Guide to the J2 Visa

Updated on August 12, 2023
At a Glance: The J2 visa is a dependent visa issued by the US for spouses and dependents of J1 exchange visitors. Eligibility depends on the exchange program, and spouses are given preference. J2 visa holders can work with an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and study without needing an F1 visa. The visa duration depends on the J1 visa holder’s program. The application process involves scheduling an embassy appointment, filling out form DS-2019, attending an interview, and collecting the J2 visa.

If your spouse or parent is staying in the U.S. as part of an exchange program, then you have the ability to obtain a J2 visa and join them in the U.S. Aside from the emotional benefits, there are other benefits attached to this. In this article, we’ll explain how you can get a J2 visa for yourself and come to the U.S. with your spouse or parent.

What Is the J2 Visa?

The J2 visa is a dependent visa issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). It is a specific visa issued to spouses and dependents of J1 exchange visitors. These people may go on to accompany or ultimately join the J1 visa holder in the United States.

The duration of this visa varies since J2 visa holders are allowed the same duration of stay as the J1 exchange visa holder. So if their program is going to last for two years, then the J2 visa holder may apply for the full two years of duration, if not less.

Who Is Eligible for the J2 Visa

The eligibility for J2 visa holders depends primarily on the exchange program the J1 visa holder is involved in. So, it’s always best to cross-check with the “description” or “terms” section of their exchange program agreement.

Generally speaking, exchange categories like a secondary school student or summer work travel are ineligible for J2 visas. If the programs are eligible, then the next step depends on the applicants. Here are the eligibility criteria for applicants:

  • Spouses are given preference for this visa and are immediately made eligible.
  • For dependents, they have to be minors under the age of 21 and unmarried; otherwise, they won’t be eligible for this visa.
  • Extended family members like parents, grandparents, and cousins are not considered for this visa since the J2 visa is granted strictly to spouses and children.

Another condition that needs to be fulfilled is that the J1 visa holder has to be physically present in the U.S. before the J2 visa holder can come into the U.S. So if you are entering separately, the J1 visa holder must arrive before you.

Alternative Visa for Spouses

In certain cases, spouses can be provided with a B2 visa as long as their primary purpose of visitation is accompanying their partner. They should have no intention of getting involved in any form of employment. Even though the B2 visa status is granted for a short period of time, they can opt to stay for the entire duration of the exchange program.

J2 Visa Required Documents

To come into the U.S. as a J2 dependent visa holder, you must provide the following documents:


This is the form that permits you to apply for the J2 dependent visa. This will be issued by the U.S. embassy in your home country. Strictly speaking, DS-2019 is not a form; it’s a certificate that proves your eligibility to accompany the J1 visa holder on their exchange program. So, you’ll not be submitting this document, but will be carrying it around the entire time you stay in the U.S.


This document summarizes your U.S. arrival and departure. Whenever you’re crossing the border, you need to show this document. If this is your first time in the U.S., then you’ll be provided with your copy of the I-94.

J2 Visa Sticker

Finally, you need to have the J2 visa sticker attached to your passport. This shows that you have been granted the J2 visa status and are accompanying the J1 visa holder.

How to Apply for a J2 Visa

The application process for the J2 visa is the same as any other immigration process, just that the form to be submitted is different in each case. For the J2 visa, you’re required to submit form DS-2019. But before you begin filling it out, you need to be sponsored by the J1 visa holder.

Here are the steps to apply for a J2 visa:

Step 1: Schedule your appointment with the U.S. embassy

First, you’ll need to schedule an appointment with the U.S. embassy in your country. This is mandatory, except for Canadian citizens. You can schedule an appointment by calling the embassy or visiting its website. Note that wait times are longer during certain times of the year, so do this well in advance.

Step 2: Fill out and sign form DS-2019

From the embassy website, you have to download form DS-2019. Read both sides of it, fill out the necessary details, and provide your signature.

Step 3: Complete the J2 visa application and provide the relevant documents

In the portal itself, you will have to complete the visa application. Just follow the instructions provided on the screen and make sure to choose/input the correct information. You may also be asked to upload supplemental documents like proof of ties to your home country, marriage certificate, recent photographs, etc. So keep everything ready in a digital format. Towards the end, you’ll be asked to make an online payment. In this step, you’ll also receive your SEVIS number.

Step 4: Attend the interview

After the application process is completed, the embassy will call you to schedule an interview. You need to bring your documents, passport, receipts, and any other supporting materials.

Step 5: Collect your J2 visa

If your application is granted, you’ll receive your J2 visa, and the consulate will put the visa sticker on your passport. This will indicate that you have been granted the visa status.

J2 Visa EAD

Many spouses coming into the U.S. as J2 visa holders wish to work, either for a living or for passion. Fortunately, a J2 visa allows such individuals to contribute and earn a living for themselves. This is contrary to the B2 visa, which prohibits them from obtaining employment.

As a J2 visa holder, you can apply for work in most cases. But you need to file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. Once this is approved, you can work for up to a period of one year, after which you can renew it. The approval process for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) may take up to five months.

Can a J2 Visa Holder Study in the U.S.?

J2 dependent visa holders can also study in the U.S. if they want to. For this, you’re not required to have a separate F1 visa, which is issued to foreign students. Both full-time and part-time courses are allowed, and you can enroll irrespective of whether it’s recreational or a degree-granting course.

But you have to switch to F1 visa status if your J2 visa status expires before you can complete the course. You also have the option of leaving your studies mid-way and head back to your country.

J2 Visa Frequently Asked Questions

Can I work while on a J2 Visa?

Yes. But you need to have an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) for that.

What privileges do I enjoy on a J2 Visa?

You can stay in the U.S. for the duration of the exchange program. You can work and study during that time period.

What are the limitations of the J2 Visa?

You are dependent on the status of the J1 visa holder. If it expires or is withdrawn, then it directly affects your status.

How long can I stay in the United States on a J2 Visa?

For the entire duration of the J1 visa holder’s exchange program.

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When filing immigrant-related applications like form DS-2019, you shouldn’t shy away from seeking professional help wherever necessary. A small error may result in the rejection of your application.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.