Dependents of F-1 students
In the language of immigration regulations, the individual in F-1 status is the "principal alien". Your dependentsspouse and/or unmarried, minor (under age 21) childrencome to the United States in a derivative status, F-2. That means their primary purpose for being in the United States is to accompany you. Their F-2 status is completely dependent on your valid F-1 status.
Each F-2 dependent will receive his or her own SEVIS-generated I-20 form, with a unique SEVIS ID number. However, it is the F-1 principal who signs the I-20.The F-1 student must provide documentation showing the availability of funds in excess of their own cost of living expenses in order to obtain a dependent I-20. Currently, it is $800 per month for a spouse, and $400/month per child. In addition, each dependent must provide a copy of his or her passport.
Federal regulations do not allow individuals in F-2 status to be employed in the United States, or to enroll in courses of study at the post-secondary level. An F-2 who wants to work needs to find an employer to sponsor him or her in an employment-based status, such as H-1B. An F-2 who wants to enroll in a course of study would need to be admitted to a full-time course of study and change to F-1 status.
Students and Scholars Office administers an International Spouse Network
through which spouses of students and scholars can meet others in similar
For F-1s, the dependent status of F-2 is reserved for spouses, and/or unmarried, minor (under age 21) children. This presents difficulties for those in relationships without marriage.
In July, 2001 the State Department sent a cable to consulates putting forth new guidance stating that B-2 (visitor) visas may be appropriate for cohabiting (unmarried) partners, whether of the same or opposite sex.
The cable explains that only a relationship that is recognized under law as granting all the rights of marriage can be the basis for a dependent visa such as F-2, J-2, H-4, etc.
However, an unmarried partner whose primary purpose in coming to the U.S. is to accompany his or her partner can be issued a B-2 as long as he or she does not intend to work, and is otherwise eligible for a visa.
Though B-2 visits are usually for short periods of time, it is permissible for the accompanying partner to intend to accompany the principal for the duration of a study program in the U.S. The accompanying partner must intend to depart at the conclusion of the principal's authorized stay in the U.S. In such cases there is a fixed end point, and therefore the B-2 applicant meets the requirement of temporary intent, even though the individual intends to stay longer than six months or a year.
Please note that this cable pre-dates September 11 and the ensuing security measures and added scrutiny that visa applications have received since then, and the ISSO has no knowledge of how this guidance is being applied.
Last Reviewed:21 February 2011 Last modified: 21 February