If you are the spouse or child (under the age of 21) of an F-1 student visa holder, you may be able to join the F-1 holder in the U.S. This type of visa is known as an F-2 dependent visa.
Rights for the F2 visa holder
Like the F-1 visa, the F-2 visa is a nonimmigrant visa which allows foreign nationals to enter and stay in the U.S. A nonimmigrant visa means that the visa holder does not have the right to stay in the U.S. forever. Stated a bit differently, eventually the F-2 visa will run out.
The F-2 visa is tied directly to the F-1 visa. So when the F-1 student ends his or her studies, both the F-1 and the F-2 accompanying visa holders have to leave the U.S. Similarly, if the F-1 student falls out of status (due to dropping out of school or getting into criminal trouble), then the F-2 dependent visa holder is also out of status.
One important thing to keep in mind is that F-2 visa holders are not allowed to work in the U.S. They cannot work at all. In addition, F-2 spouses are not eligible to engage in full time academic study towards a degree. They may be able to take random classes, but not a full course load. F-2 children can enroll in full time elementary or secondary school.
If the F-2 visa holder wishes to enroll at a U.S. college or university in their own right, they will need to be admitted and to obtain an independent I-20. They would then file for a change of status from F-1 to F-2.
F-2 Visa Process
In order to obtain an F-2 visa, you will need to be referenced on the F-1 student's Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, as the F-2 dependent.
If you want to apply for the F-2 visa at a U.S. consulate overseas, you will need to complete the electronic Form DS-160. This Form requests a lot of background information, as well as any criminal history. You will need a valid passport good for at least 6 months longer than the anticipated end of the F-1 students' studies.
While it is certainly possible to change status while in the U.S. from another form of nonimmigrant visa (typically, a B-1/B-2 visit visa), this can be tricky due to the timing issues associated with the issuance of the I-20, the course calendar at the school and the F-1 student's arrival date in the U.S. We recommend not applying for a change of status in the U.S. without the help of a competent immigration attorney.
If you have questions about F-1 student visas or F-2 dependent visas, feel free to email us at [email protected] or give us a call at (314) 961-8200.