Each year, depending on the student and exchange visitor program, over a million international students study in the United States Many of these students bring their spouses and children – also known as dependents – with them when they travel to the United States.
Any dependent who accompanies a international student in the United States will need an F-2 or M-2 visa. The type of visa depends on whether the international student – the person who serves as the primary visa holder – plans to pursue a professional or academic study while studying in the U.S. F visas are granted to registered international students. in university courses and M visas are issued to international students enrolled in vocational training courses.
Here are five helpful tips for those international students who want to bring their dependents to the United States:
1. Dependents first need a Form I-20. As an international student, you must inform your school official that a dependent will accompany you to the United States. The person in charge of your school will then issue each dependent an I-20 form. This is required to apply for an F-2 or M-2 visa from the US Department of State.
2. You must maintain your immigration status. In order for your dependents to remain in status, each international student must maintain their immigration status by attending and successfully completing all of their courses and following U.S. laws and regulations while studying in the United States.
3. Traveling outside of the United States can be difficult. If your dependents decide to travel outside the United States, you must be in active state. Your dependents will need the following documents to re-enter the country upon their return: an I-20 form in their name that certifies that the primary visa holder is enrolled in a full study program in the United States, a visa valid and their form I-94 Registration of arrivals / departures.
While your dependents don’t have to travel with you, they should check the requirements of the country they plan to visit as some countries require a visa, even when connecting.
Your dependents can stay in the United States while you travel to another country. However, as an international student, you must be in active status and you must return to the United States after a temporary absence using the same SEVIS ID number that is currently assigned to you.
4. Dependents have work restrictions. Your dependents cannot work or get a Social Security number while in the United States on an F-2 or M-2 visa.
5. Your dependents may attend school part time. A new federal regulation from May 2015 allows F-2 and M-2 dependent adults to study at SEVP certified schools, as long as they are not enrolled in a full study program.
If your dependent wishes to enroll full-time in post-secondary university or vocational studies, they must apply for and obtain permission to change their non-immigrant classification to F-1 or M-1 before starting their studies at full-time. Your dependent minors can, and often must, go from Kindergarten to Grade 12 full-time.
For more information on the rules and regulations governing international students and their dependents, visit the department Study in the States website.