International Student Services

Name Change

The name on your I-20 or DS-2019 must match the name on your passport. If you change any part of your legal name—first/given name, middle name, or last/family name—on your passport, you must request an updated I-20 or DS-2019.

Updating Records For Legal Name Changes

  1. Change your name on your passport.
  2. Change your name in the UW student database by following the Registrar’s Name Change Policy instructions. This step is necessary for your transcripts, diploma, and other university records to reflect your legal name change.
  3. After you change your name with the Registrar, request an updated I-20 or DS-2019.

    Request Updated I-20 or DS-2019

  4. Review your F-1 or J-1 visa. If your current student visa is still valid, you can continue to travel with the valid visa (issued in your previous name) as long as you carry documentation of your legal name change when traveling. Immigration officials will need to see documentation of both names at the port of entry. If your student visa is expired, or if you want the visa to reflect your new name, follow the normal procedures for applying for a new visa using your new passport and I-20.

Updating Preferred Names

Both the University of Washington and the U.S. government’s I-20 form provide the option to designate a preferred name.

University of Washington Preferred Name Option

Students can have a preferred name in the University of Washington system. This information is not automatically shared with the U.S. government. This information is also not automatically shared with ISS office staff

U.S. Government Preferred Name Option

I-20s always show students’ legal names. Students who want to add an additional preferred name on the I-20 can request a customization.

This will also update ISS office staff that you have a preferred name.

Request Customized I-20

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if I don’t choose a preferred name?

Your legal name (passport name) will show as the name you want to use.

What are reasons students choose a preferred name?

Students may have many reasons:

  • Preferring to use a nickname instead of their legal name
    • Examples:
      • Chris instead of Christopher
      • Lisa instead of Lalisa
  • Choosing a name that aligns with their gender identity
  • Preferring to use a different name after a relationship change (marriage, divorce) if a legal name change will be expensive or slow
Do I have to enter a preferred name?

No, you do not have to enter a preferred name. This is here as a service for people who wish to be known by something other than their primary/legal name. If you prefer to use your legal name in daily life, then please do not enter a preferred name.

Additionally, no student should feel pressured to change their name for acceptance or the convenience of others.