Family Resources

Sponsorship of the F-2 or J-2 Visa

Dependents are defined in the U.S. as a spouse and/or unmarried child(ren) under the age of 21.

Dependents in F-2 or J-2 status must have their own Form I-20 or Form DS-2019. Students who wish to bring their dependents to the U.S. must apply for a certificate of eligibility (Form I-20 or DS-2019) by showing proof of financial support for the dependent’s living expenses and a copy of their passport information page.

Students most often request dependent documents upon initial entry to their program by providing their dependent’s information on the … before arrival. Students already in the U.S. in F-1 or J-1 status may request dependent Forms I-20 or DS-2019 by completing a … form.

Students wishing to invite family members who are not eligible for dependent status should see the handout, Inviting Family to Visit (PDF). If you wish to invite your family and/or friends to visit the U.S. for your graduation ceremony, please see the information on the University Registrar’s page, Inviting Foreign Guests to Commencement.

Once the Office of Immigration has prepared an F-2 I-20 or J-2 DS-2019, there are two ways for a dependent spouse or child to apply for F-2/J-2 status: apply for F-2/J-2 outside of the U.S. at a U.S. Consulate or change from their current visa status within the United States to F-2/J-2 visa status.

Applying for the Dependent Visa

Dependents Currently Outside the U.S.

If the dependent spouse or child is currently outside of the United States, the dependent must apply for the F-2/J-2 visa at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy using the following guidelines:

  1. The F-1 or J-1 student must first get a dependent I-20 or DS-2019 prepared by the Office of Immigration for their F-2 or J-2 dependents. Please complete the … and submit it to the Office of Immigration with the required proof of funding.
  2. The F-2 or J-2 visa applicant(s) should check the website of the US Consulate or Embassy location they will apply for instructions on obtaining the U.S. visa.  Contacts of Consulates and Embassies can be found at  F-2 and J-2 visa applicants should check the site for specific details on scheduling the visa appointment and any additional information may be required for the visa interview.
  3. Complete the DS-160 Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form.
  4. Pay the visa application fee by following instructions on your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate’s website. Please note that you do not have to pay another SEVIS I-901 fee for F-2 or J-2 dependent spouse or child(ren).
  5. Prepare and bring the following items to your visa appointment:
  6. A passport valid for at least six months
  7. Supporting visa documentation (dependent I-20 or DS-2019)
  8. Completed DS-160 visa application
  9. One photograph in the prescribed format detailed at
  10. A receipt for the visa application fee
  11. Financial evidence that shows the F-1 or J-1 student has sufficient funds to cover the living expenses of the dependent F-2 or J-2 while in the U.S.
  12. Any additional information listed on the Consulate’s website.

Dependents Currently Inside the U.S.

Change of Status Inside the U.S.

For sponsorship of dependents who are already in the U.S. to obtain F-2 or J-2 status, the dependent will have to file an I-539 petition to change status with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

No Travel While the Change of Status is Pending

Once the I-539 petition is submitted to the USCIS, the F-2 or J-2 applicant cannot leave the United States for any reason. If the dependent applicant leaves the U.S., even for a Caribbean Cruise, the I-539 petition will be considered “abandoned” and the case will be denied by USCIS.  The dependent will only be able to travel internationally once the I-539 petition has been approved.  Also, please be aware that the I-539 petition approval is not a visa. If and/or when the F-2 or J-2 dependent travels outside the U.S., the must apply for a new F-2 or J-2 visa foil at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

Important Notes Regarding an In-Country Change of Status

If you are currently on a B-1/B-2 visitor visa and you want to apply to change your status to an F-2 or J-2 dependent status, it is not recommended that you apply for a change of status within the first 90 days of entry to the U.S. in B-1/B-2 status. Doing so will likely result in a denial and will be considered fraudulent entry based on a misrepresentation of status based on 9 FAM 302.9-4(B)(3)(g)(2) – Inconsistent Conduct Within 90 Days of Admission to the United States. 

USCIS now requires someone who wishes to change visa status in the U.S. to maintain their current visa status while awaiting a change of status decision.  This means that in addition to filing an I-539 petition to change status to F-2 or J-2 dependent status, you must either maintain your current visa status or file another I-539 petition to extend your current status while the change of status to F-2 or J-2 is pending.  See the USCIS Change My Nonimmigrant Status page for more information.

It is strongly recommended by the Office of Immigration that you consult with a qualified immigration attorney to assist with the change of status petition and process.

Dependents - Work and Study

F-2 Dependents

Study: An F-2 spouse, or child(ren) that has completed high school, may enroll in a part-time course of study in either a degree or non-degree program at an institution of higher education. An F-2 child may engage in full-time study in any elementary or secondary school (kindergarten through twelfth grade).

Work: F-2 employment is not permitted.

J-2 Dependents

Study: A J-2 dependent may attend an institution of higher education on a full-time or part-time basis without any restrictions. The State of Alabama requires any child up to the age of 17 to attend school.

Work: A J-2 dependent may petition for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) through the USCIS. The dependent may not begin employment without the EAD in hand or before the EAD start date. Employment must conclude by the end date listed on the EAD or the end of the J-1 program.

Dependent Travel

Both F-2 and J-2 dependents may travel freely throughout the United States. If a dependent will travel outside the U.S., the Office of Immigration Director or Immigration Coordinator must endorse the I-20 or DS-2019 for travel so the dependent may re-enter the U.S. A valid F-2 or J-2 visa will also be required to re-enter the U.S. If their visa has expired, a new visa must be obtained before re-entry to the U.S.

Dependent Reminders

Nonimmigrant dependent children will “age out” at the time they turn 21 years of age. Dependent children must change to their own visa status when reaching the age 21, if they are in the U.S. If they will change their visa status while in the U.S., it is important to give themselves time to maintain their current status while their change of status petition is being processed.

If the J-1 principal is subject to the 212(e) 2-year home residency requirement, the J-2 spouse will be subject as well. If the J-1 obtains a waiver of the 212(e), it also applies to the dependents. If the J-1 ends his or her program, he/she is allowed a 30-day grace period to prepare to exit the U.S. The J-2 must also leave with the J-1 during the grace period.