Tips for Understanding Legal Documents

Understanding  legal documents when registering or updating student information can be difficult. After years of correspondence with students, parents and schools, combined with internet research we have developed a list of tips to make this process easier. 

Chinese and Korean names are never split between legal first and middle names. Depending on the legal document, you could see the name one of three ways, e.g., KIM, Minji, KIM, Min-Ji, or Kim, Min Ji, since two of the three name formats have the name together, either as one word or hyphenated, it makes sense the name with the space is a two word first name. Both Chinese and Korean languages do not have traditional middle names the way other cultures do.

Correct Incorrect
Legal Surname = KIM Legal Surname = KIM
Legal First name = Min Ji Legal First Name = Min
Legal Middle Name = Legal Middle Name = Ji

While the above example applies specifically to just Asian names, it can get a bit complicated when there is a legal name change or a western name added into the equation.

Correct Correct Incorrect
Legal Surname = KIM Legal Surname = KIM Legal Surname = Kim
Legal First Name = Julie Legal First Name = Julie Min Ji Legal Given Name = Julie Min
Legal Middle Name = Min Ji Legal Middle Name = Legal Middle Name = Ji

Based on experience and direct communication with students, school secretaries, parents, etc., the example with Julie as the first name and Min Ji as the middle names is about 90% of these name changes. The second example (or other 10%) where the first name is Julie Min Ji, parents have specified to the school that all the names together is the correct way for their child, please refer to the registration form when unsure.

While Chinese and Korean names have a set naming convention as noted above, other Asian names such as Vietnamese, Thai, etc. have no such rules and could have multiple middle names, or none. When you have a name like NGUYEN, Thi Thuy Ngoc, you could have anywhere from two to zero middle names. When in doubt, refer to the registration form to see what was filled out and use that as a guide for your legal document.

When you have a foreign passport and you see symbols in the name on the passport, e.g., on a German passport with a legal surname of Müller, that is the German spelling. At the bottom of all passports are two lines of text, the first which is universally in English, shows the same name as MUELLER. As that is the English version it is the correct spelling to use. 

Some nationalities have the entire name on one line and the naming convention is not apparent. For example, take a Vietnamese name such as Nguyen, Thi Thuy Ngoc, the way to tell how the name breaks down (at least for legal surname and given names) is at the bottom of the passport, you will see the three letters for the country the passport is from (eg VTM) and then the legal surname. The break between legal surname and the rest of the names is separated by two “>>”. In the example below, you can see the two chevrons between Nguyen and Thi, which shows the surname as Nguyen.


It is now much more common to see students, primarily from India, who do not have a legal surname. On their Indian passport it will show the surname field blank. Since PEN and MyEducationBC require a legal surname and the general rule is to use the most recently issued legal document, always use the Canadian immigration document if you have them. 

A name like Parminder Kaur, the Canadian immigration document would read one of two ways:

First Second
Legal Surname = Parminder Kaur Legal Surname = Kaur
Legal First Name = Legal First Name = Parminder
Legal Middle Name = Legal Middle Name =

For such students who’s name end in Kaur or Singh, regardless of what the legal document shows, we will for now on put the Kaur or Singh in the legal surname field. The reason for this decision is due to the volume of such students and an effort to maintain consistency and minimize delay in processing such requests. This process should also minimize duplicates in MyEducationBC.

For all students who have no legal surname and their name doesn’t end with Kaur or Singh, they will continue to be entered with their names in the legal surname field and the apostrophe in the legal first name field.

Correct Incorrect
Legal Surname = Santhi Legal Surname = '
Legal First name = ' Legal First Name = Santhi
Legal Middle Name = Legal Middle Name =

The reason we have to use an apostrophe in the Legal First Name field is because it is the only symbol that won’t cause a fatal error or be stripped out by PEN (e.g., periods). The reason the apostrophe is
not used in the Legal Surname Field is because neither PEN or MyEducationBC can do searches on an apostrophe.

While the general rule is to use the most recently issued legal document, the exception is students with really long or multiple names. For students coming from the Philippines, generally the most recent legal document for them is the Permanent Resident Card or Confirmation of Permanent Resident Form. The problem is those documents often cut off the student’s middle name. While you are still collecting those legal documents for audit purposes, use the Filipino passport or Certificate of Live Birth to register the student as those documents clearly show all of the names and break down how they should be entered.

Culturally, Filipino names have two or more first names and the middle name is ALWAYS AND ONLY the mother’s maiden name. When you have a non Filipino birth certificate (e.g., a B.C. Birth Certificate) and the parent’s names are on the document (and both Filipino), odds are the name is broken down the same as the legal documents from the Philippines. When in doubt, use the registration form as a guide to reading your legal document.

Correct Incorrect
Legal Surname = Mendoza Legal Surname = Mendoza
Legal First Name = Felix Fabio Legal First Name = Felix
Legal Middle Name = Tan Legal Middle Name = Fabio Tan