Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Dependents – J-2 Status

Exchange visitors may request that family members accompany them during their program if the program length, activities and available funding allow for the accommodation of eligible dependents (spouses and unmarried children under age 21).   Approval for the invitation of J-2 dependents must be obtained from the unit sponsoring the activity and an IVP Specialist in the International Programs Office. The spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 are eligible for “J-2 dependent” status.  Holders of “J-2” visas must adhere to all rules and regulations governing the exchange visitor program and, like their J-1 “principal”, they are subject to the 2-year home presence requirement.  Family members other than the spouse and children are not eligible for J-2 status. They may consider applying for B-2 visas to visit the United States for shorter periods of time as tourists.

Information about dependents planning to accompany or later join the J-1 principal should be provided to the IVP Specialist during the application process along with copies of passport pages for correct identification and spelling of names. Upon approval, the IVP Specialist will issue a DS-2019 for each dependent who will accompany a “J-1 principal.”  Each “J-2 dependent” will have his/her own SEVIS number and DS-2019 form. However, J-2 dependents’ records and funding are directly tied to the J-1 principal’s SEVIS record and DS-2019. This means that the J-2 dependents will have the exact same program dates as the J-1 principal, even if they are going to be in the United States for less time or traveling separately. Be aware that proof of parental relationships may have to be presented to leave a particular country or to enter the USA. Consult local law and the US Consulate.  The J-2 dependents are not required to travel and enter the US with the J-1 principal, but may follow at a later date.  J-2 dependents must adhere to the same regulations regarding departure dates and grace periods as the J-1 principal. Also, should the J-1 principal be out of the US for more than 30 days at a time during the course of the program, the J-2 dependents cannot remain in the US without the J-1 principal.

Although family members usually enter as J-2 dependents, they are not required to do so. They may enter as tourists (B-2) or on another visa type if they qualify.  Funding requirements are specific to each visa classification.  While the B-2 visa may be appropriate for family members who will visit the US briefly, exchange visitors should not try to use the B-2 classification as a way to avoid meeting J-1 and J-2 funding or insurance requirements for family members.  B-2 holders have none of the advantages and protections given to J-2 dependents.  B-2 holders are authorized for only short stays and have specific end dates on their I-94 entry/departure record. This makes them vulnerable to overstays and unlawful presence if they do not exit the country before their visa expires.

Funding and Insurance

The Exchange Visitor and/or sponsor must demonstrate adequate financial support to cover living expenses, incidental expenses and health insurance for each dependent. 

2-Year Home Country Presence Requirement, 24-month Bar, Health Insurance

J-2 dependents are automatically subject to all rules and policies governing the Exchange Visitor Program and the J-1 principal.  This means J-2 dependents are subject to the 2-year home physical presence requirement, the 12- and 24-month bars which may affect future program participation and the mandatory health insurance requirement . It is extremely important that J-2 dependents provide proof of health insurance that meets the State Department minimum requirements for the entirety of their stay in the United States. Failure to provide adequate health insurance for J-2 dependents could lead to termination of the J-1 principal’s program.

Employment & Education

J-2 dependents accompanying research scholars for longer periods of time are permitted to apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS and may begin employment only after receiving the EAD from USCIS. This process can take several weeks.  For more information go to:

 J-2 Dependents may enroll in university courses and in public primary and secondary schools.  However, if a J-2 dependent intends on enrolling in a degree-seeking program as a full-time student, the student may have to seek a change of immigration status to an F-1 student visa.

Travel Outside the United States – Departures

After entering the United States on “J” status, J-1 and J-2 visa holders may travel outside the USA for short trips separately or together. They may re-enter on “J” status provided they still have valid passports, J visas and their DS-2019 forms are validated for travel by the IVP Specialist.  If the J visa has expired, a new J visa is required for re-entry and will need to be obtained in the visitor’s home country. It is not possible to obtain a new J visa while in the United States.

J-2 visa holders must reside with the J-1 principal as true “dependents” during their stay in the USA.  If the J-1 principal completes a program and leaves the USA permanently, the J-2 dependents must also depart the USA. The J-2 holder’s immigration status is directly tied to the J-1 principal’s immigration status.  A J-1 visa holder may travel outside the USA for a short period (i.e. for a conference or business trip), but may not leave J-2 dependents in the USA alone for more than 30 days. This would be a violation of program status and the J-1 and J-2 visa holders would automatically be considered “out of status,” the program would have to be terminated and they would have to depart the USA or file for reinstatement.   Research Scholars who have program periods of up to 5 years must maintain insurance for themselves and their J-2 dependents for the entire period of their program, including any periods of time they may spend outside the US.

Change of Status

The US Forest Service does not support or assist program participants wishing to change their immigration status/visa classification.  Restrictions and procedures for a J-2 dependent wishing to change status are the same as those followed by the J-1 principal, although in addition to documenting that the J-2 has maintained status, the J-2 must also submit proof that the J-1 has maintained status.