Bringing Dependents to the United States
Dependents are defined as spouses and/or unmarried minor children. Children over the age of 21 are not eligible to enter as the dependent of an international student (F-1 or J-1 student).
What Is F-2 Dependent Visa?
An international student’s dependents may apply for their F-2 or J2 visas at the same time that the international student applies for an F-1 or J-1 visa, or they may apply for their F-2 or J-2 visas at a later date. If they are granted the visa, they may enter the United States when the international student does, or they may enter the U.S. at a later date.
How Long Can I Stay In the U.S. On F-2 Visa?
You may stay in the U.S. as long as the principal F-1 visa holder maintains valid status. You lose your status once the principal applicant loses F-1 status.
Eligibility for F-2 Visas
Only the spouse and unmarried minor children (under age 21) who accompany the primary visa holder to the US may receive F-2 dependent status. Their eligibility to stay legally in the US, as well as to extend their stay, is contingent upon the primary visa holder maintaining their legal status and extending their program in a timely manner.
The F-2 spouse and children of an F-1 student may not accept employment in the US. Once the F-1 student has completed their studies and has left the US, the F-2 dependents must leave as well.
How Do I Apply for an F-2 Visa?
The spouse and unmarried minor children of the F-1 student may be admitted into the US in F-2 classification if each dependent presents a SAVIS Form I-20 issued in their own name and an F-2 visa.
To apply for an F-2 visa, you need a valid passport, photographs, F-2 dependents SEVIS Form I-20, visa application fee, visa application forms, and any necessary supporting documentation.
Where Do I Apply for an F-2 Visa?
On F2 visa, you may, if you are in a lawful status in the U.S., submit the change of status application to a USCIS Service Center in the U.S.
If you are outside the U.S., submit the visa application to the U.S. consular office where you reside.
A Step-By-Step Guide to Applying for an F-2 Visa
It usually takes only 6 steps to obtain an F-2 Visa. Here's how you can apply.
1. Obtain a Form I-20 From the Approved School
To apply for the F-2 visa, you must submit the completed Form I-20A-B, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status for dependents, which is issued to the F-2 dependent.
2. Complete the Online Form DS-160
If applying at a US consulate, you will need to fill in Form DS-160, the Nonimmigrant Visa Application.
You will also need one recent color photograph (37 x 37mm) of each applicant, with the entire face visible, and a passport valid for travel to the US for at least six months longer than your intended visit.
3. Pay the Visa Application Fee
The F2 visa has an application fee of USD$160. You must pay this fee to be able to proceed with the application. Upon completion of payment, you will get a receipt that proves it and you should keep it for later on.
There might also be other fees depending on the country or US Embassy you are applying from, such as visa issuance fees or reciprocity fees.
4. Schedule Your Visa Interview
As an F2 applicant, you can apply at the same time as the F1 applicant, or you can apply separately. If you are applying together, you can schedule the visa interview at the same time.
This procedure is actually recommended. However, if you are applying separately, you need to schedule your own visa interview. When scheduled, you will get an interview confirmation letter which you will show to the officers at the US Embassy to prove you have an appointment.
5. Gather All Important Documents
The required documents for an F-2 Visa application include your current and previous passports, the DS-160 confirmation page, proof of financial stability, a US Visa photograph, your interview confirmation letter, receipts proving you've paid the necessary fees, your original I-20 form and a copy, a copy of the F-1 visa holder's I-20 form, a copy of the F-1 visa (if applicable), and a marriage certificate if you are a spouse of the F-1 holder.
If you are the child of the F-1 visa holder, you will need your original birth certificate.
6. Go to Your Interview
Go to your visa interview on time with all the necessary documents. You will have questions regarding your relationship with the F1 visa holder and your intentions for being in the US. If the visa interviewer suspects that you are hiding something or that you intend to violate F2 visa rules, they will deny your visa.
How to Get F-2 Visas for Your Spouse and Minor Children
The F-2 dependent visa is a nonimmigrant visa which allows dependent spouses and children (unmarried, under 21 years old) of F-1 student visa holders to enter into the U.S.
Those who have the F-1 Visa are allowed to study in the US at various education levels, starting from elementary to graduate school. They are also allowed to work in certain situations, but primarily they go to the US to study.
In case they have dependents, such as a spouse or unmarried children under 21 years old, they are allowed to bring them to the United States too. This can be done with an F2 dependent visa.
The F2 visa is directly related to the conditions that the F1 visa holder has. There is no cap for it, dependents should just fulfill the requirements and complete the application procedures to get the visa.
How Long Does It Take to Process an F-2 Visa?
Processing times vary for visas due to the differences and workloads in US Embassies. After your F2 interview, you might get a response immediately from your interviewer on whether you got the visa or you were denied. However, it is more common that the wait will be a few days or weeks.
This is because the US Embassy will take their time to look over your documents and responses. They will particularly focus on you and the F1 visa holder’s financial situation to determine whether you can cover your expenses while in the US.
So, if your F2 visa processing is taking too long, do not be alarmed as the US Embassy either has a heavy workload or is taking their time to analyze your case.
Benefits Enjoyed by F-2 Visa Holders
On F2 visa, you may enter the US along with your spouse or join them later. You may also travel in and out of the US or remain in the US continuously as long as you maintain valid F-2 status.
Restrictions on F-2 Dependent Visa Holders
You cannot work or study on an F-2 Visa, and as soon as the F-1 Visa holder's visa expires, so does yours. You are also not allowed to get a Social Security Number on an F-2 Visa and you cannot arrive in the US before the F-1 holder.
Can I Work on F-2 Visa?
No, you cannot work on an F-2 Visa. However, if you find a job which requires an H type work visa such as an H-1B visa, you and your employer can petition with USCIS and follow the appropriate procedures to change your status.
Can I Study on F-2 Visa?
No, you cannot study on an F-2 Visa. However, with an F2 visa, you are also allowed to apply to change your status. If you enroll in an academic degree with an SEVP approved institution, you will have to apply for an F1 visa and you might get a change of status.
When to Arrive in the U.S. With an F-2 Visa
If you are entering the US for the first time, you must either be accompanied by the F1 visa holder or travel after them. You cannot travel to the US before the F1 visa holder has been allowed entry into the country.
However, there are no other travel restrictions after you enter the US the first time. You can travel in and out of the country anytime without being accompanied by the F1 visa holder.