The F-2 visa is a unique visa designed exclusively for the dependents of F-1 student visa holders. If your spouse or parent is attending school in the United States, then you may qualify for an F-2 visa, in which case you can join your family member in the United States for the duration of that person’s studies.

Who Qualifies for an F-2 Visa?

The F-2 visa is available to certain qualified dependents of an F-1 student visa holder. Sometimes, the F-1 visa holder will apply for the F-1 visa and get approved before you start submitting your F-2 visa paperwork. In other cases, you can apply for the F-1 and F-2 visas jointly.

To qualify for an F-2 visa, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Be the spouse of an approved F-1 visa holder
  • Be the unmarried child under 21 years of age of an approved F-1 visa holder
  • Have the financial means to support your family during your stay in the United States

As with any visa, F-2 visa applicants will also be required to provide certain documents before being approved for an F-2 visa. You may also need to attend an in-person interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate.

F-2 Visa Requirements

F-2 visa requirements include all of the following:

  • Your current and previous passports
  • Photocopies of your passport pages
  • The DS-160 confirmation page
  • Proof of financial stability, including bank account statements, tax records, paystubs from an employer, and other information
  • A qualified photograph taken within the last six months
  • A confirmation of your embassy interview time
  • A copy of your I-20 form and an extra copy
  • A copy of the F-1 visa holder’s F-1 visa
  • A copy of the F-1 visa holder’s I-20 form
  • A copy of the F-1 visa holder’s passport (if you are filing your F-2 form separately from the F-1 visa applicant)
  • An original, valid marriage certificate proving you are the genuine spouse of the F-1 visa holder
  • An original, valid birth certificate proving that you are the child of the F-1 visa holder
  • Additional proof that you are genuinely married to the F-1 student visa holder, including a wedding album, wedding guest list, receipt for wedding expenses, and receipt for honeymoon trips; or, if you were married at a registration office, then you will need to submit a wedding affidavit and provide pictures of you and your spouse with the wedding witnesses

If you have all of the above paperwork and you are legitimately trying to enter the U.S. as a dependent of the F-1 student visa holder, then you should have no trouble getting an F-2 visa and joining your parent or spouse in the United States for the duration of their studies.

How to Apply for an F-2 Visa

Here’s the step-by-step guide for completing the F-2 visa process:

Step 1) Get a Form I-20: The F-1 visa holder will receive a form I-20 letter after they get accepted to an SEVP-list institution. This form verifies that the applicant has been accepted to the American school. The form I-20 explains details of the program, including the cost, the length of the program, and other information. The F-1 visa holder should tell the educational institution that he or she plans to apply for an F-2 visa. Once you have form I-20, you can proceed with the rest of the F-2 visa application process as normal.

Step 2) Complete the Online DS-160 Form: The DS-160 form is available online from your local U.S. embassy’s website. The form is the standard form for all non-immigrant visas to enter the United States. Provide all necessary information, then save and print the confirmation page once the form is completed.

Step 3) Pay the Visa Application Fee: The F-2 visa comes with a fee of $160 USD, which is similar to most other U.S. visas. You must pay this fee to proceed with your application. Without this fee, you cannot schedule an interview with a U.S. embassy. The F-2 visa applicant only has to pay this visa application fee, although the F-1 visa applicant pays both the visa application fee and a $200 SEVIS I-901 fee (F-2 applicants do not receive a SEVIS number and are exempt from this fee).

Step 4) Schedule your Visa Interview: You can schedule your visa interview at the same time as the F-1 visa holder (if applying together). Or, your interviews can be conducted separately. Generally, it’s recommended that F-2 visa applicants apply jointly with F-1 visa applicants and conduct the interview at the same time. Once your interview has been scheduled, you will receive a confirmation letter. Save and print this letter as you’ll need it at the U.S. embassy.

Step 5) Gather Required Documents: As an F-2 visa applicant, you may be required to bring all of the documents listed above to your interview. Gather all of these documents together prior to your embassy interview.

Step 6) Attend your Interview: Your interview will take place at the U.S. embassy. You will go through a security checkpoint at the U.S. embassy. Then, your fingerprints may be taken. A consular officer will conduct your interview. During the interview, the officer will ask questions about your application. Answer truthfully. At the end of the interview, the officer may tell you that your visa has been approved or denied. Or, it may take several days or weeks to process your visa.

How Long Does It Take to Process an F-2 Visa?

Sometimes, an F-2 visa can be processed before your interview at the embassy. In this case, the interview is the final stage of the application process. The consular officer will tell you whether your F-2 visa has been approved or denied when you complete the interview.

Sometimes, an F-2 visa application may take longer to process. You might have to wait several days or weeks for the application process to be complete.

Generally, both F-1 and F-2 visas are processed relatively quickly compared to other U.S. visas.

How Long Does an F-2 Visa Last?

An F-2 visa is directly connected to the F-1 visa. Generally, the F-2 visa expires at the same time as the F-1 visa, which typically expires once the educational program is complete. If your spouse or parent’s F-1 visa is valid for two years, then your F-2 visa will be valid for two years (in most cases).

In some cases, the F-1 visa holder will extend his or her stay by getting a new form I-20. As a dependent of the F-1 visa holder, this extension will also apply to you.

You can renew your F-2 visa by filing form I-539. To qualify for a renewal, you may be required to attach proof of your relationship with the F-1 visa holder. You may also be required to provide financial evidence proving you have sufficient funds to cover your stay.

Can I Change My Status to an F-1 Visa as an F-2 Visa Holder?

As an F-2 visa holder, you can apply to change your visa status to an F-1 visa. If you get accepted to an SEVP-list academic institution, then you can apply for an F-1 visa and change your status.

What Happens If I Turn 21 While in the United States On an F-2 Visa?

You can apply for an F-2 visa as the unmarried child of the F-1 visa holder under age 21. But what happens if you turn 21 while in the United States?

In this case, you need to apply for a different visa to remain in the United States (or you can simply return home). If you do not qualify for a different type of visa, then you will need to leave the United States.

Can I Get a Green Card with an F-2 Visa?

Generally, an F-2 visa is not a path to a green card. However, there are certain situations where an F-2 visa holder can turn into a lawful permanent resident (i.e. a green card holder).

If the F-1 visa holder applies for and receives a green card (i.e. lawful permanent resident status), then the F-2 visa holder, as the F-1 visa holder’s dependent, will also automatically receive a green card.

There are two other feasible ways to get a green card in the United States: you can marry a U.S. citizen and change your immigration status. Or, you can find an employer willing to sponsor you for an H-1B visa.

What Are the Limitations of an F-2 Visa?

Like other dependency visas, there are certain limitations to an F-2 visa. The F-2 visa is exclusively intended to keep families together while one family member is studying in the United States, which is why the abilities of an F-2 visa holder are limited. Limitations include all of the following:

You Cannot Work: F-2 visa holders are not permitted to work in the United States. In order to qualify for an F-2 visa, the F-1 visa holder must demonstrate that he or she can cover the living expenses of his or her family when they come to the United States. You can volunteer or do unpaid work, but you are not permitted to receive payment in exchange for work or enter into any employment agreement.

You Cannot Enroll in School: You cannot enroll in school with an F-2 visa. However, you can take certain non-credit bearing courses – like a cooking class.

Children Cannot Enroll in High School: If you are the unmarried child under 21 of an F-1 visa holder, then you cannot enroll in high school while in the United States. You are, however, permitted to complete elementary and secondary school. If you wish to complete high school in the United States, then you will need to apply for a change of status.

You Cannot Travel to the United States Before the F-1 Visa Holder Arrives: You must arrive in the United States with the F-1 visa holder or after the F-1 visa holder has already arrived. You cannot travel to the U.S. before the F-1 visa holder arrives. Interestingly, there are no other travel restrictions for the F-2 visa holder. The F-2 visa holder can leave and enter the country anytime regardless of whether they are accompanied by the F-1 visa holder.