Eriksson would be encoded in VIZ as:

  • Full name: Anna Maria Eriksson
  • Family name: Eriksson

And in MRZ as:

  • P<CANERIKSSON<<ANNA<MARIA<ERIKSSON<<<<<<<<<<
  • Thus in CIC’s system of record she must be recorded as Given name(s): Anna Maria and Family name: Eriksson.

Naming Procedures Discrepancies in the MRZ

Truncated names in the MRZ

If a client’s name is truncated in the MRZ, due to lack of space; however, the full name appears in the VIZ and in the MRC, if available, the full name will be recorded as the primary name in CIC’s system of record and on CIC issued documents. (Due to space limitations on the PR Card, the full name will appear on the COPR and in CIC’s system of record, and the PR Card will display as many characters as possible for the client’s name.) The truncated name will be recorded as an AKA (alias) or other name in CIC’s system of record.

Non-ICAO-compliant MRZs

In cases where the MRZ is not compliant with ICAO standards, officers may not disregard the non-compliant part(s) of the MRZ, with the exception of the situations identified below, future Program Delivery Instructions, or in consultation with OMC.

Exceptional situation- The order of names does not match the order of names on other documents by the same government
In rare instances, such as with passports and travel documents issued by the government of Eritrea, the VIZ displays multiple names in one name field [they do not contain separate fields for the family name(s) and given name(s)]. However, the applicant may hold other government issued documents that clearly show which of the names is the family name; yet the MRZ does not display the same family name in the MRZ. Rather, the MRZ displays the first name that appears in the one name field of the VIZ as the family name.

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 CIC purposes and that will appear on CIC issued documents will show the family name as the family name indicated on government issued documents, other than a passport or travel document which clearly does not indicate the family name in the family name portion of the MRZ. In such a case, the name in the MRZ, will be entered into CIC’s system of Record as an AKA (alias) or other name type, with the family name indicated as it is in the MRZ and the remaining name(s) as the given name(s).

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 will be relied upon to establish the name and the name in the Machine Readable Zone (MRZ) of the passport must be recorded as the former name or AKA (alias) in CIC’s system of record.

One name field and no MRZ , or MRZ that does not clarify the order of names

In rare instances, the VIZ displays multiple names in one name field [they do not contain separate fields for the family name(s) and given name(s)] and there is no MRZ to clarify the name separation or the MRZ does not clarify the order of names.

In such situations, knowledge of local naming customs should be taken into consideration. For example:

There may, on occasion, encounter handwritten passports. In the case of a handwritten Bangladeshi passport, the Bangladesh High Commission in Ottawa advises that in most instances the first name that appears in the name field on handwritten passports is the individual’s religious name, the middle name is the client’s actual name, and the last name written in the name field of the passport is the family name. Therefore, the first and middle names should be recorded in the given name(s) field and the last name on the passport line should be recorded in the family name field in CIC’s system of record.

For example:
If the passport lists the names in the following order: Muhammad Hafiz Khan, and we are to apply the customary naming procedure as per the Bangladeshi embassy, CIC would record Muhammad Hafiz as the given name(s), and Khan is the family name.

In Arabic countries, it is customary for the name to be comprised of the person’s given name, father’s name and grandfather’s name. Therefore, the first name should be recorded in the given name(s) field and father’s and grandfather’s names should be recorded in the family name field in CIC’s system of record.

Naming Procedures Discrepancies in the VIZ

Naming Procedures Discrepancies - Uncommon fields in the VIZ

In rare instances, some travel documents may include a field in the VIZ such as postname or community name. At times, these fields will contain a name. In such cases, the MRZ is to be used to provide information as to whether that name will be recorded in the family (primary identifier) or given name (secondary identifier) field of the primary name in CIC’s system of record, or not at all. If the postname or community name or other name in an uncommon name field is not indicated in the MRZ, the name will be recorded as an AKA (alias) or other name in CIC’s system of record.

Example:

Image of passport photo of Chien-Sheng Lin

In this instance, the family name would be recorded as Lin, since it is in the family name portion of 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. Please refer to the VIZ, the MRZ, the MRC and hyphens, for information about recording hyphens. The name in the Also known as field would be recorded as an AKA (alias) or other name in CIC’s system of record.

Naming Procedures Discrepancies - One name field

Some foreign passports have only one name field, where the full name of the holder (i.e., given name(s) and family name(s)) are recorded without distinction. In such cases, the MRZ should be consulted to determine how the full name breaks down into given name(s) and family name(s) parts.

In the case of passports with only one name field, do not identify a name using whatever name is indicated on the application form, unless the name is also found in the MRZ of the passport.

Example:

Image of passport with one name as described below

In the example above, the MRZ 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 CIC’s system of record.

In cases of a passport that has only one field for all names; there is no MRZ to rely upon; and it is not possible to establish the correct name based on knowledge of local naming customs, the application form may be referred to CIC for clarification, if assistance is required. Please indicate "Naming Procedure Question" in the subject line.

Naming Procedures Discrepancies - Procedure for significant discrepancies

In the event of a significant discrepancy, such as different names between the VIZ and the MRZ, staff should send a query to CIC and indicate "Naming Procedure Question" in the subject line. Please also include a suggested course of action, based on your knowledge of local naming customs.

Date Modified: