Traveling with dependents

A dependent is a spouse or children (unmarried under the age of 21). If you would like to have dependents accompany you during your study in the USA, you will need to indicate this when completing your I-20 request e-form. In addition, you will need to provide a color copy of the identity page of the passport for your dependent(s).

You will also need to show additional funding on your financial documents for your dependents. For your spouse: add $10,000 to the estimated expenses for your program of study. For your child/children: add $6,000 per person to the estimated expenses for your program of study.

F-2 dependent status eligibility

F-1 visa holders who would like their spouse and/or children who are under 21 years of age to accompany them or join them in the USA may apply to the Office of Global Services for an I-20(s) for an F-2 dependent(s).

New students may choose to apply for F-2 I-20’s for family members at the same time that they complete the forms for their initial I-20. Current continuing students and students on Optional Practical Training may request an I-20 for a dependent by using the Request for Student and Exchange Visitor Information System I-20/DS-2019.

Once your dependent receives their F-2 I-20, they will need to schedule their visa appointment at a USA Consulate abroad. It may be possible for them to apply for their F-2 visas at the same time that you have an appointment to obtain your F-1 visa. You should check with the consulate you plan to visit for details. It is also possible for your dependent(s) to join you in the USA at a later time. Pay close attention to the important information below:

  • Dependents do not need to pay a Student and Exchange Visitor Information System fee
  • F-2 dependents may not work during their stay in the USA
  • Your F-2 spouse may study part-time and children with F-2 visas should attend elementary, middle, and high school while you study in the USA

J-2 dependent status eligibility

A J-1 exchange visitor spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 are eligible for J-2 status. The day the child turns 21 he or she is no longer eligible for a dependent J-2 status. Each J-2 dependent must have his or her own Form DS-2019 with a Student and Exchange Visitor Information System number. J-2 visa holders do not have to pay the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System fee.

Each J-2 dependent may accompany or follow to join the J-1 exchange visitor in the USA and remain here while the J-1 exchange visitor maintains status here. All J-2 dependents are required to comply with applicable federal regulatory requirements. Please see Maintaining J-2 Status section below for more information.

To request a Form DS-2019 for accompanying dependent(s), please use Request to Change Funding, Replace DS-2019, or Issue J-1 Dependent DS-2019 form. You may need to show additional funding for dependent expenses.

Maintaining J-2 status

  • J-2 dependents may study part-time or full-time in the USA while the J-1 exchange visitor is in valid status
  • J-2 dependents must also be covered by health insurance
  • J-2 dependent children over the age of 21 are no longer eligible for J-2 status and will need to change to another status if they wish to remain in the USA

Accompanying family members (J-2 visa holders)

Spouse and/or children (under age 21) will receive his/her own Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) generated DS-2019, with his/her own Student and Exchange Visitor Information System identification number. The J-2 visa may be obtained by presenting to a USA Consulate the dependent’s DS-2019 form and proof of adequate funding for support of the family member. Proof of marriage for spouse and a birth certificate for each child may be requested for J-2 visa applicants. You are also required to complete a separate visa application form for each child, even if they are included on a parent’s passport. It is preferred that families apply for J-1 and J-2 visas at the same time, but if the spouse and children must apply separately at a later time, they should bring copies of the student visa holder’s passport with the J-1 visa stamp and his/her DS-2019 along with all other required documents.

J-2 employment

A J-2 dependent may receive authorization from the USA Citizenship and Immigration Services for the duration of the J-1 scholar’s program. If the J-2 dependent meets the required criteria and complies with the guidelines for employment, any type of lawful employment is permitted, full or part-time. However, it cannot be for the purpose of supporting the J-1 parent or spouse.

To apply for employment, the J-2 dependent must submit the following:

  • G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance
  • USA Citizenship and Immigration Services Form I-765
  • Item 3 – Use an address that will not change since mail from the USA Citizenship and Immigration Services will not be forwarded
  • Item 16 – write: (C)(5)
  • The J-2 applicant signs the form in blue ink
  • $410 check or money order payable to the “USA Department of Homeland Security”
  • Letter explaining why work authorization is sought (see sample below) written by J-2 applicant; the letter should state that employment is not necessary to support the J-1
  • Photocopies of the J-2’s and J-1’s current and prior DS-2019 forms
  • Two photos. Photos should be passport style: white background, un-mounted glossy, with a full face position, un-retouched. Photos should not be taken earlier than 30 days before submission to the USA Citizenship and Immigration Services. (Lightly print your name on the back of each photo with pencil)
  • Photocopy of the identification page in the J-2’s passport
  • Photocopy of the visa page in J-2’s passport
  • Photocopy of J-2’s I-94 card
  • Photocopies of any Employment Authorization Document cards issued previously to the J-2
  • Photocopy of the J-2’s driver’s license or other photo identification, if available
  • Marriage certificate (if spouse of the J-1), or birth certificate (if child of the J-1)
  • Foreign-language documents should include an English translation

*Employment is generally authorized up to twelve months and may be renewed annually. However, if J-2 status (DS- 2019) is valid for more than one year, the J-2 can attempt to request more time by submitting a statement such as “I would like to request employment until the end date of my DS-2019 on ______(include actual end date here).”

Sample letter

[Your Name]

[Your Address]

[Your Phone or Email]

[Date]

To Whom It May Concern:

I am the J-2 dependent of a J-1 exchange visitor, [insert J-1’s name] and I wish to apply for an Employment Authorization Document. My [insert word “spouse” or “parent”] receives a [insert salary, stipend, grant, scholarship, whichever is relevant] from [insert funding source] sufficient to provide for our living expenses. I am requesting to be employed to pursue [insert activities, such as recreational, cultural, travel, experience in the American workplace, etc.] I respectfully request to be granted permission to be employed in the USA.

Enclosed are all required documents. [List documents here if you prefer]:

Thank you very much for your kind assistance.

[Your Name]

[Your Signature]