A J-2 dependent includes the spouse and any unmarried children under 21 years of age of the exchange visitor. The J-2 status is contingent upon the status of the J-1 exchange visitor.
About the J-2 visa: About the J-2 Visa - BridgeUSAJ-1 Visa Basics | BridgeUSA (state.gov).
About the F-2 visa: Bringing Dependents to the United States | Study in the States (dhs.gov).
The primary purpose of the J-2 visa holder is to accompany and to support the J-1 exchange visitor while in the United States. Their purpose is not to study or to work, although these are both benefits that the dependent is eligible for.
The primary purpose of the F-2 visa holder is to accompany the F-1 student while in the United States. F-2 dependents are not eligible for employment; however, they may study as long as it is less than full-time enrollment. An F-2 minor may study full-time at a primary or secondary school, which does not need to be SEVP-certified.
1. Valid passport.
2. Valid J-2 or F-2 visa.
3. DS-2019 or I-20.
4. Documentation to support the intent of your stay in the U.S.
Coming in With Dependents
Make sure to request to add a dependent to your SEVIS record when you send the colored-copy of your passport to ISS. We also request that you send us the colored-copy passport of your spouse, and children, if applicable. Proof of marriage, if your spouse is accompanying you, is required as well as proof of birth, such as a birth certificate, if any children are accompanying you to the United States.
The J-2 and F-2 application procedure is the same as that for the primary application. You must first receive a valid DS-2019, which has your biographical information on it, as well as the program information of the primary applicant. Once the visa is received, the dependent must present all required documents at the port of entry in order to enter the United States.
Adding Dependents After Entering the U.S.
You may apply for a dependent visa either at the same time as the primary visa applicant or separately at a later date. The visa application is the same process as the application for primary J-1 or F-1 visa holders. Once the U.S. visa is secured, each dependent is required to present a valid I-20 or DS-2019, a valid F-2/J-2 visa, and a passport that is valid at least 6 months into the future in order to enter the United States.
J-2 dependents are allowed to apply for work authorization from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in order to be lawfully employed in the United States. The J-2 dependent may work only after he or she has received the EAD from USCIS. They are not authorized to work while the application is pending.
To apply work authorization, the dependent must file Form I-765, which is the application for employment authorization. EAD applications may take around three to five months. Note that because of the recent pandemic, processing times have been delayed.
J-2 Employment Application Procedure
Mail the following documents in the order indicated to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services:
- Form I-765 requesting an Employment Authorization Document.
- $410 check or money order payable to USCIS.
- A written statement, with any supporting evidence, confirming that the J-1 Exchange Visitor has sufficient financial resources for his/her own expenses and will not depend on J-2's earnings.
- The statement must also confirm that the J-2's employment is not necessary to support the J-1, but is for other purposes, e.g. to maintain J-2 in profession, to keep from being bored, etc. The J-2's letter should indicate reasons for wanting to work.
- Copies of all current and past DS-2019 forms for the J-1 and the J-2.
- Two passport photos of the J-2 visa holder.
- A copy of the Form I-94 Arrival-Departure Record.
- If you were not issued an I-94 card, submit a copy of your entry stamp and an online printout of your I-94 card number.
- A copy of any EAD cards issued previously to J-2.
- A copy of visa stamp from J-2's passport.
- A copy of biographical page from J-2's passport.
- Marriage certificate (if spouse of the J-1) or birth certificate (if child of the J-1).
- Non-English documents should include an English translation.
- E-Notification: To receive an e-mail and/or a text message that your application has been accepted at USCIS, complete Form G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance and clip it to the first page of your application.
For an extension/renewal of a work permit (which takes 3-5 months), include all of the above items and a photocopy of your previous EAD card(s). Please note that you cannot file more than 120 days before your original employment authorization expires.
You will receive a I-797 "Notice of Action" receipt notice from the USCIS, usually within 2-6 weeks. This is an important document that can help track the status of your application. You may use the receipt number to check the status of your case online. To check the status of your case, please visit the USCIS web site's Case State Service Online.
The J-2 visa holder may apply for employment authorization any time after arrival in the U.S. It can take several months to obtain the authorization, so the J-2 may wish to apply early. The J-2 work authorization will be valid only for as long as the J-1 exchange visitor's stay is valid. For the most recent filing address, please see the USCIS website.
Some Important Reminders
- Please review the instructions for submitting Form I-765 on the USICS website for the most up-to-date information.
- Make sure to keep photocopies of everything sent to USCIS.
- The address written on the I-765 application should be valid for the next 3-4 months. If the J-2 moves, the US Postal Service will not forward mail from USCIS. If the current address is not going to be valid for the next 3-4 months, talk to an International Student and Scholar Adviser before mailing the application.
- After receiving the EAD, the J-2 must make sure to file for a social security number and file taxes for the previous year, if he or she was employed then.
J-2 Employment and Taxation Issues
If the J-2 is granted permission to work, he/she will receive the Employment Authorization Document (EAD). The EAD is an identification card laminated in plastic, with the J-2's photograph and the expiration date of the work authorization.
USCIS can authorize J-2 employment for as long as the J-1 exchange visitor has permission to stay OR for four years, whichever is shorter. Permission to stay expires on the date of the Form DS-2019.
Form I-9 (Employers distribute I-9 forms to new employees): When the J-2 begins to work, the employer will ask the J-2 to complete the USCIS Form I-9, required of all new employees. The purpose of this form is to prove identity and eligibility to be employed. The EAD card is acceptable proof of both identity and legal permission to work.
F-2 dependents may not be employed under any circumstances. Engaging in unauthorized employment is a violation of status and may result in the accrual of unlawful presence. Also, employers may be cited, fined, or imprisoned for their violation of federal law.