The J-2 visa is U.S non-immigrant visa for dependents. Spouses or unmarried children under 21 years old can accompany a J-1 visa holder with the J-2 visa. J-2 visa holders are dependent on the status of the J-1 person, so any changes to the J-1 status will result in changes to the J-2 status too.
Since there are so many categories of J-1 visas, each one has their own rules to the J-2 visa. Categories of au pair, camp counselor, secondary school student, and work and travel participants are not allowed to have J-2 dependents accompany them to the U.S. Other categories are allowed to have J-2 dependents.
However, since J-1 visa holders are sponsored by different organizations and programs, they might be allowed to have a J-2 dependent only if their program allows it. For example, if you are a university student and would like to bring your spouse to the U.S on a J-2 visa, the U.S government does not state any objectives for this. But if your sponsor does not allow you to, then you may not bring your spouse to the U.S on a J-2 visa.
As with J-1 visas, J-2 visas do not have a cap either, so there are no limitations to the number of people who can get this type of visa. J-2 visa holders are allowed to enroll in academic study, get a driver’s license, open bank accounts, travel in and out of the U.S anytime, as well as work under certain circumstances.
J-2 Visa Requirements
The requirements to qualify and be eligible for a J-2 visa are as follows:
- Be the spouse of an approved J-1 visa holder
- Be the unmarried child under 21 years old of an approved J-1 visa holder
- Be allowed to accompany the J-1 visa holder from their sponsor or program
Many people who are in partnerships, but have not been married yet wonder whether they can accompany their J-1 partner to the U.S. Unless you are married to the J-1 visa holder and have genuine proof of marriage, you do not qualify for a J-2 dependent visa.
J-2 Visa Application
The J-2 visa application is similar to the J-1 visa application. If the J-1 sponsor allows them to bring dependents, they will issue them a separate DS-2019 form. With that form the J-2 application procedure is as follows:
- Apply online by filing the DS-160 form
- Pay the visa application fee of $160
- Schedule an interview appointment and get the confirmation letter
- Submit these documents:
- Your passport
- Your DS-160 form barcode
- Your interview confirmation letter
- One US visa style photograph
- All SEVIS pages and a copy of your DS-2019 form
- A copy of the J-1 visa holder’s DS-2019 form
- If the J-1 visa holder is an intern or trainee, also submit a copy of their DS-7002 form
- Marriage certificate to prove you are married to the J-1 visa holder
- Wedding album and invitation cards
- Wedding guest list
- If married at the registrar, the copy of the affidavit, and pictures with marriage witnesses
- Birth certificates of children
- Proof of financial resources which show enough funds to cover expenses
- Attend the interview where you will have J-2 visa interview questions related to your intentions in the U.S, your relationship with the J-1 visa holder, and financial situation.
In addition to all this, you must have health insurance to qualify for getting the J-2 visa. Most exchange program sponsors provide health insurance to the primary J-1 visa holder. Some of them might also provide the insurance for J-2 dependents too, but some of them do not. If the J-1 program sponsor does not provide valid health insurance coverage for J-2 dependents, you will have to enroll in one yourself.
If your application and interview go well, the U.S Embassy where you have applied will grant you a J-2 visa. The visa will allow you to depart for the U.S at the same time or after the J-1 visa holder. However, you cannot leave for the U.S before the person who has the J-1 visa.
J-2 Visa Processing Time
The processing time for a J-2 visa is different case by case. As U.S Embassies have different case loads, your visa might take more or less time to process. However, a general time frame for how long it takes to process the J-2 visa is around 30 days or 1 month. So from the time you submit your application to the U.S Embassy, you can expect a response regarding whether you got the J-2 visa or not in 30 days time.
J-2 Visa Validity
Since you are a dependent of the J-1 visa holder, the validity of your J-2 visa is directly tied to theirs. This means that your J-2 visa is valid as long as the J-1 visa is valid too. If your spouse with a J-1 has a visa valid for 2 years, your J-2 visa will be valid for the same time.
If the J-1 visa holder applies for a visa extension and is approved, you are also eligible to apply for an extension. When your extension is approved, you will get a new DS-2019 form.
Since most J-1 visas have a two year home residency requirement, the same applies to their dependents too. So if your spouse has that requirement, your J-2 visa is also dependent on that requirement. This means that after your visa expires, you will have to return to your home country and remain there for 2 years before you can apply for a similar visa, except for a visitor or tourist visa.
Some J-2 visa holders want to change status to another visa. This is only possible if you don’t have a two year home residency requirement. You can find a job which makes you eligible for a different type of visa, such as an H-1B visa and apply for it. In that case, your employer needs to file your Form I-129 so that you are allowed to start employment.
If the J-1 visa holder applies for a waiver based on acceptable reasons, you as their dependent do not need to file for a waiver too. The J-2 visa waiver is automatically linked to the J-1. When the U.S government grants a waiver to the J-1, it applies to their dependents too.
However, you may file for a J-2 visa waiver in some instances:
- If the J-1 visa holder has died and you can provide a valid death certificate
- If you divorce the J-1 visa holder and you provide valid divorce documents
- If you are the child of the J-1 and reach 21 years old and provide a valid birth certificate
Besides these three instances, you also need to submit documents explaining why you are applying for a J-2 visa waiver and the J-1 person is not, and why you deserve to get the waiver.
In addition, J-2 visa holders are also eligible to apply for a Green Card. If the J-1 person gets a Green Card, you as their dependent get it too. However, you can also apply yourself based on family or employment reasons.
One of the most important things that J-2 visa holders are allowed to do while in the country is seek employment in the U.S. They can do so by getting an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). They can get the EAD only after they have arrived in the U.S.
It is recommended to apply for the EAD three to four months after you have arrived in the U.S. This is because you have submitted proof to the U.S government that you have enough financial resources to cover your expenses in the first few months in the U.S. If you immediately apply for an EAD, then you will raise doubts about your financial situation.
To apply for the EAD, submit these documents:
- Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization
- Copies of yours and the J-1 holder’s DS-2019 forms, Forms I-94, and passports
- 2 photographs
- Your marriage certificate
- A statement about why you want to get the EAD – which should not state any financial necessity. When you got the J-2 visa, the J-1 person stated that they have enough financial resources to support you. Your reasons for getting an EAD should include travel, recreational, and cultural purposes. You cannot use your employment salary to supplement the income of the J-1 person. The statement should also contain information about the J-1 person, including their category, sponsor details, and salary or stipend.
- If you have already found employment, submit a letter from your employer confirming this and the fact that you will not use your salary to support the J-1 visa holder
- You can request your EAD to be valid until the end of your stay in the U.S by writing the date of expiration found in your DS-2019 form in the EAD statement.
If you are granted the EAD, you can engage in part or full time work in the U.S. If your EAD expires before your DS-2019 expiration date, you can request extensions. As a person who is employed, you also get a Social Security Number (SSN) and are obliged to file taxes as per U.S laws.