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F-2 Visas for the Spouses & Unmarried Children of F-1 Student Visa Holders

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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.


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