The Complete Guide F1 Dependent Visas

Posted by Frank Gogol

If you’re looking to join your spouse in the United States who is going to school on an F1 visa, then applying for an F2 dependent visa is the way to go. If you are not sure how to go about obtaining an F2 visa, then this guide can help you understand the application process, eligibility criteria, privileges, and restrictions pertaining to the F2 dependent visa.

What Is an F2 Visa?

F2 is a nonimmigrant dependent visa which allows the immediate family members of an F1 student visa holder to relocate to the United States. The spouse and unmarried children (under 21 years of age) of F1 student visa holders are eligible for an F2 visa to enter and live in the U.S.

Who Is Eligible for an F2 Dependent Visa?

Not everyone is entitled to apply under the F2 visa provision. An applicant must fulfill the following eligibility criteria to qualify for an F2 visa:

  • Be the spouse of an F1 student visa holder.
  • Be the minor child (under 21 years and unmarried) of an F1 visa holder.
  • Have enough financial resource to support the family in the United States during the visa tenure.

F2 Visa Requirements

During the process of an F2 visa application, an applicant must have enough documentary evidence to ascertain his/her identity, proof of birth, relationship with the F1 visa holder, and financial status. The following is a complete list of documents and proofs required to apply for an F2 visa:

  • Your passport (both original and photocopies)
  • Visa application confirmation (DS-160)
  • A photograph conforming to U.S. visa rules
  • Your birth certificate (if you are the child of an F1 visa holder)
  • Your marriage certificate (if you are the spouse of an F1 visa holder)
  • Visa fee payment receipt
  • Your I-20 form
  • Copy of F1 visa holder’s I-20 form
  • Your bank statements, tax records, and employment slip as proof of financial stability

How to Apply for an F2 Visa

Here’s a step-by-step guide to take you through the process of an F2 visa application.

Step 1: Get a Form I-20

F1 visa holders, after gaining acceptance into a SEVP institution, get a Form I-20 from the school. The form details the purpose of the visa, estimated expenses, and the duration of the education program.

If an F1 visa holder intends to bring a family member along on a dependent F2 visa, the school compiles and releases a Form I-20 for the dependent as well. Without Form I-20, it is not possible to submit the online visa application. So the first step is to inform the institution and get a Form I-20 for the dependent.

Step 2: Submit Form DS-160 Online

Form DS-160 is submitted electronically to the U.S. visa authority. It is the main visa application form which contains all the relevant details about the applicant. The consular officers use the information entered on DS-160 to process the visa application. When you submit the DS-160 form, the web portal generates a confirmation page with a barcode that you need to retain for future use.

Step 3: Pay the Visa Fees

The third step is to make the proper payment. The F2 visa application fee is currently $160. There might be other types of fees, such as issuance fees or reciprocity fees, depending on your originating country. You must make the applicable payment and be sure to retain the receipt.

Step 4: Schedule the Visa Interview

The next step is to book a slot for your visa interview. The web portal will show you available slots on the calendar. You will receive a confirmation mail that you must provide to the U.S. Embassy officials at the time of your interview.

Step 5: Gather All the Required Documents

We have already listed the documents required for obtaining an F2 visa. So make sure you bring all those documents/proofs with you to the visa interview. A single missing document can derail the entire procedure—so be extra careful while organizing your proofs and receipts.

Step 6: Attend the Interview

Arrive on time or even early for your visa interview as per the agreed upon schedule. Answer the questions to the best of your abilities.

F2 Visa Processing Time

There are no hard and fast rules to govern visa processing timelines. A lot depends on the particular embassy and their workload. It takes time to go through your documents and receive a response from the appropriate third-parties (such as your bank, marriage registrar, or the income tax department). Usually, it takes around a week or two for the authorities to inform you of your visa approval/denial decision. You may get a quicker response if you are lucky. In the event of any complications, it may even take more than a month to process your visa application.

F2 Dependent Visa Flexibility

The F2 visa allows a great degree of freedom and flexibility in the United States. Below are the most common benefits that F2 visa holders enjoy:

Extended Visa Stay

If the primary F1 visa holder extends his/her stay, the dependents on an F2 visa are automatically eligible to apply for the extension as well. Filing Form I-539 along with proof of your financial wellbeing is enough to renew your F2 visa.

Changing Visa Status

You can enter the U.S. on an F2 visa and subsequently request for a change of visa status if the need arises. You can change your visa status to F1 by enrolling in a higher education program in the United States. If you find a suitable job, you can request the authorities for a change of your visa status.

Getting a Green Card

While you automatically get a Green Card when your primary F1 visa holder gets one, you are also eligible to apply for one on your own. You can change your visa status to a different one, which allows dual intent (for example, L1 visa) and subsequently applies for a Green Card. If you get employed, you become eligible for an Employment Based Green Card.

Access to Healthcare

F2 visa holders have access to American hospitals and medical facilities. However, without a health insurance plan, it can be difficult to afford the cost of healthcare in the U.S. If you are planning on a long stay or expecting a medical situation, then it makes sense to purchase a health insurance plan in advance to cover the exceedingly high healthcare costs.

F2 Dependent Visa Restrictions

With the F2 being a dependent visa, there are also several restrictions in place. The sole purpose of this visa is to allow you to stay with your spouse/parents in the United States. It can’t be used to serve any other purpose—hence the restrictions.

Not Working in the U.S.

You can’t get employed in the United States on an F2 visa. There is no work permit associated with F2 visa. You are allowed to take up unpaid voluntary work but can’t receive any remuneration for it.

Not Getting a Social Security Number

As you are not eligible for employment, you can’t get a Social Security Number (SSN). For tax purposes, you may, however, get an ITIN number.

Not Pursuing a Degree in the U.S.

You can’t enroll in a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree program on an F2 visa. You are, however, eligible for recreational and vocational courses. Child dependents on an F2 visa are allowed to complete elementary, middle school, and high school education in the United States. If you are looking for higher studies, first you need to apply for a change of visa status.

Not Allowed to Enter the U.S. Before the F1 Visa Holder

For first-time travelers to the U.S. on an F2 visa, you must either be accompanied by the primary F1 visa holder or travel at a later date after the F1 holder has entered the United States. You can’t enter the United States before the F1 visa holder. This is only applicable when you enter the U.S. for the first time. Subsequently, you are allowed to travel in and out of the country irrespective of the presence of the F1 visa holder.

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F2 Dependent Visa FAQs:

Before concluding the article, here are the answers to some of the frequently asked questions related to the F2 dependent visa:

Q: Can F2 dependents go to school in the United States?

A: Yes, dependent children of F1 visa holders are allowed to complete their elementary, middle school, and high school education in the United States.

Q: Can F2 dependents work in the United States?

A: No, the F2 visa doesn’t contain a work permit. In order to work in the U.S., you must change your visa status first.

Q: Can F2 dependents apply for a Social Security Number (SSN)?

A: No. However, they can get an ITIN number for tax purposes.

Q: Can F2 dependents travel outside the United States?

A: There is no restriction on foreign travel if the travel documents are in order.

Q: Can F2 dependents stay in the U.S. while the F1 student travels?

A: Yes, F2 dependents are allowed to stay in the United States for the entire visa duration, irrespective of the presence of the F1 visa holder.

Q: Can F2 dependents come to the U.S. before the F-1 student?

A: No, F2 dependents can either accompany the F1 visa holder or enter the U.S. after the F1 visa holder has already arrived.

Conclusion

The F2 visa is intended to facilitate the entry of dependent family members of F1 student visa holders to the United States. The applicant must fulfill the eligibility criteria to get their F2 visa approved. F2 visa holders are allowed to extend their stay in the U.S., change their visa status, apply for a Green Card, and access healthcare facilities in the United States. However, they are not entitled to accept employment or pursue higher studies in America.