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F-2 Visa for Spouse and Child

The spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 of an F-1 student are eligible for F-2 status, and may stay in the US as long as the primary student remains in legal F1 status.

How to apply for an F-2 visa?

Your spouse and minor children can apply for F2 visas, and either accompany or follow to join you in the United States.

To apply for an F-2 visa, you need to contact your school's international student office and request a new I-20 for your dependent. You will likely be asked to provide documents to demonstrate the relationship, such as marriage certificate, birth certificate, notarized certification, etc. You will also need to show evidence of financial resources sufficient to support your family living in the United States. This may include bank statements, pay stubs, affidavits of support, and family savings in your home country.

After receiving a new I-20, the F2 application procedure becomes very similar to applying for an F-1 visa. Your dependent needs to make a visa appointment at a U.S. embassy or consulate, and bring to the interview all documents mentioned above, plus additional information to support their request for a non-immigrant visa.

Generally a child under the age of 14 does not need to be present at the F2 visa interview, unless specifically required by a consular officer.

Can F-2 dependents go to school in the US?

A spouse in F-2 status may not enroll in a full course of study, or engage in any study toward a degree program. An F-2 spouse may, however, take classes that are avocational or recreational in nature. This means part-time study for the purpose of pursuing a hobby or interest, such as cooking or tennis.

To study full-time at post-secondary level, the spouse must change his/her F-2 status to F1, and may not attend school until the change of status request is approved by the USCIS.

A child in F2 status is allowed to attend K-12 schools (elementary, middle, or high school) as a full-time student. They may not enroll in a full course of study at a college or university (post-secondary level), except for taking recreational classes. F2 Children are eligible to apply for F1 or M1 status in order to attend college.

After turning 21, a child will lose his or her derivative status and must change to another nonimmigrant status in order to stay in the US.

Can F-2 dependents work in the US?

No. F-2 dependents may not work, on- or off-campus, under any circumstances. If an F-2 spouse or child changes status to F1, he or she becomes eligible for certain employment benefits. F2 dependents may accept unpaid, volunteer positions if such positions have always been filled with volunteers in the past.

Can F-2 dependents apply for a social security number (SSN)?

No. F-2 dependents are not allowed to work, and therefore are not eligible for a social security number. However, an F-1 student may apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) for his/her spouse and each child in F2 status, for tax filing purposes. ITIN is an identification number issued by the IRS for individuals who do not have and are not eligible to obtain a Social Security Number (SSN).

Can F-2 dependents travel outside the US?

Yes. An F-2 dependent may leave and re-enter the US with a new or unexpired visa and properly signed I-20 forms. If the trip is to Canada or Mexico, and lasts less than 30 days, a visa is not required thanks to the automatic revalidation process. However, if the traveler applied for a new visa while in Canada or Mexico, and the application is still pending or has been denied, he or she will not be able to re-enter the US.

Can F-2 dependents stay in the US while the F-1 student travels?

Yes, as long as the primary F1 student remains in valid status, is absent from the U.S. for a short period of time, and intends to return using the same SEVIS ID.

Can F-2 dependents come to the U.S. before the F-1 student?

No. If it is the first time a primary applicant is entering the United States with an F-1 visa, the F-2 dependents may come with or after the F-1 student, but not before.

What happens if the F1 student changes or loses status?

Your spouse and children's F-2 status are dependent on your status of being an F-1 academic student. If you lose your status, your family will lose their status also. If you change your status, from F1 to H-1B for example, your family must also change their status (to H4 in this example). Keep in mind that change of status does not happen automatically; so you must take care to prevent your spouse and children from accidently falling out of status.

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