Those who have the F-1 visa are allowed to study in the U.S in various education levels, starting from elementary to graduate school. They are also allowed to work in certain situations, but primarily they go to the U.S to study. In case they have dependents, such as a spouse or unmarried children under 21 years old, they are allowed to bring them in the U.S too. This can be done with an F-2 dependent visa.
The F-2 visa is directly related to the conditions that the F-1 visa holder has. There is no cap for it, dependents should just fulfill the requirements and complete the application procedures to get the visa.
What are the requirements for the F-2 visa?
To be eligible for an F-2 visa, you must fulfill the following criteria:
- Be the spouse of an approved F-1 visa holder, or
- Be the unmarried child under 21 years old of an approved F-1 visa holder
- Have the financial means to support the family during your stay in the U.S
If you fulfill these conditions, you can start applying for the F-2 dependent visa.
How to apply for the F-2 Visa?
The steps to apply for an F-2 visa are as follows below.
Get a Form I-20
When the F-1 visa holder gets acceptance into an SEVP institution, the school releases a Form I-20. The form I-20 details the purpose of the visa, an estimate of expenses, and the time the educational program lasts. For the dependents of the F-1 visa holder to get an F-2 visa, the F-1 person should inform the SEVP institution that the dependents also intend to apply for the visa.
With this information, the SEVP institution will also compile and release a form I-20 for the dependents too. Each person who wants to apply for an F-2 visa must have a form I-20 to qualify for an F-2 visa. After getting this form, the application procedure follows similar procedures to other visas.
Fill in Form DS-160 online
The DS-160 form should be submitted online with all the necessary information. When you submit it, the page will generate a barcode and confirmation page which you need to retain for later on.
Pay the visa fees
The F-2 visa has an application fee of $160. You must pay this fee to be able to proceed with the application. Upon completion of payment, you will get a receipt that proves it and you should keep it for later on. There might also be other fees depending on the country or U.S Embassy you are applying from, such as visa issuance fees or reciprocity fees.
Whereas the F-1 visa holder is responsible for also paying the SEVIS I-901 fee, the F-2 visa applicant is exempt from this fee.
Schedule your visa interview
As an F-2 applicant, you can apply at the same time as the F-1 applicant, or you can apply separately. If you are applying together, you can schedule the visa interview at the same time. This procedure is actually recommended. However, if you are applying separately, you need to schedule your own visa interview. When scheduled, you will get an interview confirmation letter which you will show to the officers at the U.S Embassy to prove you have an appointment.
Gather and complete your document file
When you go for your visa interview, you need a file with these documents:
- Your current and previous passports
- Photocopies of your passport pages
- The receipts which prove you have paid the necessary fees
- Your interview confirmation letter
- The DS-160 confirmation page
- Your original Form I-20 and one copy
- One recent (within the last six months) photograph
- Proof of financial stability through bank or tax records, employment pay slips, etc.
- A copy of the F-1 visa holder’s I-20 form
- A copy of the F-1 visa (if applicable)
- If you are applying separately, the copy of the F-1 visa holder’s passport
- Original marriage certificate if you are the spouse of the F-1 visa holder
- Genuine marriage proof such as:
- Wedding album
- Wedding guest list
- Receipts of wedding spendings
- Receipts of honeymoon trips
- If married at the registrar, submit the wedding affidavit and pictures of you and your spouse with the wedding witnesses
- Genuine marriage proof such as:
- Original birth certificate if you are the child of the F-1 visa holder
Attend your interview
Go to your visa interview on time with all the necessary documents. You will have questions regarding your relationship with the F-1 visa holder and your intentions for being in the U.S. If the visa interviewer suspects that you are hiding something or that you intend to violate F-2 visa rules, they will deny your visa.
What is the processing time for the F-2 Visa?
Processing times vary for visas due to the differences and workloads in U.S Embassies. After your F-2 interview, you might get a response immediately from your interviewer on whether you got the visa or you were denied. However, it is more common that the wait will be a few days or weeks.
This is because the U.S Embassy will take their time to look over your documents and responses. They will particularly focus on you and the F-1 visa holder’s financial situation to determine whether you can cover your expenses while in the U.S. So if your F-2 visa processing is taking too long, do not be alarmed as the U.S Embassy either has a heavy workload or is taking their time to analyze your case.
What is the validity of the F-2 Visa?
Since the F-2 visa is directly related to the F-1 visa, it will have the same validity. If your spouse on an F-1 visa is allowed to stay in the U.S for 2 years, your F-2 visa will also have a validity of 2 years.
In case the F-1 visa holder extends their stay by getting a new Form I-20, you as their dependent will also get a renewal. To get your F-2 visa renewed, you should file Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. You should attach proof of your relationship with the primary F-1 visa holder and financial evidence that you have enough funds to cover your stay.
With an F-2 visa, you are also allowed to apply to change your status. If you enroll in an academic degree with an SEVP approved institution, you will have to apply for an F-1 visa and you might get a change of status. In addition, if you find a job which requires an H type work visa such as an H-1B visa, you and your employer can petition with USCIS and follow the appropriate procedures to change your status.
If you are the unmarried child under 21 years old of an F-1 visa holder and you turn 21 while in the U.S, you will have to apply for a different type of visa to remain in the U.S. This is because you will no longer qualify as the dependent of the F-1 visa holder and will have to return to your home country if you do not get a different type of U.S visa.
If the F-1 visa holder applies and gets a Green Card, you as their dependent on an F-2 visa, automatically get the Green Card too. However, you can also try to apply yourself. If you find an employer willing to sponsor you, you can file for an Employment Based Green Card. Otherwise, you could also change status to a different visa which allows dual intent and apply for the Green Card.
What are the limitations to the F-2 visa?
With the F-2 visa being a dependent visa, there are many restrictions to what you can and cannot do while in the U.S. The purpose of the F-2 visa is for families to remain together while the person with the F-1 visa gets their educational degree, which can be for several years. It has no other purpose, and that is why these are the limitations to having it.
You are not allowed to work on an F-2 visa
There are no F-2 visa work permits. Your F-1 spouse or parent has proved that they can afford to cover the expenses of you living in the U.S, so there are no forms of paid employment you can take up within the U.S. You can volunteer or do unpaid work, but you are not allowed to get into any employment agreement.
You are not allowed to get a Social Security Number (SSN)
Since you’re not allowed to work, you cannot get an SSN either. You are only eligible to get an ITIN number for tax purposes.
You are not allowed to enroll in a full educational degree
The F-2 visa does not allow you to enroll in a degree or credit bearing education. So you cannot complete a Bachelor’s or a Master’s Degree with this visa. You are only allowed to enroll in recreational, vocational, and non-credit bearing courses for hobbies or fun.
In addition, if you are a child dependent of an F-1 visa holder, you are only allowed to complete elementary and middle school in the U.S. You will not be allowed to enroll in high school on an F-2 visa. To do so, you will need to apply for a change of status.
You cannot travel to the U.S before the F-1 visa holder
If you are entering the U.S for the first time, you must either be accompanied by the F-1 visa holder or travel after them. You cannot travel to the U.S before the F-1 visa holder has been allowed entry into the country.
However, there are no other travel restrictions after you enter the U.S the first time. You can travel in and out of the country anytime without being accompanied by the F-1 visa holder.