Most international students and scholars prefer their spouse and children to accompany them while in the US. For dependents (spouse and/or children) to accompany them (or join them later) in dependent status, they also must have a SEVIS record, a valid visa, and their own visa certificate (Form I-20 or DS-2019). Since most international spouses are not able to work in the US and the cost of living in the US is much higher than in many of the countries from which the majority of international students and scholars come, students and scholars should consider carefully the costs of supporting family members in the US.
Before OIS can issue a visa certificate for a family member, the student or scholar must provide financial documentation so that we can enter sufficient funding amounts for both the student/scholar and family members. Students and scholars must document an additional amount of $6000/year for a spouse and $4000/year for each child. Once OIS has the biographical and financial information for the family dependent members, we will create a dependent record in SEVIS and issue the appropriate visa certificate.
Dependents must submit to the US Consular Officer a properly endorsed Form I-20 or DS-2019. Dependents must also have a valid passport and visa and must be able to demonstrate eligibility for F-2/J-2 status, such as proof of relationship to the F-1 or J-1 student (e.g., a marriage certificate for spouses or a birth certificate for minor dependent children). I-20/DS-2019 Request Forms are available in 320 Daniels or on the OIS website and should be submitted through the OIS HelpDesk system.
If F-1 or J-1 students would like their parents, siblings, friends or relatives to visit the United States temporarily, they may write a letter of invitation to their relatives to obtain a temporary B-1/B-2 visa from the US Consulate in their country - or they may use the visa waiver program if they are from a visa-waiver country. The format for the invitation letter is available in 320 Daniels or on the OIS website.
The spouse of an F-1 student who is in F-2 status is not permitted to study or work. Any F-2 spouse who desires to work or is offered employment (wages or other benefits in exchange for personal or professional services) must contact an immigration attorney or the employer’s human resources officer to explore possible immigration options for which the F-2 may be eligible.
The federal regulations do give dependents of a J-1 student or scholar (a J-2 spouse or minor child of working age – 16 to 20) the option to apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). The J-2 dependent does not need a job offer first and may apply directly to the USCIS (no recommendation or authorization from OIS is necessary). USCIS website.
Minor dependent children are required to attend school until they are at least 18 years old and although public education for kindergarten through high school in the US is free, there are numerous school options, types of schools, and varying schedules. The spouse of an F-1 student who is in F-2 status is not permitted to study (or be enrolled), although they may attend part-time English conversation programs in the community. An F-2 student who applies to a school or college and is admitted must speak with the appropriate school official about applying for a change of status to F-1 or other immigration option that would permit enrollment.
OIS strongly encourages that all international students and scholars purchase medical insurance for their dependents. Medical costs are extremely high in the United States and not having coverage could be disastrous in case of a medical emergency. J-1 Exchange Visitors are required by law to have health insurance (for themselves and all their J-2 dependent family members) that meets minimum federal requirements.