Spouses and Partners of International Students, Scholars, and Employees

Welcome to Chicago! This page is a resource for spouses, partners, and family members of international students, scholars and employees.

Join the International Spouses and Partners Group!

To network with current and incoming international partners, join the International Spouses and Partners Group.  You may connect with this group by joining the International Spouses and Partners mailing list. You do not need an UChicago email address to subscribe.

Resources and Activities

Family Resource Center
The Family Resource Center is a great source of information and programming for UChicago community members with children. Parents can join the student parent email list (you can join even if you are not a student).

Campus Card for Student, Scholar and Employee Spouses
Student, scholar, and employee  spouses can apply for a Campus Card to enter the library, but are not able to borrow materials* or ride the CTA for free.  To apply, the spouse will need to present a photo ID, such as a passport, and be accompanied by the student, scholar, or employee, who will also be required to present his/her UChicago ID.  You can apply at the Regenstein Library ID & Privileges Office.

*Tenure track faculty members and upper level academic staff can request a card for a spouse with the privileges to borrow books.

English Corner for H-1B Employees, J-1 Scholars, and their Spouses

English Corner is a free, informal Conversational English Class offered to H-1B Employees, J-1 Scholars, and all Spouses. The instructors are native English speakers who engage participants in cultural discussions while promoting communication skills. English Corner offers a warm learning environment that strives to promote fellowship and friendship.

Volunteering
Volunteering is a great option for those who are not allowed to work in the U.S., or who want to gain U.S. work experience before finding a job. Volunteering is also a good way to become familiar with the community. The University Community Service Center can help you find volunteer opportunities that match your skills, availability and interests.

Working at the University of Chicago
Spouses in J-2 with work authorization can contact the Human Resources Department for employment opportunities at the University of Chicago. For information on this program, please contact OIA.

Working in Higher Education Institutions in the Chicago Area
Those interested in working in higher education can also use look at postings on the Greater Chicago Midwest Higher Education Recruitment Consortium.
 

Dependent Spouse Visa Information

Per U.S. government regulations, only married spouses can obtain a dependent visa status. The student, scholar or employee can add a dependent spouse to his or her record, and the spouse can then obtain a dependent visa status (F-2, J-2 or H-4). 

These dependent statuses do have certain restrictions:
*F-2 spouses cannot work and also cannot study unless the study is “vocational or recreational in nature.”  Recreational classes may include things like language, cooking, or writing courses, but cannot lead to academic objective or degree.
*J-2 spouses can study, and work if they first obtain work authorization.
*H-4 spouses of H-1B workers are allowed to study, but they cannot work.

For students, the choice between F-1 and J-1 status will affect their spouses’ work and study options. Please visit our admitted student website to explore qualification requirements and other differences between F and J status.

Adding a Dependent

To add a dependent spouse to your F-1 or J-1 student status, please review the steps on our Adding a Dependent page.
To add a dependent spouse to your J-1 scholar status, please complete this J-1 Scholar Request to Add Dependent form

Other Visa Options

Spouses and partners can also apply for an independent visa status.  Options may include:
1) Visit in B status. For partners who do not want to stay in the U.S. long-term but do want to visit, the B visitor visa is an option. Stays are limited in duration and B visitors must demonstrate non-immigrant intent.
2) Study full-time and obtain a student visa. Many partners choose to study at the same time, so that both partners can obtain independent student visa statuses. The international student office at the school where the partner will attend will sponsor the student visa.
- Learn more about studying at University of Chicago.  Note that most programs at the Graham School of General Studies do not qualify students for an F-1 or J-1 visa.
- Learn more about studying at other universities in Illinois
3) Find a job and obtain a work visa. Though not particularly easy, some partners have found jobs that sponsored them for a work visa.  The work visa paperwork will be done by an immigration attorney or experienced human resources department at the employer.

Popular work visa options include:
a. Transfer visa (L-1): Partners currently working for multinational companies could look into transferring to a local office, and obtaining an L-1 visa.
b. H-1B visa: Partners with at least a bachelor’s degree equivalent or higher can obtain an H-1B visa for work within their field.
c. TN visa: A work visa for citizens of Canada and Mexico
d. E-3 visa: A work visa for citizens of Australia

OIA does not provide immigration advice for work visas outside of the University of Chicago, but we will provide a reference list of immigration attorneys in the Chicago area upon request.

Message from OIA Director Tamara Felden regarding the end of the Defense of Marriage Act

Dear International Spouse or Partner,

As you may know from our home page, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, makes it possible now for same-sex spouses to obtain immigration benefits that were previously unavailable to them.

If your marriage to your same-sex spouse occurred in a country or in a U.S. state where same-sex marriage is legally recognized, you are eligible for dependent immigration statuses, assuming that all other eligibility requirements for the status are met.  So, you may now be eligible F-2, J-2, H-4 or TD status and, if you so choose, may file for a Change of Status. More information on dependent statuses can be found elsewhere on this page and your OIA Adviser will be glad to guide you through the process or, if your situation is more complicated, assist you in finding an attorney who can help.

In this context, it may also be helpful to define the terms “spouse” and “partner:”

  • A spouse is someone who is legally married under the applicable laws of a given country or U.S. state.   The laws, eligibility requirements, and procedures for getting married differ from country to country and, in the U.S., from state to state.  Requirements may stipulate the minimum age required to get married, whether one has to be a resident of the state, whether there is a waiting period between obtaining a marriage license and getting married, and more.  Regardless of what requirements you had to meet, if you got married in a country or state that recognizes your marriage as legal, you have access to dependent benefits under immigration law.  
  • 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 at this time.

Even if this applies to you, however, we hope that you consider OIA one of your primary supports at the University of Chicago.  The many types of resources and events we offer are designed to assist you in as many ways as possible and to help you be at home in a large international community that has much in common with you.  

-OIA Director Tamara Felden