F-2 visa, Dependent of F-1 Student Visa

F-2 visa, Dependent of F-1 Student Visa

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What is an F-2 visa?

F-2 visa is issued to dependents (spouses and unmarried children under 21) of F-1 visa holders.

The F-1 visa is designed for international students studying in the U.S.

The F-2 visa allows dependents to accompany the F-1 visa holder during their course of study. However, F-2 visa holders are generally not allowed to work in the U.S.

F-2 visa requirements

F-2 visa requirements:

  • Relationship to F-1 Visa Holder:
      • Spouses: The applicant must be the legal spouse of an F-1 visa holder.
      • Children: Unmarried children under the age of 21 of F-1 visa holders are eligible.
  • Documentation:
      • Proof of relationship to the F-1 visa holder, such as marriage certificates for spouses or birth certificates for children.
      • The F-1 visa holder’s Form I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status).
  • Visa Application Form:
      • The F-2 visa applicant must complete the online visa application form DS-160.
  • Visa Fee:
      • Payment of the non-refundable visa application fee of $185 per applicant.
  • Photo:
      • One recent passport-sized photograph meeting the U.S. visa photo requirements.
  • Visa Interview:
      • Attend a visa interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate in the dependents’ home country. During the interview, the applicant may be asked about their relationship to the F-1 visa holder and their intent to stay in the U.S.
  • Proof of Financial Support:
    • While F-2 visa holders are not allowed to work in the U.S., they should demonstrate that they have sufficient funds to cover their expenses during their stay.

How to apply for an F-2 visa?

Applying for an F-2 visa involves the following steps:

Step 1. Check Eligibility:

  • Ensure that you are eligible for the F-2 visa as a dependent of an F-1 visa holder. This includes being the spouse or unmarried child under the age of 21 of F-1 visa holder.

Step 2. Complete Form DS-160:

Step 3. Pay the Visa Fee:

  • Pay the non-refundable visa application fee of $185 per person. Check the most current F-2 visa fee on the U.S. Department of State website.

Step 4. Schedule Visa Interview:

Step 5. Gather Required Documents:

  • Collect the necessary supporting documents, which may include:
    • Proof of relationship to the F-1 visa holder (marriage certificate for spouses, birth certificate for children).
    • Copy of the F-1 visa holder’s Form I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status).
    • Passport valid for at least six months beyond your intended period of stay in the U.S.
    • Passport-sized photographs that meet U.S. visa photo requirements.

Step 6. Attend the Visa Interview:

  • On the scheduled date, attend the visa interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate. Be prepared to answer questions about your relationship to the F-1 visa holder and your intentions during your stay in the U.S.

Step 7. Wait for Visa Processing:

  • After the interview, you may have to wait for visa processing. In general, passports with stamped F-2 visas are returned 1 week after the interview date.

F-2 visa application fees

F-2 visa application fee is $185 per person. This fee is non-refundable. Check the most current F-2 visa fee on the U.S. Department of State website.

F-2 visa application checklist of required documents

Here is a general checklist of documents commonly required for an F-2 visa application:

  • Form DS-160:
    • Confirmation page of the online Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form DS-160.
  • Visa Application Fee Receipt (MRV Fee):
    • Proof of payment for the non-refundable visa application fee.
  • Passport:
    • A valid passport with a validity period that extends at least six months beyond your intended period of stay in the United States.
  • Photographs:
    • Passport-sized photographs that meet the U.S. visa photo requirements.
  • Proof of F-1 visa holder’s student status:
    • Copy of the F-1 visa holder’s Form I-20
    • Proof of payment of the SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) fee for the F-1 visa holder. This is often paid before the visa interview and is necessary for maintaining F-1 status.
    • Copy of F-1 student’s passport and F-1 visa
    • Copy of F-1 student’s I-94 IF they are already in the US
    • Copy of F-1 student’s transcript IF they are already in the US
  • Proof of Relationship:
    • For spouses: Marriage certificate, plus English translation
    • For children: Birth certificate, plus English translation
  • Visa Interview Appointment Confirmation:
    • The confirmation page or letter indicating your scheduled visa interview appointment.
  • Financial Documentation:
    • Evidence of financial support to demonstrate that you can cover your expenses during your stay.

F-2 visa duration of stay in the US

The duration of stay for an F-2 visa holder in the United States is dependent on the status of the primary F-1 visa holder. 

Here are some key points regarding the F-2 visa duration of stay:

  • Linked to F-1 Visa Holder:
      • The F-2 visa holders are dependent on F-1 student’s status in the U.S.
  • Duration of Status:
      • F-2 visa holders are admitted to the U.S. for the duration of status (D/S), which is tied to the F-1 visa holder’s program of study. This means that as long as the F-1 visa holder maintains their status, the F-2 dependents can remain in the U.S.
  • Limitations on Activities:
      • F-2 visa holders are generally not allowed to work in the U.S. They can engage in part-time study at an SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Program). F-2 children can attend kindergarten through 12th grade (K-12) or participate in recreational and cultural activities. If F-2 visa holders intend to enroll full-time at postsecondary level, they can apply for and obtain approval to change nonimmigrant status to F-1, J-1, or M-1 before beginning their full-time study. Change of status is requested by filing Form I-539.
  • No Independent Status:
      • F-2 visa holders cannot stay in the U.S. independently of the F-1 visa holder. If the F-1 status ends (due to graduation, program completion, or other reasons), the F-2 status also ends.
  • Travel:
    • F-2 visa holders are allowed to travel in and out of the U.S., but they need to ensure that their visa and Form I-20 are valid for re-entry.

What is the earliest date I can enter the U.S. on an F-2 visa?

The earliest day an F-2 visa holder can enter the U.S. is no earlier than 30 days before the F-1 student’s program start date. Some general guidelines to consider:

  • Timing with the F-1 Visa Holder:
      • F-2 dependents can enter the U.S. along with or after the F-1 visa holder. The entry is often coordinated with the F-1 student’s program start date. 
  • SEVIS Registration:
      • The F-1 visa holder must have completed the SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) registration process, and the F-2 dependents should be listed on the F-1’s Form I-20.
  • Valid Visa and Passport:
      • Ensure that the F-2 visa and the passport are both valid. The visa must be valid for entry into the U.S.
  • Admission Period:
    • F-2 visa holders are admitted for the duration of status (D/S), which is generally linked to the F-1 student’s program duration.

Can F-2 visa holders work in the U.S.?

F-2 visa holders are not allowed to work in the U.S. This includes both on-campus and off-campus employment.

Can F-2 visa holders study in the U.S.?

Yes, F-2 visa holders are allowed to engage in study activities in the United States. However, there are some important considerations and limitations:

  • Compulsory education at K-12 Level:
      • F-2 dependent children can enroll in elementary and secondary school (K-12) on a full-time basis.
  • Part-Time Study at SEVP-Certified Institutions:
      • F-2 visa holders, including spouses, are allowed to engage in part-time study at an SEVP-certified institution. This could include enrollment in classes for personal enrichment or skill development. However, they are not eligible for full-time enrollment.  
  • No Degree Programs or Full-Time Academic Study:
      • F-2 visa holders are not permitted to enroll in full-time degree programs or engage in full-time academic study at the post-secondary level. If F-2 visa holders intend to enroll full-time at postsecondary level, they can apply for and obtain approval to change nonimmigrant status to F-1, J-1, or M-1 before beginning their full-time study. Change of status is requested by filing Form I-539.
  • Maintaining Legal Status:
      • It’s crucial for F-2 visa holders to maintain legal status. This includes abiding by the regulations regarding study limitations and not exceeding the allowed part-time study hours.
  • No Employment Authorization:
    • F-2 visa holders are not authorized to work in the U.S. They cannot engage in any employment, whether on-campus or off-campus.

How to renew an F-2 visa?

You need to renew an expired F-2 visa ONLY if you want to travel outside the US. Here is a general guideline on how to renew an F-2 visa:

Step 1. Check Visa Validity:

  • Determine if your F-2 visa has expired or is nearing expiration. Visa renewals are typically done when the current visa is no longer valid.

Step 2. Complete Form DS-160:

Step 3. Pay the Visa Application Fee:

  • Pay the non-refundable visa application fee of $185 per applicant. 

Step 4. Schedule Visa Appointment:

Step 5. Gather Required Documents:

  • Collect the necessary supporting documents, which may include:
    • A valid passport.
    • Passport-sized photographs.
    • Copy of the F-1 visa holder’s Form I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status).
    • Proof of relationship to the F-1 visa holder (marriage certificate for spouses, birth certificate for children).
    • Previous F-2 visa, if applicable.

Step 6. Attend the Visa Interview:

  • Attend the scheduled visa interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate. Be prepared to discuss your relationship with the F-1 visa holder and your intentions during your stay in the U.S.

Step 7. Wait for Visa Processing:

  • After the interview, there may be a waiting period for visa processing. Check with the embassy or consulate for an estimated timeframe. Typically, the U.S. embassy or consulate returns your passport with the stamped visa 1 week after your interview date.

F-2 visa grace period

At the end of the F-1 program, there is a 60-day grace period during which the F-1 and F-2 visa holders are allowed to stay in the U.S. 

Once the F-1 visa holder leaves the U.S., the F-2 dependents must depart the U.S. as well.

How to change status from F-2 visa to another status?

Changing status from an F-2 visa to another nonimmigrant status while in the U.S. involves the following steps:

Step 1. Understand Eligibility:

  • Review the eligibility requirements for the specific nonimmigrant status you want to change to. Different visa categories have different criteria. 
  • For example, if you are changing your status from F-2 to F-1, your change of status cannot be approved earlier than 30 days before your F-1 program start date.

Step 2. File Form I-539:

Step 3. Gather Supporting Documents:

  • Collect all necessary supporting documents. This may include:
    • A cover letter explaining the reasons for the change of status.
    • Proof of eligibility for the new status.
    • Financial documentation demonstrating the ability to support yourself during the requested status (if applicable).

Step 4. SEVIS Compliance:

  • Ensure that the F-1 visa holder (if you are a dependent on an F-2 visa) is maintaining status, and that the principal F-1 is aware of the change of status.

Step 5. Wait for USCIS Decision:

  • Once USCIS receives your application, they will process it and make a decision. This can take several months, so it’s important to plan accordingly. For an additional Premium Processing fee of $2,500 some applicants are eligible to expedite the processing time down to 30 calendar days.

Step 6. Receive Approval Notice:

  • If your change of status is approved, you will receive an approval notice from USCIS, along with a new Form I-94 record.

Step 7. Departure and Re-entry (if applicable):

  • If your change of status is approved, and you depart the U.S., you may need to apply for a new visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate before re-entering the U.S.

Green card options after F-2 visa expires

When the F-2 visa expires, individuals may explore different options for obtaining lawful permanent resident status (a green card) in the U.S.

Here are some potential avenues to consider:

  • Family-sponsored Green Card:
      • If you have a close family member who is a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident, they may be able to sponsor you for a family-sponsored green card. The categories include spouses, children of US citizens and green card holders and parents of US citizens.
  • Employment-based Green Card:
      • If you have a qualifying job offer from a U.S. employer, you may be eligible for an employment-based green card. Employment-based categories include EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3, among others.
  • Diversity Visa Lottery:
      • The Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery is a program that allows nationals from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S. to apply for a green card. Winners are selected through a random lottery.
      • If you fear persecution in your home country due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion, you may apply for asylum or refugee status.
  • Investment-Based Green Card (EB-5):
      • If you are willing and able to make a substantial investment in a qualifying U.S. business, you may be eligible for an EB-5 immigrant investor green card.
  • Special Immigrant Status:
    • Some individuals may qualify for special immigrant status, including religious workers, certain employees of U.S. foreign service posts, and other specific categories. EB-4 Special Immigrants Visa

Related Links:

F-1 Student Visa

Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility