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Spouses and dependent children under the age of 21 may accompany F-1 and J-1 visa holders during their stay in the US on what is called a derivative F-2 or J-2 visa.
Taking spouses and children with you can be an enjoyable way to share your international experience. However, there will be some logistical and financial issues to take into careful consideration.
How does the US define "spouse"? US visa law does not recognise common-law relationships; therefore a partner or fiancée is not eligible to apply for derivative visa status. In such cases, the partner is required to qualify for a visa in his or her own right.
Does my child or spouse need a visa to join me? Spouses and/or children under the age of 21 who wish to accompany the principal visa holder for the duration of your stay require derivative F-2 or J-2 visas. Spouses and/or children who do not intend to reside in the US with the principal visa holder, but visit for vacations only, may be eligible to apply for visitor (B-2) visas, or if they are UK citizens or nationals of other VWP countries, travel visa free under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).
I am on a J-1 visa. Can my dependents study in the US? There is no requirement that the spouse and/or children of a J-1 visa holder apply for a student (F-1) visa if they wish to study in the US. They may study on a J-2 visa. However if they are qualified, they may apply for their own F-1 visa as well. If you have school age children, you should refer to the regulations governing the issuance of F-1 visas (below).
I am on an F-1 visa. Can my dependents study in the US? A student wishing to attend a university or other academic institution in the United States, including primary and secondary schools, or a language training programme requires an F-1 visa. Section 214(l) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), prohibits the issuance of F-1 visas to students who are going to the US to attend public elementary schools (grades K through 8, approximately ages 5 to 14) and publicly funded adult education programmes such as foreign language classes.
Students applying for F-1 visas to attend public secondary schools (grades 9 through 12, approximately ages 14 to 18) are limited to a maximum of 12 months of public high school in F-1 status and must show proof that payment has been made for the full, unsubsidised cost of the education before a visa can be processed.
Students attending private elementary and secondary schools are not affected by this ruling.
Can my spouse or child work? The spouse or child of an F-1 student visa holder may not work in the US on a derivative F-2 visa. If he or she is seeking employment, the appropriate work visa is required.
The spouse of a J-1 exchange visitor visa holder may not work in the US on a derivative J-2 visa unless permission has been obtained in advance from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. An application for permission to work can only be made after the J-2 visa holder's arrival in the US and will be considered in light of policies then in effect.
What extra steps will our family need to take to apply for derivative visas? First, you will be expected to demonstrate financial support for your dependents at the point of getting your certificate of eligibility (I-20 or DS-2019). Note your dependents will use the same certificate of eligibility as the primary visa applicant.
Note spouses and dependants will register with the SEVIS international visitor database with you, but do not need to pay the SEVIS fee if they are going to the US on F-2 or J-2 visas.
Note: This page is meant to be a general guide to the visa application process. Local US Embassies are the official source of information on visas, and any information provided to you by the US Embassy supersedes information on this webpage.
For more information on visas visit the US State Department website. They have sections on
F Visas and J Visas. You may also want to review the information provided by the US Embassy in London. Additionally, talk with your US university or visa sponsor for further information. If you are not a UK citizen, we encourage you to also read the US Embassy London's webpage on visas for non-residents.