May 06, 2008

Help Needed - I Don't Want To Change My Name!

I'm having a very big problem with identification in Australia.

I couldn't take my driver's learner's permit test today. Not that I was not allowed to, but after a long discussion with the Vicroads lady (nice girl, Jenna), I realised that it would be pointless to apply for something which I would be using as an identification other than my passport in Australia. For the very thing I did not expect to give me problems with is, well, giving me a lot of problems.

My name.

Now as a Chinese, I have a Chinese name (duh). I also have an official Christian name attached to my birth certificate, Malaysian identification card and passport. For explanation's sake, let's say my name is Amy Lim Yen Lee (it's not, by the way) - first name Amy, second/middle name Yen Lee, and surname Lim. That's how it's written in Malaysia, and that's how I'm known as. Now over here (basically almost everywhere else BUT Malaysia), my name would be Amy Yen Lee Lim. My surname would be last. You know what I mean?

When the Vicroads lady checked my passport, she was dismayed to learn that it was a Malaysian passport. Apparently this was not the first time they've encountered this. She explained to me that my surname is Lee, not Lim, regardless of what I wrote in the application form, nor any bank statements, etc. They insisted that unless my surname and first names are clearly specified on the passport, they have to read the name on the passport from left to right. In that case, my surname happened to be Lee. And that would be my name here.

This is a huge problem for me. If I were to apply for a driver's license here, my surname would be changed. Due to some new department policy, they have to read my name as it is on the passport, even though I told them specifically my surname was Lim, that it's written in my passport, birth certificate, etc. It would not make any difference to them; they just have to read it as it is, on the passport, from left to right. They suggested a way around this would be if I were to get the Malaysian consulate to change my passport, or to have some kind of note on the Observations page in the passport to indicate what my first and last names are. If not, then the name will have to be Amy Lee, not Amy Lim.

Now, all explanations aside ... this is RIDICULOUS!! I mean, come on! I am not the first Malaysian they encountered, and yet they just wouldn't bend to see reason. It's all just black and white. When I asked them what the rest of the Malaysian applicants did with that problem, and they told me that they just kept their "surname" that way. In other words, their names were changed. Oh they sympathised with me all that, but there was nothing else they could do. Unless I was all right with such an identification, there was nothing they could do.

I don't get it. So they're all right with us changing our names just to fit their policy?? This is going to cause a real havoc with my life here in Australia!

Are there any Malaysians in Australia facing this problem? How did you get around it? I don't want to have to go to the Malaysian embassy in Canberra just to get my name right. The Malaysian friends I know here did not even face such a problem. Is it because I have an extra Christian name attached, that's why my surname was squeezed in the middle? I had this problem when applying for Medicare too, but they closed an eye and let me through, with my actual surname intact.

Any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Coffee or a meal on me. Seriously.


PS: I went to the Vicroads at Oakleigh South.


Adino said...

That sucks! Government departments and all their red tape!

I will try to check with my sis who's in Melbourne.

Kamigoroshi said...

As far as I'm aware off, it's the Christian name that throws it off. Friends of mine who did the same thing got away with it, then again she didn't have a Christian name attached to her Chinese name.

I think what you need to do is run this by the Malaysian Embassy, I'm sure they would have some way of dealing with it and they would give you some pointers. You can run it by DIMIA as well, see what they think about it. Aside from that, no idea how that's going to go about.

Short of an international drivers license. That's all I can suggest.

L B said...

Sorry, I have no solutions, but I do commiserate with your problem.. especially with Lee being such a famous surname as well (even though that's not the point). I hope you can resolve it somehow painlessly.

How about your spousal surname? :-)

geekchic said...

Actually, don't go to the malaysian embassy. they're hopeless. and that's being very kind.

Try again at vicroads burwood with tim. if that doesn't pan out, try carlton and i'll go along with you with my license, passport, everything as well.

Let me know :)

Trinity said...

Oh dear.. I have no suggestion for this..but I think when someday you have a child, you have to give the 'easy' name for your child..then they won't have so much trouble anymore..hehehe..

sometimes we have to accept things..that;s all..kekeke...

but I hope you can do something about this of course *wink*

*giggle* don't hate me becoz of this comment ok? hahaha

suteng said...

That's odd. I took my driver's license here in WA and I've got no problems with my surname/first name etc. My bank account and everything else is in the correct order too - no fuss. I'm not sure how the regulations are different in VIC but I'm sure there is a way to sort it out. Like you said, you're not the first M'sian!

I'm sure the immigration dept can sort that out for you. Afterall, they let you in!

Hehe, sorry. Not helping.. hope you get it sorted out without much fuss.

may said...

strangeness! I've never had that problem. then again, May is part of my chinese name, and just flipping them all in reverse. surely Vicroads can't be as numbnuts as I think they are? geez...

I would, actually, go all out to get my surname right. not change my passport but at least on that observations page. do it once, get it over and done with, and never have to worry about it again.

cheeeezie said...

i went to the Vicroads in Carlton and had no problems with my name either, and i have a Christian and Chinese name just like you. maybe you could try going there instead?

Adino said...

My sis said she didn't face this problem... probably because our Christian names appear after our Chinese names in passports.

BUT, they SHREDDED her perfectly valid Malaysian driving license. According to them, she's not allowed to have TWO driving licenses at the same time.


Saryn said...

hhmm..i didn't have that problem either when I got my WA driving license. I later changed to a NSW driving license and no problem either.
it seems strange that DIMIA never had a problem with it when we apply for PR or anything but VicRoads has?

could it be the christian name? Let me know what happens, if not i'll ask some friends in Melb!

Ding Dong said...

That happened to me TODAY as well. My mum argued with the Vic Road (near dandenong)lady for 30 mins, making her look like a stupid fob. Btw my mum is not stupid.

So pissed off! My passport name "Lee Ding Dong" didn't match my other Australian documents "Ding DOng Lee", THUS couldn't take my learners!! (name is just an example)

Have You figured out a solution? because It will be hard to change my name, as it will effect my family member's names, other documents, bank, school, passport etc.

Please post your solution, I'll check your blog everyday~!~!~!

btw....i think the Malaysians embassy misinterpreted First name as our Family name (Lee Ding Dong, lee is first name, but its the last name...get it??)

Anonymous said...

Hi, i just got back from Vicroad -Oakleigh South (31/10/08) and had encountered the same problem and find it really rediculous!!!

I argued with them and they are still adamant that i change my name!!! Apparently, they were instructed by the Aus Immigration Dept to look at the first page of our Malaysian Passport and at the bottom line, your name would be printed as 123>>> George>>Lim>>Ah>>Kow>>>12323etc... and not by looking at the full name printed on top. Therefore, if they see George, that will be your Surname!!!! so.... that are sticking to this regulation set by the Immigration dept. However, when i called Immigration about this situation, they claim that it's silly for VicRoad to deny us our test!!! so now, who's wrong and who's right???

Amy, have you sat for your test?? i'm contemplating going to Burwood or Carlton to check with the officers, if they say ok, then i'll just sit for the test on the spot!!!

Anonymous said...

My name is Oliver Loi. And yes yes, my name as in my Malaysian Passport is Oliver Loi Chee Siung. I faced exactly the same problem when I applied for a New Zealand Driver Licence in 2006 due to the very 'sad' fact that Malaysian Passport does not have what the ICAO (International Civil Association Organization) people call 'Differentiated name fields for Surname and Given Names'.

I had to obtain the assistance of Immigration New Zealand, Malaysian High Commission to verify and confirm that my Surname is indeed LOI.

Apparently it's the name format like ours: Ethnic Malaysian Chinese with both English (Christian) and Chinese Given Names where surname is in the Middle, that's problematic. Typical Chinese Names - no problems, or typical Malay Names - also no problems.

I have lived with this problem for 12 years now (even faced problem at University). But I have always fought back and won but I must say that it's a tiring battle.

But I sympathize with you. I thought Australia would be better than NZ. I have an acquaintance in Adelaide whose name format is exactly like ours but his South Australian Driver's Licence is OK, his surname is properly recorded as Last Name.

Malaysian Chinese with additional English Given Name which is legally printed on our identity documents must unite and tell the same story; it doesn't help that sometimes, we can't even agree what is the correct order of our First or Given Names; I have seen people with name format like ours put their Chinese Given Names as First Names and then their English Given Names as Middle Names.

I hope to see your reply-comments. Thanks.

Oliver, Wellington.