Status Defined: Spouses and children of F-1 students are eligible for the F-2 visa category. The government considers members of this category to be dependent, meaning that their primary reason for being in the U.S. is to accompany the F-1 student. The F-2 category is limited to spouses and minor children (under 21 years of age). Children over the age of 21 will need to apply for another visa category if they want to accompany their parents to the U.S.
Limitations: F-2 visa holders are ineligible for work authorization and full-time study. Only children who have not yet graduated high school are eligible for full-time study. The government allows F-2 dependents to study part-time.
Requesting an F-2 visa/status: Before the F-2 visa or status can be granted for dependents, F-1 international students accepted to UHCL will have to submit the following:
- Proof of financial support for each dependent ($5,000 for spouse; $4,500 per child)
- Bank statement
- Affidavit of support
- Copy of the dependent’s passport ID page
- Proof of marriage (for spouses only)
These documents must be submitted through ISD portal. Once OIAP receives this documentation, an I-20 will be issued for each dependent. Dependents will need to present the I-20 during the visa interview process. Dependents do not have to pay a SEVIS fee (I-901 fee) when applying for their F-2 visas.
Remaining Legal: Once an F-2 visa holder enters the country, his/her immigration status depends on the F-1 holder’s status. This means that if the dependent’s spouse violates the terms of his/her F-1 status, then the F-2 holder will also be in violation. After being in the country for an extended amount of time, some people with F-2 status decide to change to a different immigration status in order to pursue their own goals, such as studying full-time, gaining legal work authorization, etc. Dependents with F-2 status should inform an International Student Advisor of any approved change in legal status, so that the F-2 status can be ended in the Student and & Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).
Immigration Advising for F-2s: International Student Advisors are available to assist dependents with the travel documentation and status letters necessary for passport renewals, visa renewals, etc. If an F-2 dependent has interest in being a full time F-1 student, an International Student Advisor will assist him/her in making changes to his/her immigration status. Accepted students should schedule an appointment with an International Student Advisor to learn more about the process of changing to F-1 status.
Traveling and Re-Entry: F-2 dependents are free to travel without restrictions both domestically and abroad. Upon re-entry to the U.S., dependents must have:
- An F-1 spouse or parent in legal status (the F-1 does not have to travel with F-2)
- A valid, unexpired passport
- A valid, unexpired F-2 visa
- An I-20 with a recent signature from an International Student Advisor on the third page
Children over the age of 21 will not be admitted with F-2 status.
What happens with F-2 children who are about to turn 21?
F-2 children approaching 21 years of age will first have to decide if they want to remain in the U.S. or return to their home countries. F-2 children interested in returning to their home country should do so before their 21st birthday. Those who are interested in remaining in the U.S. will have to decide what they intend to do. Once this decision has been made, an F-2 child will have to apply to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to change his/her legal status. There are multiple categories of status that can be considered, and UHCL recommends that F-2 individuals obtain legal advice before pursuing a change of status. If the F-2 individual is admitted to UHCL as a student, a UHCL Student Advisor will be able to assist the student with making changing to his/her legal status to F-1.