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Dependent Children, Visa Status and Schools

In most cases, a non-immigrant visitor's minor child (unmarried and under 21 years of age) is eligible to apply for a dependent visa, and either accompany or follow to join the principal visa holder to the United States. However, it is often confusing whether a nonimmigrant child may attend school. The table below addresses many questions related to dependent visa status and studying.

(See also: Dependent visa for spouse and school information)

General rules (exceptions and restrictions apply):

  • A child in dependent visa status is usually allowed to attend K - 12 school, and in some cases may even attend post-secondary school as a full-time student without the need to obtain F-1 status.
  • A child attending school must still abide by the rules governing his/her nonimmigrant status.
  • A child is not allowed to extend his/her stay for the purpose of finishing a school year or program.
  • A child must apply for his/her own visa status after turning 21 years of age, except for certain A, G and NATO visa categories.
  • A child in dependent visa status is usually allowed to change his/her status to F1 or M1, except for children in K nonimmigrant status.

If your nonimmigrant visa status is:Your child may come to the U.S. in dependent visa status: Your child may attend K-12 school [11] Your child may attend college or university [12]You child may change status to F-1, M-1 or J-1
A-1, A-2 or A-3Foreign government officials A-1, A-2 or A-3 [1]YesYesYes
B-1Visitor for business None [2] limited [3] No [4]Yes
B-2Visitor for pleasure None [2] limited [3] No [4]Yes
C-1 to C-4Aliens in transitNoneN/AN/AN/A
D-1 or D-2 CrewmenNoneN/AN/AN/A
E-1Treaty traderE-1YesYesYes
E-2Treaty investorE-2YesYesYes
F-1Academic studentF-2Yes No [5]Yes
G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4 or G-5Representatives to International Organizations G-1 to G-5YesYesYes
H-1BSpecialty worker or fashion modelH-4YesYesYes
H-1CNursesH-4YesYesYes
H-2AAgricultural workerH-4YesYesYes
H-3TraineeH-4YesYesYes
IForeign media representativeIYesYes Yes [6]
J-1Exchange visitorJ-2 YesYes Yes [7]
K-1Fiance(e) of U.S. citizenK-2YesYes No [8]
K-3Spouse of U.S. citizenK-4YesYesNo [8]
L-1AIntracompany transferee - ManagerL-2YesYesYes
L-1BIntracompany transferee - Specialized knowledgeL-2YesYesYes
M-1Vocational or language studentM-2Yes No [9] Yes
N-8, SK-1, SK-2 or SK-4Special immigrant (Certain Parents and Children of section 101(a)(27)(I))N-9YesYesYes
NATO-1 to NATO-7North Atlantic Treaty OrganizationNATO1 - 7YesYesYes
O-1Worker with extraordinary abilitiesO-3YesYesYes
O-2Alien's (support) accompanying O-1O-3YesYesYes
P-1, P-2 or P-3Athlete, artist or entertainerP4YesYesYes
Q-1Cultural exchange visitor None [10] N/AN/AN/A
Q-2Irish Peace Process Cultural and Training Program (Walsh Visas)Q-3YesYesYes
R-1Religious workerR-2YesYesYes
S5 or S6 Witness or InformantS7YesYesYes
T-1Victim of traffickingT-3YesYesYes
TNNorth American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)TD YesYesYes
TWOV (C4)Transit without visaNoneN/AN/AN/A
U-1Victim of certain criminal activityU-3YesYesYes
V-1Spouse of an LPR V-3YesYesYes
V-2Child of an LPR V-3YesYesYes
  1. A dependent child in A, G or NATO visa status may remain in derivative status even after turning 21 (up to 23, or 25 if a bilateral agreement exists), if he/she attends a post-secondary school full time. They don't have to change status to F1 as long as they maintain valid derivative A, G or NATO status.
  2. A child, however, may apply for his/her own B1, B2 or B1/B2 visa to accompany a parent to the U.S.
  3. In some cases a child in B status is allowed to attend K-12 school if the study is incidental (i.e. not the purpose for obtaining the B visa).
  4. Dependent children in B status cannot attend post-secondary school without changing their status to F1 or M1 first. Changing from B to F1 status in the U.S. may be difficult unless the intent to study was properly declared.
  5. A child in F-2 status may attend K-12 school, but may not study at post-secondary level except for taking recreational classes. To attend post-secondary school full-time, an F-2 child must change status to F-1, M-1 or J-1. Note that F1/M1 students must attend SEVP Certified Schools.
  6. A child of a foreign media representative in I status may study without the need for a change of status to F1.
  7. For the J visa category, the two-year residence waiver or special waiver for medical graduates may be required before a change of status is allowed.
  8. K visa holders may not change status
  9. A child in M-2 status may attend K-12 school, but may not study at post-secondary level except for taking recreational classes. To attend post-secondary school full-time, an M-2 child must change status to F-1, M-1 or J-1. Note that F1/M1 students must attend SEVP Certified Schools.
  10. There is no provision for the spouse and children of a Q-1 visa holder.
  11. K - 12 school refers to elementary, middle or high school (kindergarten to 12th grade).
  12. Post-secondary school refers to college or university.