International Students

F-2 and J-2 Dependents

Visa Information

The spouse and unmarried children (under the age of 21) of F-1 students or J-1 students or scholars may either accompany them to the United States, or come alone on a later date by entering the U.S. on a F-2 or J-2 visa. In order to apply for an F-2 or J-2 visa, the dependent(s) should have the following:

When the family members arrive at a United States port of entry, they will present their passports containing the F-2 or J-2 visa and the Form I-20 or DS-2019 to the border patrol inspector. Upon admitting them to the United States, the inspector will stamp the Form I-94 (Arrival–Departure Record), which will show the date and place of entry, and the authorized period of stay. This period of stay should be the same as that of the F-1 or J-1.

Reasons for denial of a visa include lack of proper documentation (such as lack of evidence of sufficient financial support), suspected excludability (such as criminal activity), or, most often, the inability to convince the consular officer that they will return to their home country after the authorized stay has ended.

Visa issuance decisions are made by the Department of State employees at U.S. embassies or consulates abroad. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) personnel are generally not involved in these matters. By statute, a consular official has absolute authority to determine the facts that will govern the issuance of a visa and the applicant has no statutory or constitutional right to review or appeal. The regulations do allow, however, for informal review of a consular officer's adverse determination. An individual who is denied a visa must be advised of the specific reasons for denial and given an opportunity to present evidence to overcome the stated objections. Applicants can reapply for a visa.

International Affairs is not able to assist dependents to reverse adverse decisions made by U.S. embassies or consulates abroad.

Work Authorization 

Work authorization for those in F-2 and J-2 status (that is, spouses and children of F-1 and J-1 students) is extremely limited. F-2 visa holders are not permitted to work under any circumstances. J-2 visa holders must receive USCIS permission to work. Learn more.

Taking Classes

USCIS regulations state that, as an F-2 visa holder, a person is ineligible to be a full-time university student and is not able to take courses on a part-time basis that can be applied toward a degree-granting program. F-2 visa holders are eligible to take classes that are avocational or recreational in nature. F-2 children may study full time in elementary or secondary school (kindergarten through twelfth grade).

Therefore, if an F-2 visa holder wishes to study full time, he or she must apply for a change of status from F-2 to F-1. F-2 visa holders may start school only after they have been granted a change of status to F-1. Also, they may not receive wages or compensation of any kind until the F-1 status is approved.

J-2 dependents are allowed to take classes without changing their status to J-1.