Adding a Dependent

Overview

Dependents of F-1 or J-1 students include spouses and children, and dependents are allowed to stay in the U.S. in F-2 or J-2 status for the duration of the F-1 or J-1 student's study, including any post-completion OPT/AT time.

Who Qualifies as a Dependent?

Dependents can be:

  • Legally married spouses* of the F-1
  • Children of the F-1

Dependents cannot be:

  • Unmarried domestic partners or significant others*
  • Parents, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, or any other relative
  • Friends
  • Anyone other than legally married spouses and children

Those listed in the category above are not eligible for F-2 or J-2 status and must obtain their own status in the U.S. Possibilities may include: B visitor or business traveler, studying full-time in F-1 or J-1 status, or obtaining a work visa status through employment.

*What is a 'Spouse'?

For immigration purposes, a spouse is someone who is legally married under the applicable laws of a given country or U.S. state.  If you got married in a country or state that recognizes your marriage as legal, you have access to dependent benefits under immigration law. When your dependent applies for their visa they will need to show proof of the legal marriage to the embassy.  

A partner is someone who is not married but is in a relationship that may or may not be recognized in a legal framework. Legally recognized partnerships include civil unions (e.g. some states in the U.S.), registered or civil partnerships (e.g. Australia), and stable unions (e.g. Brazil). Such partnerships are not considered marriages for purposes of U.S. immigration law and someone who is in such a partnership is not eligible for a dependent status.

F-2 Dependents

F-2 spouse dependents are dependents of F-1 students.  F-2 dependents: 

  • Are not allowed to work or have any kind of employment
  • Can volunteer, as long as it is a bona fide volunteer position.
    • The University Community Service Center has a wealth of resources and connections to local community service opportunities and is more than willing to work with students' spouses to find the best match.
  • F-2 Children: F-2 dependent children may engage in full-time study if the study is kindergarten through 12th grade.
  • F-2 Adult Children and Spouses: Can enroll in part-time, incidental courses
    • Dependents can take part-time classes as long as the classes are "vocational or recreational in nature" and not used for a programmatic objective.  Programs of study to which you would have to apply and be admitted do not qualify as vocational or recreational in nature.

J-2 Dependents

J-2 spouse dependents are dependents of J-1 students.  J-2 dependents:

Adding a  Dependent to Your F-1/J-1 Record

F-2/J-2 dependents are added to the F-1/J-1s SEVIS record and given their own I-20/DS-2019s.  They use the I-20/DS-2019s to apply for an F-2/J-2 visa at an embassy or consulate abroad, or to apply to change status in the U.S.  Most F-1 and J-1 students add their dependents to a SEVIS record during the admissions process, but if you need to add a dependent to a record later, that is not a problem. 

To add a dependent, please submit this online form:

Request to Add Dependent Form

To complete the form, you will need:

  1. Scan of the dependent's biographical data passport page(s)
     
  2. Proof of financial resources sufficient to support the dependent for the next year or the remainder of your studies, whichever is shorter. Your financial documentation must meet our minimum requirements. It is acceptable for the financial documentation to be in the dependent's name, but be sure that the dependent submits a sponsor letter stating that the funds are available to the F-1 or J-1 student. See the Request to Add Dependent form for current annual costs to add dependent spouses and children.

Once we receive your submission, we will give you a new I-20/DS-2019 showing your updated financial information, as well as the dependent I-20/DS-2019 within one week.  The F-2 dependent I-20 must be signed by you--the student--not your dependent.  For J-2 dependents under the age of 14, the DS-2019 must be signed by the J-1 student; but J-2 dependents over the age of 14 can sign their own DS-2019. Give your dependent the I-20/DS-2019 in addition to other information required by the embassy for issuance of the F-2/J-2 visa. Please note that Canadian citizens do not need U.S. entry visas.

Receiving an I-20 will not change your dependent's status to F-2/J-2. It only shows that they are eligible to apply for F-2/J-2 status and an F-2/J-2 visa.  Your dependent will need the I-20 for changing status, whether by applying for an F-2/J-2 visa at and entering the U.S. or changing status in the U.S. with an I-539 Form.

I'm Engaged.  Do I need to be married to receive a dependent I-20/DS-2019?

It is acceptable to go through the process to add a dependent spouse to your SEVIS record before you actually marry. However, you must be married and have the marriage certificate in hand by the time you apply for the dependent visa, or for Canadian citizens, when you enter the U.S. On the Request to Add Dependent form, make sure to indicate the name the spouse will have in the passport at the time of the visa application.