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Spouses and children

The spouses and unmarried minor (20 years old or younger) children of F-1 or J-1 students are dependents (F-2 or J-2). Dependents may enter the U.S. with or after the F-1 or J-1 student, but never before; dependents may not remain in the U.S. after the F-1 or J-1 student has left unless the absence is temporary (five months or less) and the student is in good standing. Dependents must have an I-20/DS-2019 every time they re-enter the United States.

Dependents maintain their legal immigration status in the U.S. by the F-1 or J-1 student maintaining their status. Therefore, if the F-1 or J-1 student is out of status, so is the dependent.

F-2 dependents may not be employed or admitted as full-time, degree-seeking students, but may engage in part-time incidental coursework. J-2 dependents may be employed with the appropriate work authorization and may be admitted as full-time, degree-seeking students.

Frequently asked questions

How do I add a dependent?

Submit an online request for a new I-20/DS-2019 to add a dependent, providing:

  • Biographical information (should match dependent's passport): Name, relationship, date of birth, city and country of birth
  • Financial documentation: Proof of finances for yourself and each dependent that you wish to add to your document (see MU's estimated expenses for amount you will be required to prove)

It will take approximately five business days to prepare the I-20/DS-2019.

What if my child was born in the U.S.?

You must decide whether the child will have a U.S. passport or a passport from your home country. You should research your citizenship options and make a decision based on your individual circumstances. If the child will have a U.S. passport, then you should apply for a U.S. passport (can be done at the International Center). If the child will have a passport from your home country, contact the nearest embassy or consulate for instructions on how to apply. With a non-U.S. passport, the child will also need dependent documentation — follow the instructions above for adding a dependent.

How do dependents get visas to enter the U.S.?

After they have received the I-20/DS-2019, your dependents should check with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate to find out how to apply for a dependent visa. You may be required to show marriage or birth certificates.

What should we do when my dependents arrive in the U.S.?

Bring copies of their passport information page, visa page and I-94 record to the International Center to be kept in your file.

Will my dependent be able to work?

Dependents with F-2 visas are not permitted to work in the United States. F-2 dependents should not engage in volunteer activities unless all individuals who take part in the activities are volunteers.

Dependents on J-2 visas are allowed to work after they have received work authorization from USCIS. J-2 dependents must apply for this permission, which usually takes three to five months. There are no limits to the locations or types of work for J-2 dependents who have received appropriate authorization. J-2 dependents should not engage in volunteer activities in lab work, tutoring or other positions in which a person might receive cash for the work.

How do I get health insurance for my dependents?

F-2 dependents are not required to have health insurance; however, the International Center strongly recommends that they have insurance. F-2 dependents might be asked at the visa appointment how they plan to support themselves in case of a medical emergency. J-2 dependents are required to have health insurance under U.S. immigration regulations. Neither F-2 nor J-2 dependents are automatically enrolled in MU's student health insurance. Any F-1 or J-1 student must fill out an application form and pay separately for dependent coverage. If you enroll by the deadline, dependent coverage can be billed through the Office of the Cashier. For more information about student health insurance, contact the Student Health Center at 573-882-7481.

What happens when my child turns 21?

When your child turns 21, they will be required to apply for a change of status or leave the United States. If your child plans to apply for a change of status, it is recommended to start this process at least six months in advance.

What if my spouse and I divorce?

The F-2/J-2 spouse will be required to apply for a change of status or leave the United States.