An international student may be accompanied to the U.S. by their dependent(s) at any time. Dependents are defined as spouses 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). 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.
- If your family members are abroad and you want them to join you in the US, please complete the and submit it with the required documents listed on the form.
- 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.
- 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.
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I am an F-1 or J-1 student. How do I secure an F-2 or J-2 visa for my dependent(s)?
(If applying separately from F1 or J1)
Once the dependent I-20 or DS-2019 is received, mail the document to your spouse and/or children. 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 relationship to student (for example, 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, each dependent must 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.
Can I invite family members other than my spouse and/or unmarried minor children?
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 your parent(s) or other family members, including children over the age of 21, wish to enter the U.S. temporarily to visit, they may enter on a B-2 tourist visa. If you are an F-1 or J-1 student, you may request an invitation letter from ISS to send to your relative or family member to submit with their B-2 visa application. More information about Invitation Letters may be found .
What should my dependent(s) know about travel?
The same rules apply to dependent travel as to travel by international students. A current travel endorsement on your dependent’s I-20 or DS-2019 is required for re-entry to the U.S. If you travel outside of the U.S. for more than five months, your dependent(s) may not remain in the U.S. If you travel outside of the U.S. temporarily (less than five months), your dependent(s) may remain in the United States.
Is health insurance required for my dependent(s)? How do I enroll my dependent(s) in a health insurance plan?
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 USCIS to be enrolled in an insurance plan, but the University of Wisconsin requires that the F-1 students and their dependents be ensured.
J-2 dependents are required by the Department of State to have adequate health insurance.
International students on F-1 and J-1 visas must be enrolled in SHIP (Student Health Insurance Plan) or an alternative approved health insurance program; dependent family members must be enrolled as soon as they arrive. 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.
Can my dependent(s) study/take classes in the U.S.?
F-2 dependent spouses may study part-time in the United States, but they may not enroll as full-time students. F-2 dependent children may study at the elementary and secondary levels (kindergarten through 12th grade), and they may also enroll full-time at a college or university until the age of 21. Furthermore, local schools and community colleges offer recreational courses, such as cooking, swimming, driver’s education, car maintenance, dancing, etc. in which F-2 dependents may also enroll.
F-2 dependent spouses who wish to engage in full-time study may apply for a change to F-1 student status. Likewise, F-2 dependent children are advised to apply for a change to F-1 student status prior to their 21 birthday in order to continue their studies at UW-Madison. If you or your dependent(s) wish to apply for a change to F-1 status, please seek guidance from the ISS office.
A J-2 dependent may study full or part time in the United States. Dependent children with F-2 visas may study in an elementary or secondary school (kindergarten through 12th grade) and at the postsecondary level (college or university). If you are a student whose dependent(s) would like to change their status, please seek guidance from the ISS office.
Is my dependent(s) allowed to work in the United States?
U.S. visa regulations do not allow F-2 dependents to work in the United States.
J-2 dependents are allowed to work in the United States with proper authorization. This authorization can be applied for once the J-2 has entered the country. Please be aware that it can take up to 4 months for USCIS to approve the employment authorization, and that the J-2 dependent may not begin working until they have received an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card. EAD cards are issued for a 12 month period, and they 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.
Is volunteering allowed in F-2 or J-2 status?
Both F-2 and 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. All F-2 and J-2 dependents must 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.uscis.gov.
Note: F-1 and J-1 students only need to update their addresses using their online MyUW accounts. ISS forwards this information directly to the US Federal government. Because F-2 and J-2 information cannot be updated in this manner, 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 student has completed their program of study, the F-1 student as well as their F-2 dependent(s) are eligible to stay in the US for up to 60 days. Once a J-1 has completed their program of study, the J-1 student and their J-2 dependent(s) 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:
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.
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.
Are English language and community programs available for dependents?
Visit the ISS office to learn about campus and community programs that are available to dependents of international students. Madison Friends of International Students (MFIS) and other off campus organizations offer English classes to the spouses of international students. Dependents may join social or special interest groups, i.e., gardening, hiking and nature clubs, civic organizations, etc. There are also many opportunities to volunteer in local libraries, hospitals, day care centers, animal shelters and social agencies. An excellent place to search for volunteer opportunities is the Morgridge Center for Public Service, located in the Red Gym at 716 Langdon Street.
Adapting to life in the U.S.
Prepare your spouse and children for life in the U.S. by sharing the information that you have learned about the U.S. Help your family to adjust their expectations and to keep open minds when they experience cultural differences.
If English is not your family’s first language, prepare your spouse and children by ensuring that they begin learning some English prior to moving to the U.S. Then make arrangements for more English training after they arrive in the U.S.
Discuss issues of loneliness and other symptoms of culture shock with your family prior to and after arriving in the U.S.
Help your family develop coping strategies. Even before you leave home, try consulting with others who have studied overseas or lived abroad. This may be helpful in preparing for the initial stress of relocating. Ask your friends and colleagues about their experiences and ways they resolved initial difficulties.
Support your spouse’s interests and activities in the U.S.
Help your children by acknowledging any negative feelings they may have about the move, help them maintain their relationships with friends and family in both countries, and give them something to look forward to during the move (a new privilege, possession or activity). Be aware that schools at home may have focused differently on educational topics and there may be gaps in your children’s education. You can help by providing supplemental teaching for your children at home, hiring a tutor, or securing extra books or software.
Remember that family members will need your time and attention, and you will need to find a way to balance those needs with your studies.