Visa Documents for Dependents

Dependent Eligibility

F-1 and J-1 students and scholars may wish to bring their spouse and/or children with them to the United States. Spouses and minor children are eligible for dependent visa status (F-2 or J-2) if they meet the following criteria:

  • A spouse must be legally married to the F-1 or J-1 principal visa holder
  • A child must be unmarried and under age 21

In addition, you must be able to provide evidence that you have at least $4000 to cover the living expenses for the first dependent and $2000 for each additional dependent. This financial documentation must be recent (no more than 12 months old). This is in addition to the costs for your student or scholar program such as tuition, fees, and living expenses. If you are a student, please review the Expense Chart for an estimate of expenses.

How to Add a Dependent

  • Login to InterLink using your unique ID and password.
  • Select “Other Student Services” or “J-1 Scholar Services” and click on the e-form “Add Dependent.”
  • Upload a copy of your dependent’s passport as well as recent financial documentation showing how your dependent(s) will be funded.  You must also have sufficient financial documentation for your program or study or research.
  • Submit additional e-form requests if you are requesting that more than one dependent be added to your record.
  • ISSS will review your request. You will be contacted by e-mail after your request is processed. If approved, ISSS will add your dependents to your record and print new I-20s or DS-2019s for you and your dependents.

Applying for the F-2 or J-2 Visa

After receiving their I-20 or DS-2019, your dependent(s) will need to apply for the appropriate visa (F-2 or J-2) at the nearest U.S. consulate. Note that dependents are NOT required to pay the SEVIS fee. The dependent must have the following documents for his/her visa interview:

  • His/Her I-20 or DS-2019 (NOT a copy)
  • Copy of the I-20 or DS-2019 of the principal F-1 or J-1
  • Financial documentation that matches what is listed on the I-20 or DS-2019
  • Proof of marriage (for a spouse) or birth certificate (for a child)
  • Ability to demonstrate ties to the home country (proof of property ownership, strong ties to family, proof of an authorized leave of absence from work, etc.) in order to show non-immigrant intent

F-2 dependents are not eligible to work in the U.S. This includes both on- and off-campus employment. There is no way for an F-2 dependent to obtain work authorization unless he or she changes to a different visa status.

J-2 dependents are eligible to apply for work authorization from USCIS. In order apply, they must submit Form I-765 with the required fee and accompanying documents to USCIS. Note that it may take USCIS up to three months to process the application. Work authorization is only given for up to four years at a time, or until the end date of the J-1 program, whichever is sooner. Thus, J-2s may need to reapply for work authorization if/when the J-1 program is extended in order to be able to continue working. If permission for employment is granted, an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is issued and is valid for any kind of full-time or part-time employment for the period of time stated on the EAD.

F-2 children are permitted to study at the elementary and secondary levels (Kindergarten through 12th grade). However, F-2 dependents are not allowed to study full-time at the post-secondary (college/university) level. They may only take part-time courses. If you have questions about this, please consult with an international student advisor. If an F-2 dependent to study full-time, he or she will need to change status to F-1.

J-2 dependents are eligible to study part-time or full-time. There are no restrictions on study.

If your dependent(s) wish to travel outside the U.S., they will need to have their I-20 or DS-2019 signed for travel by ISSS. Please see Traveling Outside the U.S. for more information about this process.

Immigration regulations do not require F-2 dependents to have health insurance. However, it is strongly recommended that you purchase and maintain adequate health insurance for your dependents given the extremely high cost of health care in the U.S. Please see Health Insurance for more information.

J-2 dependents are required by the U.S. Department of State to maintain adequate health insurance coverage throughout their entire period of J-2 status. Failure to do so is a violation of legal status. For more information, please see J-1 Health Insurance Requirement.

Employment

F-2 dependents are not eligible to work in the U.S. This includes both on- and off-campus employment. There is no way for an F-2 dependent to obtain work authorization unless he or she changes to a different visa status.

J-2 dependents are eligible to apply for work authorization from USCIS. In order apply, they must submit Form I-765 with the required fee and accompanying documents to USCIS. Note that it may take USCIS up to three months to process the application. Work authorization is only given for up to four years at a time, or until the end date of the J-1 program, whichever is sooner. Thus, J-2s may need to reapply for work authorization if/when the J-1 program is extended in order to be able to continue working. If permission for employment is granted, an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is issued and is valid for any kind of full-time or part-time employment for the period of time stated on the EAD.

Study

F-2 children are permitted to study at the elementary and secondary levels (Kindergarten through 12th grade). However, F-2 dependents are not allowed to study full-time at the post-secondary (college/university) level. They may only take part-time courses. If you have questions about this, please consult with an international student advisor. If an F-2 dependent to study full-time, he or she will need to change status to F-1.

J-2 dependents are eligible to study part-time or full-time. There are no restrictions on study.

Travel outside the U.S.

If your dependent(s) wish to travel outside the U.S., they will need to have their I-20 or DS-2019 signed for travel by ISSS. Please see Traveling Outside the U.S. for more information about this process.

Health Insurance

Immigration regulations do not require F-2 dependents to have health insurance. However, it is strongly recommended that you purchase and maintain adequate health insurance for your dependents given the extremely high cost of health care in the U.S. Please see Health Insurance for more information.

J-2 dependents are required by the U.S. Department of State to maintain adequate health insurance coverage throughout their entire period of J-2 status. Failure to do so is a violation of legal status. For more information, please see J-1 Health Insurance Requirement.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is my fiancé eligible for dependent status?

No. However, ISSS will process an I-20 or DS-2019 for your fiancé if you have plans to get married during an upcoming trip outside the U.S. Submit the “Add Dependent” request via InterLink. Keep in mind that your dependent will need to be able to show your marriage certificate at his or her visa interview in order to obtain the dependent visa.

Is my same-sex spouse eligible for dependent status?

Possibly. If the marriage is legally recognized in the “place of celebration” (i.e. the country where the marriage took place), your spouse should be eligible for dependent status. Submit the “Add Dependent” request via InterLink.

Is my parent, domestic partner, or other close family member eligible for dependent status?

No. Only legally-married spouses and unmarried children under age 21 are eligible for dependent status. Others may come to the U.S. in visitor (B-2) status.

Does my dependent need to enter US with me or can s/he enter separately?

Your dependent does not need to enter the U.S. with you. He or she may enter the U.S. separately at a later date.

May my dependent remain inside the US while I travel abroad?

Yes, if your trip outside the U.S. will be brief. Keep in mind that your dependent’s status is tied to yours, and if you break your status they will lose their status as well. If you will be outside the U.S. for more than 5 months, you will lose your status and your dependents will have to depart the U.S. as well. If you plan to be outside the U.S. for more than one month and your dependents do not plan to travel with you, please contact our office to discuss your situation with an advisor. In addition, keep in mind that your dependents are held to the same grace period that you have following completion of your academic program (60 days for F-1/F-2 and 30 days for J-1/J-2). When you depart the U.S. following completion of your program, your dependent(s) need to leave with you.

What if my dependent is already in the US in a different visa status and wishes to change to F-2 or J-2?

If your dependent does not have plans to travel outside the U.S., he or she will need to file an I-539 Change of Status application with USCIS. Please submit the Add Dependent request via InterLink. If you have questions about the Change of Status application, please contact our office to schedule an appointment with an advisor.

What if my dependent child will turn 21 soon?

Your child may only maintain dependent status until he or she turns 21. Prior to turning 21, your dependent must either depart the U.S. or file for a change of status to another visa category.

Is my dependent eligible for a Social Security Number or driver license?

In order to obtain a Social Security Number (SSN) a person must be legally eligible to work in the U.S. and have an offer of employment. Therefore, F-2 dependents are not eligible for an SSN. J-2 dependents are eligible if they have obtained work authorization from USCIS and have secured employment.

Dependents are eligible for a driver license if they meet the requirements set forth by the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles and pass the necessary tests. A Social Security Number is not required to obtain an Ohio driver license.