Date Published: 20.12.2023
Status: Present
Type: Equal Treatment
Outcome: Early case resolution

EUSS and Maiden Names

Summary of Information

A number of individuals receiving EUSS status under their maiden name and not their married name has been raised as a potential issue by third party action groups and complaints to the IMA. The reason for this relates to certain nationalities whose passports regard their maiden name as their ‘official name’, and this is the name displayed within the Machine-Readable Zone (MRZ) of their passport.  The MRZ is used by the EUSS system to populate digital status details. Therefore, only the maiden name is recorded on any EUSS status issued.

The only recourse to individuals appears to be to update their details following receipt of EUSS status.

Summary of Actions and Evidence

The IMA has been liaising with the Home Office to understand the rationale for the current situation, and to consider whether alternative options could be made available for citizens.

In those discussions, the Home Office has confirmed that some countries (e.g. France and the Netherlands) regard an individual’s maiden name as their primary name even after they get married and decide to officially use their spouse’s surname.  In this instance, the passport routinely displays names of married persons in the format of ‘[maiden name] [spouse of] [married name]’ in the Visual Inspection Zone. The primary name in the passport remains the applicant’s maiden name and this is the only version that appears in the passport’s chip and MRZ as per International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) rules. It is Home Office policy to issue digital status in the name which appears in the chip and MRZ of the applicant’s passport.

These customers can subsequently apply to add their married name to their digital status through the Update my Details function on their UK Visas & Immigration account. The name recorded on their digital status will then be updated to match exactly the name which is recorded in the passport’s Visual Inspection Zone. For the relevant French and Dutch customers, as explained above, this will take the form of [maiden name] [spouse of] [married name] and this is what will show on their digital status as well. It is accepted that many of these customers will have fully adopted their married name in all other aspects of their lives. However, in line with their One Name Policy, the Home Office must ensure that the name displayed on digital status is fully aligned with the name as shown on the customer’s travel document. That would be the name the foreign passport issuing authority uses to officially identify these customers. Ensuring the two are aligned is key to minimising the risk of multiple identities.

In order to improve the system for citizens, the Home Office has confirmed to the IMA that, from early 2024, they will have a digital solution in place which will be promoted on GOV.UK, alongside user guidance setting out the rationale behind the Home Office approach to handling name update requests on digital status from the affected cohorts. We are told that in most cases, this solution will allow remote authentication of identity documents. This will remove the need for customers applying to update their digital status name to post original ID documents to the Home Office, resulting in an improved customer experience. The current process is not being proactively promoted as it requires customers to post original identity documents to the Home Office to prove their identity and we are informed that it will shortly be superseded by a new digital solution.

Summary of Decision

Based on the actions that the Home Office is proposing, the IMA believes that the potential concerns identified could be mitigated and the issue concluded as an Early Case Resolution, with monitoring period to enable a review of the revised process and rolled out to citizens.

To allow revision to the process to be completed and a review of its impact on citizens to take place, a monitoring period has been agreed up to 3rd August 2024.

Considering the above, the IMA has determined that it does not have reasonable grounds to believe that an inquiry into this issue may identify general or systemic failings in the implementation or application of Part II of the Withdrawal Agreement.  Furthermore, the IMA does not consider that it would be proportionate and / or reasonable to continue to explore this issue further by way of an inquiry at this time.

However, should the IMA receive any further information or complaints about this or related issues, these will be considered on their merits and in line with the IMA’s internal processes, and the IMA remains able to take further action on this issue in the future in accordance with its statutory functions should this be needed.

Update: The IMA and the Home Office have agreed to extend the monitoring period until 31 December 2024.  The IMA will continue to engage with the Home office and an update to this statement will be completed at the end of the extended monitoring period.

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