M-2 Visa, Dependent of M-1 Vocational Student Visa

M-2 Visa, Dependent of M-1 Vocational Student Visa

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What is an M-2 visa?

M-2 visa is a nonimmigrant visa intended for the spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 of M-1 visa holders. 

M-2 visa allows them to accompany or join the M-1 visa holder in the U.S. during their period of study. 

M-2 visa holders are not permitted to engage in employment or academic studies while in the U.S.

M-2 visa requirements

M-2 visa requirements typically include the following:

  • Relationship to M-1 Visa Holder:
      • The applicant must be the spouse or unmarried child (under 21 years old) of an M-1 visa holder.
  • Proof of Relationship:
      • Documentation such as marriage certificates or birth certificates must be submitted to establish the relationship with the M-1 visa holder.
  • Valid M-1 Visa for the Principal Applicant:
      • The M-2 visa is dependent on the principal M-1 visa holder, so the M-1 visa holder must apply at the same time as M-2 dependent or already have a valid M-1 visa.
      • The M-2 visa applicant must complete the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160.
  • Visa Fee:
      • The applicant will need to pay the non-refundable visa application fee of $185 per applicant. The current M visa fees are available on the U.S. Department of State website.
  • Visa Interview:
      • M-2 visa applicants are required to attend a visa interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country. During the interview, they may need to provide additional supporting documents.
  • Proof of Financial Support:
      • M-2 visa applicants must demonstrate that there are sufficient funds to cover the expenses of the M-2 visa holder during their stay in the U.S.
  • Intent to Return:
      • Applicants must demonstrate their intent to return to their home country after the M-1 visa holder completes their studies in the U.S.
  • Valid Passport:
    • The applicant must have a passport that is valid for at least six months beyond the intended period of stay in the U.S.

How to apply for an M-2 visa?

To apply for an M-2 visa you need to take the following steps:

Step 1. Check Eligibility:

  • Ensure that you are eligible for an M-2 visa as the spouse or unmarried child (under 21 years old) of an M-1 visa holder. You must have a marriage certificate (for spouses) and birth certificate (for children).

Step 2. Complete Form DS-160 online:

Step 3. Pay the Visa 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 website for the most current fees.

Step 4. Scheduling a Visa Interview

Step 5. Gather Required Documents:

  • Collect the necessary original supporting documents, which may include:
    • Valid passport
    • Form DS-160 confirmation page
    • Visa application fee payment receipt
    • Passport-sized photos
    • Marriage certificate or birth certificate (to establish the relationship with the M-1 visa holder), plus English translation
    • Form I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status) issued to the M-1 visa holder

Step 6. Attend the Visa Interview:

  • Attend the scheduled visa interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate. Be prepared to answer questions about your relationship with the M-1 visa holder, your intent to return to your home country, and other relevant matters.

Step 7. Wait for Visa Processing:

  • After the interview, the consular officer will decide whether to approve or deny the visa. If approved, you can pick up your passport with the stamped visa. Passports are typically returned 1 week after the interview date.

Step 8. Travel to the U.S.:

  • Once you have obtained the M-2 visa, you can travel to the U.S. 

M-2 visa application checklist of required documents

Below is a general checklist of documents that you need for an M-2 visa application:

  • Valid Passport:
      • Your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond your intended period of stay in the U.S.
  • Form DS-160:
      • Completed Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160. Only the confirmation page with the barcode must be printed.
  • Visa Fee Payment Receipt:
      • Proof of payment of the non-refundable visa application fee of $185.
  • Passport-Sized Photos:
      • Recent color passport-sized photos that meet the U.S. visa photo requirements.
  • Form I-20:
  • Proof of Relationship:
      • Marriage certificate (for spouses) or birth certificate (for unmarried children under 21) to establish the relationship with the M-1 visa holder. Provide certified English translation if necessary.
  • M-1 Visa Holder’s Documents:
      • Copy of the principal M-1 visa holder’s visa (if applying after an M-1 visa is issued) and other relevant documents (such as M-1 visa holder’s Form I-94, if already in the U.S.)
  • Proof of Financial Support:
      • Documentation demonstrating that there are sufficient funds to cover your expenses during your stay in the U.S. This may include bank statements, affidavits of support, or other financial documents.
  • Intent to Return:
      • Documentation indicating your intent to return to your home country after the M-1 visa holder completes their studies. This may include evidence of employment, property ownership, or other ties to your home country.
  • Visa Interview Appointment Confirmation:
      • Confirmation of your scheduled visa interview appointment.
  • SEVIS Fee Receipt:
    • Proof of payment of the SEVIS fee of $350 by the M-1 visa holder. This fee is typically paid by the principal M-1 visa holder, and the M-2 visa applicants are usually exempt.

M-2 visa duration of stay in the US

M-2 visa duration of stay in the U.S. is tied to the duration of the principal M-1 visa holder’s status. 

The M-1 visa holder’s Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, will indicate the program start and end dates. 

The M-2 visa holders are allowed to stay in the U.S. for the same duration as the M-1 visa holder’s program of study. 

If the M-1 visa holder extends their program, the M-2 visa holders may also be eligible to extend their stay.

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

The earliest day an M-2 visa holder can enter the U.S. is no earlier than 30 days before the M-1 student’s program start date.

Some key points to consider when preparing to enter the US on M-2 visa:

  • Form I-20 Dates:
      • The M-1 visa holder’s Form I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status) will specify the program start and end dates. M-2 dependents can enter the U.S. no earlier than 30 days before the program start date as indicated on Form I-20.
  • Visa Validity:
      • Ensure that your M-2 visa is valid for entry on the intended date. Check the visa stamp in your passport for the visa expiration date.
  • Port of Entry Officer’s Decision:
      • The final decision on entry is made by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the port of entry. The officer will examine your visa, passport, and other supporting documents and determine whether to admit you into the U.S.
  • Maintain Status:
    • Once in the U.S., M-2 visa holders should ensure that they maintain their status and comply with the regulations associated with the M-2 visa. This includes refraining from unauthorized employment or academic studies in the U.S.

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

M-2 visa holders are not allowed to work in the U.S. 

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

M-2 visa holders are restricted from engaging in academic studies in the U.S.

However, M-2 children may enroll full-time in any elementary or secondary school (K-12) while accompanying the M-1 visa holder during their period of study.

How to renew an M-2 visa?

Some U.S. Embassies and Consulates can waive an interview for the M-2 visa renewal process. Check the U.S. Embassy or Consulate website in your home country for instructions (choose country, Visas – Nonimmigrant Visas).

The process for renewing an M-2 visa typically involves the following steps:

Step 1. Check Eligibility:

  • Ensure that you remain eligible for an M-2 visa renewal. M-2 visa holders are dependents of M-1 visa holders, so your eligibility is tied to the status of the principal M-1 visa holder.

Step 2. Maintain Status:

  • Make sure that you have maintained your status and complied with the terms of your M-2 visa. This includes refraining from unauthorized employment or engaging in academic studies.

Step 3. Check Visa Expiration Date:

  • Verify the expiration date on your M-2 visa stamp in your passport. You need to renew your visa only if you plan to travel abroad and re-enter the US after your M-2 visa expiration date. You don’t need to renew the M-2 visa if you do not intend to leave the U.S. You can stay in the US as long as the principal M-1 visa holder’s I-20 date is valid and the M-1 student is attending their program.

Step 4. Consult the Principal M-1 Visa Holder’s DSO:

  • Contact the designated school official (DSO) at the institution where the principal M-1 visa holder is studying. The DSO can provide guidance on the renewal process and any specific requirements.

Step 5. Submit Form I-20 (if applicable):

  • The principal M-1 visa holder’s DSO might need to issue a new Form I-20 for the M-2 dependent. This form is crucial for the renewal process.

Step 6. Complete Form DS-160:

Step 7. Scheduling a Visa Interview:

Step 8. Gather Supporting Documents:

  • Collect the necessary supporting documents, including the new Form I-20 (if applicable), proof of relationship with the M-1 visa holder, proof of financial support, and any other documents requested by the embassy or consulate.

Step 9. Attend the Visa Interview:

  • Attend the scheduled visa interview. Be prepared to discuss your relationship with the M-1 visa holder, your intent to return to your home country, and any other relevant matters.

Step 10. Wait for Visa Processing:

  • After the interview, the consular officer will decide whether to approve or deny the visa renewal. If approved, you will receive instructions on how to collect your passport with the renewed visa. Passports with stamped visas are typically returned 1 week after the interview.

M-2 visa grace period

At the end of the M-1 program, there is a 30-day grace period during which the M-1 and M-2 visa holders are allowed to stay in the U.S. 

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

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

Changing status from an M-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. Learn if you are eligible to change status: Who Can File Form I-539
  • For example, if you are changing your status to F-1, your change of status cannot be approved earlier than 30 days before your new 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 M-1 visa holder (if you are an M-2 dependent) is maintaining status, and that the principal M-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 categories 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. Re-entering the U.S. requires a new visa (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 M-2 visa expires

If you are in the United States on an M-2 visa (as a dependent of an M-1 visa holder) and your M-2 visa expires, you may explore various options for staying in the U.S. legally and/or possibly obtaining permanent residency (a green card). 

The specific options available to you would depend on your individual circumstances, such as your qualifications, relationships, and eligibility for certain immigration categories. Here are some options that might be available:

  • Change of Status:
      • You may explore changing your status to another nonimmigrant category if you meet the eligibility requirements. This could involve applying for a different visa type, such as a tourist visa (B-2), student visa (F-1), or another appropriate category.
  • Employment-Based Visas:
      • If you have a qualifying job offer from a U.S. employer, you might consider employment-based visas such as H-1B, L-1, or O-1. Each category has specific requirements, and you would need to meet the criteria for the chosen visa.
      • If you have close family members who are U.S. citizens or green card holders, they may be able to sponsor you for a family-based immigrant visa. This process typically involves a U.S. citizen or green card holder filing an immigrant petition on your behalf.
      • If you have plans to marry a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, you might explore the K-1 fiancé(e) visa or marriage-based immigration. This process involves a U.S. citizen or green card holder sponsoring their foreign national spouse.
      • If you have certain skills or qualifications, you may explore employment-based green card categories, such as EB-2 or EB-3, if you have a job offer from a U.S. employer willing to sponsor you.
      • If you fear persecution in your home country based on your race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group, you may explore seeking asylum or refugee status. Asylum is for those already in the U.S., while refugee status is typically sought from outside the U.S.
  • Investor Visas:
    • If you have significant funds to invest in a U.S. business, you might explore investor visas, such as the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program.
  • Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery:
    • The Diversity Visa Lottery program provides a limited number of visas each year to individuals from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S. Winning the lottery does not guarantee a green card, but it provides an opportunity to apply for permanent residency.

Related Links:

M-1 Visa, Vocational Student