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 ||Your child may attend college or university ||You child may change status to F-1, M-1 or J-1|
|A-1, A-2 or A-3||Foreign government officials||A-1, A-2 or A-3 ||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|B-1||Visitor for business||None ||limited ||No ||Yes|
|B-2||Visitor for pleasure||None ||limited ||No ||Yes|
|C-1 to C-4||Aliens in transit||None||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|D-1 or D-2||Crewmen||None||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|F-1||Academic student||F-2||Yes||No ||Yes|
|G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4 or G-5||Representatives to International Organizations||G-1 to G-5||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|H-1B||Specialty worker or fashion model||H-4||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|I||Foreign media representative||I||Yes||Yes||Yes |
|J-1||Exchange visitor||J-2||Yes||Yes||Yes |
|K-1||Fiance(e) of U.S. citizen||K-2||Yes||Yes||No |
|K-3||Spouse of U.S. citizen||K-4||Yes||Yes||No |
|L-1A||Intracompany transferee - Manager||L-2||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|L-1B||Intracompany transferee - Specialized knowledge||L-2||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|M-1||Vocational or language student||M-2||Yes||No ||Yes|
|N-8, SK-1, SK-2 or SK-4||Special immigrant (Certain Parents and Children of section 101(a)(27)(I))||N-9||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|NATO-1 to NATO-7||North Atlantic Treaty Organization||NATO1 - 7||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|O-1||Worker with extraordinary abilities||O-3||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|O-2||Alien's (support) accompanying O-1||O-3||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|P-1, P-2 or P-3||Athlete, artist or entertainer||P4||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Q-1||Cultural exchange visitor||None ||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Q-2||Irish Peace Process Cultural and Training Program (Walsh Visas)||Q-3||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|S5 or S6||Witness or Informant||S7||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|T-1||Victim of trafficking||T-3||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|TN||North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)||TD||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|TWOV (C4)||Transit without visa||None||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|U-1||Victim of certain criminal activity||U-3||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|V-1||Spouse of an LPR||V-3||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|V-2||Child of an LPR||V-3||Yes||Yes||Yes|
- 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.
- A child, however, may apply for his/her own B1, B2 or B1/B2 visa to accompany a parent to the U.S.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- A child of a foreign media representative in I status may study without the need for a change of status to F1.
- 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.
- K visa holders may not change status
- 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.
- There is no provision for the spouse and children of a Q-1 visa holder.
- K - 12 school refers to elementary, middle or high school (kindergarten to 12th grade).
- Post-secondary school refers to college or university.
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