What is a J-2 visa?
A J-2 visa is a nonimmigrant visa issued to the spouses and unmarried children (under 21 years old) of J-1 exchange visitors.
J-1 visa holders participate in exchange programs, such as cultural exchanges, educational programs, and research programs. The J-1 visa holders are typically students, scholars, researchers, or individuals participating in cultural exchange programs.
The J-2 visa allows dependents to accompany the J-1 visa holder to the U.S. and engage in certain activities during their stay.
J-2 visa holders may also apply for work authorization (EAD), allowing them to work in the U.S. However, the employment must not be used to support the J-1 visa holder but rather for the J-2 visa holder’s own financial support or personal use.
It’s important to note that the J-2 visa is dependent on the status of the J-1 visa holder, and if the J-1 visa holder loses their status, it may affect the J-2 visa holder’s status as well.
J-2 visa requirements
The J-2 visa requirements include:
- J-1 Visa Holder: The primary requirement is that there must be a primary J-1 visa holder who is participating in an eligible exchange program
- Relationship with J-1 Visa Holder: The J-2 visa applicant must be the spouse or unmarried child under 21 years old of the J-1 visa holder. Proof of relationship such as marriage certificates or a birth certificate must be provided
- DS-2019 Form: The J-1 visa holder must provide the J-2 visa applicant with a Form DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status)
- Valid passport for at least 6 months
- DS-160 Visa Application: The J-2 visa applicant must complete the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application (Form DS-160) and pay the associated visa application fee
- Visa Interview: After completing the DS-160 form, the J-2 visa applicant needs to schedule and attend a visa interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country
- Proof of funds: J-2 must be able to provide evidence of their ability to financially support themselves during their stay in the U.S.
J-2 visa benefits
The J-2 visa provides the following benefits:
- Accompanying J-1 Visa Holder:
- The primary purpose of the J-2 visa is to allow the dependents of J-1 visa holders to accompany them to the U.S. This facilitates family unity during the J-1 visa holder’s participation in an exchange program.
- Study in the United States:
- J-2 visa holders are generally allowed to study in the United States. They can enroll in academic programs, language courses, or other educational activities.
- Work Authorization:
- J-2 visa holders have the option to apply for work authorization (Employment Authorization Document or EAD). This allows them to work in the U.S. during their stay.
- J-2 visa holders are allowed to travel in and out of the U.S. while the J-1 visa holder’s program is active. It’s important to ensure that the J-2 visa remains valid for re-entry.
- Flexibility in Activities:
- J-2 visa holders have some flexibility in participating in various activities, such as cultural events, tourism, and community engagement. However, it’s important to note any restrictions imposed by the U.S. government.
Are J-2 visa holders allowed to work in the U.S.?
Yes, J-2 visa holders are generally allowed to work in the U.S., but they must obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS before engaging in any employment.
Key rules regarding J-2 visa holders’ ability to work:
- Employment Authorization Document (EAD): J-2 visa holders can apply for an EAD by filing Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, with USCIS. The approval of the EAD allows the J-2 visa holder to work in the U.S. for any employer. If approved, the EAD will specify the period of validity during which the J-2 visa holder is authorized to work (typically for the duration of J-1 program)
- Eligibility: To be eligible for work authorization, the J-2 visa holder must demonstrate that any income from this employment authorization will not be used to support the J-1 visa holder
- Learn how to apply for employment authorization
It’s important to note that work authorization for J-2 visa holders is not automatic, and they must receive the EAD card before starting any employment.
If the J-1 visa holder’s program ends or is terminated, the J-2 visa holder’s work authorization will become invalid.
J-2 visa cost
The J-2 visa filing fees include:
- $185/per applicant visa fee (if applying outside the U.S.)
- $370 change of status fee (if applying in the US)
J-2 visa checklist of documents
The following documents must be submitted with your J-2 visa application (provide photocopies only):
|J-1 SEVIS fee receipt
|Proof of relationship
|US passport-style photograph
|Proof of funds
How to apply for J-2 visa
To apply for a J-2 visa you need to take the following steps:
Step 1. Receive Form DS-2019:
- The J-1 visa holder (primary applicant) must obtain a Form DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status) from their program sponsor.
- This form serves as a basis for the J-2 visa application.
Step 2. Complete Form DS-160:
- The J-2 visa applicant needs to fill out the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160 online
- Save Form DS-160 confirmation receipt with a barcode. You will need to bring it to the interview
- Learn more: How to Fill Out Form DS-160
Step 3. Pay the Visa Application Fee:
- Pay the non-refundable visa application fee of $185 per applicant
- The fee amount is subject to change, so check the U.S. Department of State current visa fee amounts
Step 4. Schedule Visa Interview:
- Schedule a visa interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate in the applicant’s home country
Step 5. Gather Supporting Documents:
- Prepare the required supporting documents, which may include:
- Passport valid for at least six months beyond the intended period of stay
- Form DS-2019
- Form DS-160 confirmation receipt
- Visa application fee payment receipt
- Passport-style photographs
- Marriage certificate or birth certificate (proof of relationship)
- Proof of funds (bank statements, scholarship or funding letters)
Step 6. Attend the Visa Interview:
- Attend the scheduled visa interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate
- Be prepared to answer questions about the purpose of the visit, relationship with the J-1 visa holder, and plans in the U.S.
Step 7. Wait for Visa Approval:
- After the interview, the consular officer will determine whether to approve or deny the J-2 visa
- If approved, the visa will be stamped in the applicant’s passport
Step 8. Travel to the United States:
- Once the J-2 visa is approved, the applicant can travel to the U.S. and present the visa at the port of entry, along with Form DS-2019 and other supporting documents
J-2 visa processing time
It can take anywhere from 2 months to 6 months to obtain a J-2 visa:
- Form DS-2019 issuance – 1-2 months
- If applicant is abroad and applying for a visa – 10 days to 4 months
To check the most current processing times for a J-2 visa:
- Check the visa appointment wait time (enter the location of the US Embassy/Consulate in your home country)
Keep in mind that processing times are general estimates, and individual cases may take less or more time to complete.
How long is a J-2 visa valid for?
The J-2 visa is linked to the duration of the J-1 visa holder’s program.
If the J-1 visa holder’s program has a specific end date, the J-2 visa may be issued with the same expiration date.
The Form DS-2019, issued to the J-1 visa holder, specifies the program’s start and end dates. The J-2 visa will generally be valid for the same period. It’s crucial for J-2 visa holders to be aware of the expiration date and plan their stay in the U.S. accordingly.
Extension of Stay: If the J-1 visa holder’s program is extended, the J-2 visa holders may also be eligible for an extension. In such cases, the J-2 visa holder must apply for an extension before the current visa or status expires.
J-2 visa and two-year home residency requirement
The two-year home residency requirement is a condition that may be applied to certain J-1 visa holders.
If a J-1 exchange visitor is subject to the two-year home residency requirement, it means that they must return to their home country or country of last permanent residence for a cumulative total of at least two years before they are eligible for certain immigration benefits, such as applying for permanent residency (green card).
Not all J-1 exchange visitors are subject to the two-year home residency requirement.
If a J-1 visa holder is subject to the two-year home residency requirement, their dependents on J-2 visas are also subject to it.
This means that the J-2 visa holders must also fulfill the two-year home residency requirement before they can independently pursue certain immigration benefits.
Can a J-2 visa be converted to H-1B?
Yes, it is possible for a J-2 visa holder to change their status to H-1B if the following requirements are met:
- Find H-1B Sponsorship:
- The first step is to find a U.S. employer willing to sponsor the J-2 visa holder for an H-1B visa. The employer must file an H-1B petition on behalf of the J-2 visa holder, and the petition must be approved by USCIS
- Meet H-1B Eligibility Requirements:
- The J-2 visa holder must meet the eligibility requirements for the H-1B visa. Generally, this includes having a job offer in a specialty occupation that requires a bachelor’s degree or higher, and the J-2 visa holder must have the necessary qualifications for the position.
- Change of Status Application:
- Once the H-1B petition is approved, the J-2 visa holder can apply for a change of status from J-2 to H-1B using Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. This application should be submitted to USCIS before the J-2 status expires.
- Wait for USCIS Decision:
- USCIS will review the change of status application, and if approved, the J-2 visa holder’s status will be changed from J-2 to H-1B. The effective date of the H-1B status will be specified in the approval notice.
- H-1B Employment Start Date:
- The J-2 visa holder can begin working for the H-1B sponsoring employer on or after the approved start date mentioned in the H-1B approval notice.
Can J-2 apply for a green card?
Yes, J-2 visa holders may be eligible to apply for a green card (lawful permanent resident status) under certain circumstances:
- Two-year residency requirement:
- If a J-2 visa holder is subject to the two-year residency requirement, applying for US permanent residency (green card) is not allowed
- J-2 visa holder must either leave the US and spend 2 years outside the US or obtain a waiver of the two-year residency requirement
- Employment-Based Green Card options:
- Family-Based Green Card options:
- Special Immigrant Categories:
- Asylum Status:
- If the J-2 visa holder qualifies for asylum status and is granted such status, they may eventually become eligible to apply for a green card