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Spouse Visa Status and Attending Schools

In most cases, a non-immigrant visitor's spouse (legally wedded wife or husband) is eligible to apply for a dependent visa, and come to the United States either accompanying or following to join the principal visa holder. A spouse in dependent visa status may be allowed to attend school in the U.S. without obtaining F1 status.

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

General rules (exceptions and restrictions apply):

  • A spouse attending school must still abide by the rules governing his/her nonimmigrant status.
  • A spouse in dependent visa status is not allowed to extend his/her stay for the purpose of finishing a school year or program.
  • A spouse may take classes that are avocational or recreational in nature.
  • A spouse in dependent visa status is usually allowed to change status to F1, M1 or J1, except for K1 and K2 visa holders.

If your nonimmigrant visa status is: Your spouse may come to the U.S. in dependent visa status: Your spouse may attend school in the U.S. You spouse 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
B-1 Visitor for business None [1] No [2] Yes
B-2 Visitor for pleasure None [1] No [2] Yes
C-1 to C-4 Aliens in transit None N/A N/A
D-1 or D-2 Crewmen None N/A N/A
E-1 Treaty trader E-1 Yes Yes
E-2 Treaty investor E-2 Yes Yes
F-1 Academic student F-2 No [3] Yes [4]
G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4 or G-5 Representatives to International Organizations G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4 or G-5 Yes Yes
H-1B Specialty worker or fashion model H-4 Yes Yes
H-1C Nurses H-4 Yes Yes
H-2A Agricultural worker H-4 Yes Yes
H-3 Trainee H-4 Yes Yes
I Foreign media representative I Yes Yes
J-1 Exchange visitor J-2 Yes Yes [5]
K-1 Fiance(e) of U.S. citizen K-2 Yes No
K-3 Spouse of U.S. citizen K-4 Yes No
L-1A Intracompany transferee - Manager L-2 Yes Yes
L-1B Intracompany transferee - Specialized knowledge L-2 Yes Yes
M-1 Vocational or language student M-2 No [6] Yes [4]
N-8, SK-1, SK-2 or SK-4 Special immigrant (Certain Parents and Children of section 101(a)(27)(I)) N/A N/A N/A
NATO-1 to NATO-7 North Atlantic Treaty Organization NATO1 - 7 Yes Yes
O-1 Worker with extraordinary abilities O-3 Yes Yes
O-2 Alien's (support) accompanying O-1 O-3 Yes Yes
P-1, P-2 or P-3 Athlete, artist or entertainer P4 Yes Yes
Q-1 Cultural exchange visitor None [7] N/A N/A
Q-2 Irish Peace Process Cultural and Training Program (Walsh Visas) Q-3 Yes Yes
R-1 Religious worker R-2 Yes Yes
S5 or S6 Witness or Informant S7 Yes Yes
T-1 Victim of trafficking T-3 Yes Yes
TN North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) TD Yes [8] Yes
TWOV (C4) Transit without visa - None - N/A N/A
U-1 Victim of certain criminal activity U-3 Yes Yes
V-1 Spouse of an LPR V-3 Yes Yes
V-2 Child of an LPR V-3 Yes Yes

  1. A spouse may apply for his or her own B visa and travel to the U.S.
  2. Unlike a child, a spouse in B status may not attend school, but is allowed to engage in study that is recreational or avocational.
  3. An F-2 spouse may not study toward a degree, but may take classes that are avocational or recreational in nature. To engage in a full course of study, an F-2 spouse must change status to F-1, M-1, or J-1. An F-2 spouse may attend high school without the need for F-1 visa.
  4. A spouse, after changing status to F1 or M1, must attend only SEVP approved schools.
  5. A J-2 spouse cannot change status unless the 2-year residence waiver or special waiver is obtained, if required.
  6. An M-2 spouse may not study toward a degree, but may take classes that are avocational or recreational in nature. To engage in a full course of study, an F-2 spouse must change status to F-1, M-1, or J-1. An M-2 spouse may attend high school without the need for F-1 visa.
  7. There is no provision for the spouse and children of a Q-1 visa holder.
  8. A spouse in TD dependent status may attend school without changing to F1 status.
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