Spouses and children

The spouses and unmarried minor children (20 years old or younger) 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/J-1 student, but never before; dependents may not remain in the U.S. after the F-1/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 status in the U.S. by the F-1/J-1 student maintaining their status. Therefore, if the F-1/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.

Adding a dependent

To add a dependent, submit a request in myStatus for a new I-20/DS-2019 to add a dependent. You will need to provide:

  • Biographical information (should match dependent’s passport): Name, relationship to you, 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 new I-20/DS-2019. After receiving the new document, your dependent(s) 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.

Once your dependent arrives in the U.S., bring copies of their passport information page, visa page and I-94 record to International Student and Scholar Services to be kept in your file.

Dependents born in the U.S.

If your child is born in the United States, you must decide whether they 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, you should apply at the nearest passport acceptance facility. 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.


Dependents in F-2 status 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 in J-2 status 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.

Health insurance

F-2 dependents are not required to have health insurance; however, International Student and Scholar Services 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 insurance under U.S. immigration regulations. Neither F-2 nor J-2 dependents are automatically enrolled in MU’s student health insurance. The F-1/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 Cashiers Office. For more information about insurance, contact the Student Health Center at 573-882-7481.

Change in status

If 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, you should start this process at least six months in advance.

If you and your spouse divorce, the F-2/J-2 spouse will be required to apply for a change of status or leave the United States.