The spouse and unmarried minor children (under age 21) of the F-1 student may be admitted into the U.S. in F-2 classification if each dependent presents a SEVIS Form I-20 issued in his or her own name and an F-2 visa.
Important Information about F-2 Status
Once the F-1 student has completed his or her studies and has left the U.S., the F-2 dependents must leave as well.
Dependent children over age 21 are no longer eligible to F-2 status and will need to change to another status such as F-1 (for full time students) if they wish to stay in the U.S.
At the end of the F-1 program, there is a 60-day grace period during which the F-1/F-2 may stay in the U.S. Once the F-1 primary leaves the U.S., the F-2 dependents must leave as well.
The F-2 spouse and children of an F-1 student may not accept employment in the U.S. However, they may do volunteer work as long as there is no compensation of any kind and the F-2 dependent is doing a job usually done by volunteers.
F-2 dependents of F-1 students in the United States may study part time at the postsecondary level in any certified program at an SEVP-certified school, as long as the study does not amount to what regulations define as full time for an F-1 student [defined in 8 CFR 214.2(f)(6)].
F-2 dependents may also study full time in vocational or recreational studies, such as hobbies. F-2 minor children must comply with compulsory education requirements in attending kindergarten through 12th grade.
However, an F-2 dependent who wants to enroll full time in a course of postsecondary academic or vocational study must apply for and obtain approval to change nonimmigrant status to F-1 before beginning their full-time study.
Documents Needed to Request an F-2 I-20
Change of Status to F-2
- Obtain a dependent I-20 from CIE- The primary F-1 status holder–your spouse or parent currently studying in F-1 status–must request a dependent I-20 for you through their international student office.
- Decide which option to use: "Travel and Reentry" or "Change Status in the U.S."
- Prepare the required documents and follow next steps for obtaining F-2 status (details below).
Option 1: Travel and Reentry
After obtaining your F-2 dependent I-20, you would depart the U.S. and then apply for a F-2 visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad, preferably the local consulate in your home country. If the F-2 visa application is approved and the F-2 visa is issued, then you can re-enter the U.S. using your F-2 I-20 form and F-2 visa. At the Port of Entry, your electronic I-94 will be updated to show your status as F-2 and the Admit Until Date as D/S, which confirms F-2 status.
Option 2: Change of Status in the U.S.
Submit your application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) by mail.
Mail the following documents to the USCIS Lockbox.
- Complete and signed Form I-539 and Form I-539A
- USCIS filing fee and biometrics fee: check or money order payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security”
- Original I-94 or photocopy of admission stamp and paper printout of I-94 record
- Photocopy of the visa page and identification page in your passport
- Photocopy of current and previously issued I-20s
- Photocopy of the I-20 listing you as the dependent of the F-1
- Photocopies of your spouse's I-20 and I-94
- Evidence that your F-1 spouse is maintaining status (for example, a copy of his or her transcript and current enrollment verification)
- Photocopy of proof of family relationship to the F-1 (for example, marriage certificate) in English
- Evidence of financial support (F-2 dependents are not permitted to work in the U.S.)
- Detailed letter requesting and explaining the need to change status
- If you leave the US after your change of status has been approved, you will need to visit a US Consulate or Embassy in your home country to obtain an F-2 visa in order to re-enter the US
- We strongly recommend you maintain your current visa status until your new status is approved. If your current status is going to expire before your F-2 approval, we strongly recommend you contact an Immigration Attorney regarding your application.
- A change of status application via USCIS can take between 5-12 months, sometimes longer
- In F-2 status, you will NOT be allowed to work on-campus or off-campus. No exceptions. You would be eligible to apply for and be admitted into a degree-seeking program but you would not allowed to be enrolled full-time and you would not receive any F-1 benefits such as CPT or OPT.
- Please inform CIE of any documentation from USCIS such as Request for Evidence, Approval, or Denial.