Information about Dependents
Bringing a dependent of an international student to the United States
An international student may be accompanied to the U.S. by his or her dependent(s) at any time. Dependents are defined as an opposite-sex spouse and/or unmarried minor children. Children over the age of 21 are not eligible to enter as the dependent of an international student (F-1 or J-1 student). (Due to current federal immigration law, same-sex partners/spouses of F1/J1 students are not eligible for F2/J2 dependent status. Please see our information at http://www.iss.wisc.edu/l4.html for possible alternatives, such as extended B2 visas for same-sex partners.) An international student’s dependents may apply for their F-2 or J2 visas at the same time that the international student applies for an F-1 or J-1 visa, or they may apply for their F-2 or J-2 visas at a later date. If they are granted the visa, they may enter the United States when the international student does, or they may enter the U.S. at a later date.
If you wish to bring a dependent to the U.S. please contact ISS to learn what information you need to submit to request a dependent I-20 or DS-2019. It is important to determine whether you have sufficient funds to support yourself and your dependents. The University of Wisconsin requires proof of funds that range between $5,000-$7,000 for a spouse and $6,000-$7,000 for each child in order to prepare the dependent I-20 or DS-2019(s). Such proof of funding is required because the U.S. government necessitates that all international students and their dependents present proof of financial resources to ensure they do not become a public charge.
P If your family members are abroad and you want them to join you in the US, please complete the I-20/DS-2019 Application Form and submit it with the required documents listed on the form.
P If your family members are already in the US on another type of visa and you wish to change their status to F-2 or J-2, you should meet with an ISS advisor during walk-in advising. In some cases it may not be possible to change status while in the US or there may be deadlines to consider.
P Children born in the United States are US citizens. As such, they are ineligible for F-2 or J-2 status. ISS will not include family members who are US citizens in your documentation.
Note: Please make your requests in a timely manner. ISS strives to complete your requests as soon as possible, but processing may take several weeks. Keep this in mind when making an appointment to apply for visa stamps at an US Embassy/Consulate, booking airline tickets, or meeting deadlines to change status in the US.
Securing a dependent visa (If applying seperately from F1 or J1)
Once the dependent I-20 or DS-2019 is received, the student should mail the document to his or her spouse. The spouse should make an appointment with the nearest U.S. Consulate to request an F-2 or J-2 visa. The spouse should bring a valid passport, dependent I-20 or DS-2019, proof of student’s relationship to them, e.g., marriage certificate translated into English, proof of birth for dependent children and proof of funding to the consular interview. Once the visa has been secured, dependents must each present a valid I-20 or DS-2019, a valid F-2/J-2 visa (except citizens of Canada) and a passport that is valid at least 6 months from the date of entry in order to successfully enter the U.S.
Inviting other family members
Only the spouse and unmarried minor children (under 21 years old) of an F-1 or J1 student are eligible to enter the United States in F2/J2 dependent status. Frequently international students wish to invite their parents or other family members to the U.S. to attend graduation or for a visit. If parents or other members of an international student's family, including children over the age of 21, wish to enter the U.S. temporarily to visit the international student in the U.S., they may enter on a B-2 tourist visa. Students with F-1 and J-1 visas may request an invitation letter from ISS to send to a relative to assist them with applying for a B-2 visa. Invitation Letter forms are available in the ISS office or on our website.
The same rules apply to dependent travel as to travel by international students. A current travel endorsement is required for re-entry to the U.S. The dependent may not remain in the U.S. after the F-1/J-1 student is absent from the U.S. unless the absence is temporary (5 months or less).
The cost of health care is extremely high in the U.S. All students and their dependents must be enrolled in an insurance plan that meets the minimum levels of coverage set by this university for the duration of their time in the U.S. F-1 students and their dependents are not required by the USCIS to be enrolled in an insurance plan, but the University of Wisconsin requires that the student be ensured and may require that the family receive adequate insurance coverage.
P International students on F-1 and J-1 visas must be enrolled in SHIP or an approved health insurance program; dependent family members must be enrolled as soon as they arrive.
P For information about the UW-Madison's health insurance program or obtaining a waiver for an approved health insurance program, contact the SHIP office at 265-5232, 333 East Campus Mall.
A spouse with an F-2 visa is not allowed to study full-time in the U.S., and F-2 dependents who are children may only study full-time in an elementary or secondary school (kindergarten through 12th grade). F-2 spouses may only engage in part-time study that is avocational or recreational in nature, but not to obtain a degree. Local schools and community colleges offer recreational courses, such as cooking, swimming, driver’s education, car maintenance, dancing, etc. that F-2 spouses may enroll in.
An F-2 spouse desiring to engage in full-time study must apply for and obtain a change of non-immigrant classification to F-1 or J-1 status. Most importantly, F-2 spouses and children who wish to study for a degree at a U.S. college must change their status to F-1 before attending any classes. They may wish to apply for an F-1 visa at a U.S. Consulate outside the U.S... Or change of status may be done while staying in the U.S... Students whose spouses wish to change their status should always seek guidance from the ISS office.
A J-2 spouse may study full time in the U.S. Unlike the student with an F-1 visa; students with a J-2 visa may study part-time or full-time. Students whose spouses wish to change their status should seek guidance from the ISS office.
Dependents of F-1 students may not apply for work authorization in the U.S. as the F-2 visa does not allow it. Dependents of J-1 students are allowed to work in the U.S. with proper authorization. This authorization can be applied for once the J-2 has entered the country. You should be aware that it can take up to 4 months for USCIS to authorize the employment, and that the J-2 spouse may not begin working until receiving an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card. EAD cards are issued for a12 month period, and may be renewed each year that the spouse is in J-2 status. Please visit the ISS office for employment forms and guidance on the application process.
P F-2 dependents may not be employed in the US.
P J-2 dependents may be employed in the US. In order to work in the US, J-2 dependents must apply for work authorization through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (US CIS). Please refer to the Employment Options for J-2 Dependents handout.
P F-2 dependents may participate in volunteer activities.
P J-2 dependents may participate in volunteer activities.
For information about volunteer opportunities, visit the Morgridge Center for Public Service in room 154 of the Red Gym or their webpage at www.morgridge.wisc.edu.
All non-US citizens, including F-2 and J-2 dependents are required to keep their current US residential address up-to-date with the US federal government. To do this, please complete the form AR-11 within 10 days of establishing a new US residential address. The form AR-11 is can be downloaded from www.immigration.gov.
Note: F-1 and J-1 students only need to update addresses in their My UW Madison accounts; ISS forwards this information directly to the US federal government. F-2 and J-2 information cannot be updated in this manner; therefore, an AR-11 form must be submitted for each dependent family member.
When Does F-2 or J-2 Status End?
F-2 and J-2 dependents are eligible to remain in the US as long as the F-1 or J-1 student remains in valid status. Once an F-1 has completed the program of study, the F-1 and F-2 dependents are eligible to stay in the US for up to 60 days. Once a J-1 has completed the program of study, the J-1 and J-2 dependents are eligible to stay in the US for up to 30 days.
Note the following situations where F-2 or J-2 status ends even if the F-1 or J-1 remains in valid status:
P If F-1/F-2 spouses or J-1/J-2 spouses obtain a divorce, the F-2 or J-2 is no longer the dependent of the F-1 or J-1. The F-2 or J-2 cannot remain in the US on a dependent visa. The F-2 or J-2 should depart the US or, if eligible, apply for an alternate visa status prior to the finalization of the divorce.
P If an F-2 or J-2 child marries or reaches the age of 21, s/he is no longer the dependent of the F-1 or J-1 parent. The F-2 or J-2 child cannot remain in the US on a dependent visa. The F-2 or J-2 should depart the US or, if eligible, apply for an alternate visa status in a timely manner.