F-2 Dependent VISAS

A dependent of an F-1 visa holder is on an F-2 visa. Only the spouse and/or children of a student on an F-1 visa are eligible to apply for an F-2 Visa. (Spouse means ‘husband’ or ‘wife.’) Parents or any relatives who want to accompany an F-1 student cannot do it as a dependent, they must enter the U.S. in a different visa category.

Dependents – General Information

  • Children on F-2 visas are allowed to attend Kindergarten through 12th grade only. “Children” are minors, under 21 years old, and unmarried. After the age of 21 or after marriage, children are no longer considered dependents. After high school, a dependent child must obtain an F-1 visa in order to attend school full-time.
  • Spouses can NOT work and can NOT attend school full-time while in F-2 status.
  • Dependents can attend school part-time.
  • Should F-2 dependents decide they want to attend school full-time while in the U.S., they must apply for admission to a school of their choice, and upon receiving an I-20, must change visa status from F-2 to F-1. F-2 dependents CANNOT attend school full-time until the change of status is approved.
  • Dependent I-20s can only be issued by the same school that issued the I-20 for the F-1 student.
  • Can apply for F-2 visas at the same time as the F-1 or at a later date. Students and family members can receive their I-20s at the same time and apply for visa appointments at the same time as well.
  • Like F-1 students, F-2 dependents are required to keep their passports valid.

F-2 Dependents and SEVIS Status

  • The status of dependents is the status of the F-1. As long as the primary F-1 student is in status and eligible to be in the U.S. so is the dependent.
  • F-2 dependents are not allowed to stay in the US if the F-1 is no longer eligible to be in the US.
  • F-2 dependents can travel in and out of the United States, without the F-1, at any time while the F-1 is in status and would be eligible to travel.
  • At the end of the program of study, F-1 visa-holders have a 60-day grace period to prepare for departure from the United States. F-2 visa-holders are not permitted to stay in the U.S. past that grace period. No travel in and out of the U.S. is allowed, by F-1s or by F-2s, during the 60-day grace period.

How to Apply for a Dependent I-20

Dependent I-20s can only be issued by the same school that issued the I-20 for the F-1 student.

  • Request dependent I-20(s) at the same time applying for a Tseng College program: When applying, answer the questions about dependents. Follow steps 1 and 2.
  • Request dependent I-20(s) after you already have an F-1 student visa and are a Tseng College student: Follow the steps below.


  1. Fill out the Request for Dependent I-20 form.
  2. Must attach copies of these 2 documents for each person who needs a dependent I-20 for an F-2 visa:
    • Copy of passport, and
    • Copy of proof of relationship such as birth certificates or a marriage license

    May need to submit an updated bank statement. To issue a dependent I-20, the financial section of the primary, F-1 student’s I-20 must be updated to show additional cost of dependent(s). For a spouse, $5,000 is added to ‘Estimated Average Costs’ in the Financials section of the I-20. For each child, $3,000 is added. Please submit an updated bank statement if the original one used to issue the student’s I-20 does not have a high enough balance to cover the dependent(s). If the F-1 is on a government scholarship, submit a recent financial guarantee. Usually, financial guarantees include the cost of dependents.

Note regarding same-sex marriages: To obtain a dependent I-20 for a spouse of the same sex, the same documents are required: a copy of the passport and copy of the marriage license or certificate. This means that the marriage must have occurred where it is “recognized in the place of celebration.”

How to Apply for an F-2 Dependent Visa

First, obtain a dependent I-20, see above.

Once you have the dependent I-20, follow these steps to apply for an F-2 visa.

  1. Sign the dependent I-20. The F-1 student – NOT THE DEPENDENT – MUST SIGN THE I-20.

    In the box titled, “Student Attestation,” the F-1 student signs and dates on the line with the ‘X’. Do NOT sign on the last line where is says Name of Parent or Guardian. Do NOT write anything on those bottom lines.

  2. Gather these documents:
    • Copy of the primary F-1’s passport and visa
    • Copy of primary’s I-20
    • If for spouse, a copy of a valid marriage certificate
    • If for a child, a copy of a valid birth certificate
    • Proof of sufficient funds to cover dependents’ expenses
    • Dependent I-20(s) signed by primary F-1 student
    • If applying for an F-2 visa in your home country, apply for a visa to travel to the United States
    • If applying for a COS while remaining in the U.S, use the instructions listed below.

SEVIS I-901 Fee. A dependent of an F-1, applying for an F-2 visa, does not have to pay the SEVIS I-901 Fee.


  • Dependent I-20s must be endorsed for travel too.
  • Dependents may travel in and out of the U.S. without the F-1 at any time while the F-1 student is in status and would be eligible to travel.
  • F-2 dependents need the same documents that F-1s need for reentry into the United States.
  • The same I-515A rules that apply to F-1 students apply to F-2 dependents. F-2 dependents might also be issued a Form I-515A and be admitted for only 30 days if they do not have proper documentation at the time of entry.

California Driver’s Licenses

If you are on an F-2 Visa and applying for a Driver’s License, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) requires both you and the F-1 student to provide original documents. You two should go to the DMV together for the F-2’s appointment.

Changing from an F-1 to F-2 While in the U.S.

  • You must currently be in the US in legal status, and
  • Your passport must be valid for at least 6 more months.
  • Average wait time for application processing is about 10 - 14 weeks.
  • If the application is not processed in time to attend the next session, work with a DSO to defer the program start date in SEVIS. You will remain in status while waiting.
  • Since you have been in F-1 status, must continue attending school and follow F-1 regulations until the application is approved or denied. Therefore, request F-2 status to begin at a date that is after current session ends.
  • If USCIS denies your application, be prepared to leave the United States when your current status expires.
  • Once the application is approved, CANNOT attend school full-time.
  • Warning! If you leave the US while your COS is pending, your application is cancelled.

Steps to apply to change from an F-1 to an F-2:

  1. Complete and sign Form I-539 Application to Extend Status/Change Nonimmigrant Status
    • Use the online form or use black ink and print clearly
    • If a question is not applicable to you, or answer is “none”, write “n/a” or “None”.
  2. Request a dependent I-20 through the International Office that issued the I-20 for the Primary, F-1 student. If the F-1 student is in a Tseng College program, request a dependent I-20 through the Office of Admissions, Registration, and Client Services (ARC) in EU 200, in The Tseng College and continue with the following instructions.
    • Fill out the Request for Dependent I-20 form
    • Attach a copy of dependent’s passport
    • Attach a copy of marriage license, if applicable
    • If including children in the application, attach a copy of each child’s passport and a copy of child’s birth certificate.
    • F-1 primary signs each I-20 – even the one for a spouse
  3. Gather all required documents that must be sent with the I-539 application (Copies are OK except where noted):
    • Proof of financial capability, such as bank statement or financial guarantee
    • Proof of family relationship, such as a marriage license or certificate
    • Passports pages that show identity, visa, and latest entry stamps – both spouses
    • Printed I-94s from: https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/ – both spouses
    • Copy of primary, F-1 student’s I-20
    • Applicant’s new dependent I-20, signed by F-1.
  4. Write a check or money order for $370.
    • Payee is “U.S. Department of Homeland Security” (Write it exactly this way.)
    • Attach payment to the Form I-539 application.
  5. Use an Express mail/Courier Delivery Service and send all of the above to:
         ATTN: I-539
         2501 S. State Highway 121 Business Suite 400
         Lewisville, TX 75067
         (800) 375-5283 (if mailing label requires a phone number)

Change from F-2 to F-1

If you are on an F-2 visa, and you decide you want to become a full-time student, you must apply to change your visa to an F-1 Student Visa.

If changing from an F-2 to F-1 while in the United States, go to “SEVIS – Visa Types – Who Can Study in the US? and Changing to F-1 Status" for the steps to change from F-2 to F-1.

Sources: Dependents, F-2 Visas, Changing Status

COS information from the Study in the States Website https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/change-of-status
Information about COS from the USCIS Website https://www.uscis.gov/visit-united-states/change-my-nonimmigrant-status-category/change-my-nonimmigrant-status
For the Form I-539 https://www.uscis.gov/i-539
Form I-515A Overview https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/what-is-a-form-i-515a
Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 214.2(f)(3) Admission of the spouse and minor children of an F-1 student. https://www.ice.gov/sevis/schools/reg