The J-2 visa is a non-immigrant visa designed specifically for the dependents of J-1 visa holders.
The J-1 visa program covers a wide range of categories, including professors visiting the United States on an exchange program, doctors completing training in the U.S., au pairs, camp counselors, and more. To qualify for a J-1 visa, you need to be part of an organization that has received approval from the U.S. Department of State.
If you are a dependent of a J-1 visa holder, then you may qualify for a J-2 visa. The J-2 visa allows you to visit the United States with the J-1 visa holder. Like other dependency visas, your J-2 visa lasts as long as the J-1 visa. Plus, any changes to the status of the J-1 visa holder can also lead to a change in status for the J-2 visa holder.
There are no caps on the J-2 visa. Additionally, a J-2 visa holder can enter and leave the United States any time (although they must arrive with or after the J-1 visa holder).
Who Qualifies for a J-2 Visa?
Generally, the following two groups of people will qualify for a J-2 visa to enter the United States as a non-immigrant:
- The spouse of a J-1 visa holder
- The unmarried children under 21 years of age of a J-1 visa holder
Generally, if your parent or spouse is visiting the United States on a J-1 visa, then you may qualify for a J-2 visa. However, there are many different categories of J-1 visas, and rules can vary widely across categories.
Certain organizations, for example, may prevent you from getting a J-2 visa even if you legitimately meet one of the above categories. Additionally, you must be legally and legitimately married to your spouse in order for the individual to qualify for a J-2 visa.
To qualify for a J-2 visa, you also need to prove that you have health insurance. Most exchange programs provide health insurance to J-1 visa applicants (or connect J-1 visa applicants with an employer who guarantees health insurance). However, this health insurance may not expend to dependents visiting on a J-2 visa. Confirm that you have health insurance coverage prior to beginning the J-2 visa application process.
Keep reading to determine if you qualify for a J-2 visa.
Can All J-1 Visa Holders Bring Over Dependents on a J-2 Visa?
There are different rules across J-1 visa categories, and not all J-1 visa holders can bring dependents to the United States. Certain individuals receive J-1 visas when studying secondary school (high school) in the United States, for example. These individuals cannot bring dependents to the U.S.
The J-1 visa categories that do not allow dependents to enter the United States on a J-2 visa include:
- Secondary school students
- Camp counselors
- Au pairs
- Work and travel participants
- Other J-1 visa holders sponsored by certain organizations
The United States government isn’t necessarily discriminating against these categories; instead, all of these categories are typically for younger visitors to the United States. Most young visitors do not have any dependents.
Additionally, other J-1 visa categories may technically allow dependents to visit the United States with you on a J-2 visa according to the U.S. Department of State. However, your J-1 visa organization may forbid you from bringing a dependent. If you are visiting the U.S. as a university student, for example, then there is nothing forbidding you from bringing a spouse, but your organization may not allow you to bring a dependent on a J-2 visa.
How to Apply for a J-2 Visa
Applying for a J-2 visa is straightforward and similar to any visa application process. The J-1 visa applicant does most of the heavy lifting.
Step 1) Receive the DS-2019 Form: The J-1 visa applicant will be asked if he or she is bringing dependents to the United States on a J-2 visa. If the applicant is bringing dependents, then the applicant will receive a separate DS-2019 form. You need this form to continue with the J-2 visa application.
Step 2) Complete the DS-160 Form: The DS-160 form is the standard form for all non-immigrant visas to the United States. You can complete the form online by visiting the website of your local U.S. embassy or consulate. Once the form is complete, you will receive a confirmation document and barcode. Keep and print this information.
Step 3) Pay the Fee: The J-2 visa comes with a mandatory application fee of $160 USD. Pay the fee and keep the receipt confirming your payment.
Step 4) Schedule an Interview: All J-2 visa applicants will need to complete an in-person interview with a nearby U.S. embassy or consulate. Schedule the interview. You may wish to schedule the interview at the same time as the J-1 visa applicant.
Step 5) Collect Documents: Collect various documents prior to your interview, including all of the following possible requirements:
- DS-160 form barcode
- Interview confirmation letter
- One photograph
- All SEVIS pages and a copy of your DS-2019 form
- A copy of the J-1 visa applicant’s DS-2019 form
- A copy of the DS-7002 form (only required if the J-1 visa holder is an intern or trainee)
- Marriage certificate proving you are legitimately married to the J-1 visa holder
- Wedding album and other proof of a valid and legal marriage, including a guest list or receipts from your wedding expenses
- Photograph of marriage witnesses and a copy of the affidavit (if married at a registrar)
- Valid birth certificates for any dependent children seeking J-2 visas
- Proof of sufficient finances to cover your trip to the United States
Step 6) Attend the Interview: Arrive at the U.S. embassy. Go through the security screening checkpoint and wait for your name or number to be called. Your fingerprints may be taken before the interview. The consular officer will ask questions related to your trip to the United States, including questions about your relationship with the J-1 visa holder.
How Long Does It Take to Process the J-2 Visa?
J-2 visa processing times vary depending on the caseload of your local U.S. embassy or consulate. Generally, exchange program organizations will tell you to expect processing times of 3 to 5 weeks.
Once your J-2 visa application has been successfully processed, you will receive your passport via courier, including the J-2 visa inside.
How Long Does My J-2 Visa Last?
The J-2 visa is a dependency visa, which means its validity typically extends as long as the J-1 holder’s visa.
If your parent or spouse’s J-1 visa is valid for two years, then your J-2 visa should be valid for two years as well.
If the J-1 visa holder chooses to apply for an extension, then the J-2 visa holder can also apply for an extension. Both the J-1 and J-2 visa holders will receive a new DS-2019 form when the extension is approved.
Most J-1 visas also have a two year home residency requirement. This requirement extends to J-2 visa applicants as well. This requirement means that you must return to your home country and remain there for two years before you re-apply for another J-1 visa. However, you are eligible to return to the United States on a standard business (B-1) or tourist (B-2) visa.
Can I Get a Green Card with a J-2 Visa?
A J-2 visa is not considered a path to permanent residency. However, in some cases, a J-2 visa applicant may be able to remain in the United States by changing their status.
You can find a job that is willing to sponsor you on an H-1B visa, for example, and apply for that job. Since J-2 visa holders are permitted to work in certain circumstances, you may be able to impress an employer who is then willing to sponsor you for an H-1B visa.
The primary way in which a J-2 visa holder gets a green card is if the J-1 visa holder gets a green card. In that case, you will be eligible to apply for a green card as a J-2 visa holder.
Waivers Are Available to Some J-2 Visa Applicants
A J-2 visa waiver may allow you to renew or extend your J-2 visa (or change your status) without action from the J-1 visa holder. Generally, if the J-1 visa holder receives a waiver, then you will receive a waiver as well because you are their dependent. However, there are certain situations where a J-2 visa holder may apply for a waiver, including:
- The J-1 visa holder has died and you can provide a valid death certificate
- You divorced the J-1 visa holder and can provide valid divorce paperwork
- You are the dependent child of the J-1 visa holder and have reached 21 years of age and can provide a valid birth certificate
Can I Work with a J-2 Visa? How Does the J-2 EAD Work?
J-2 visa holders are permitted to work in the United States, although they must first receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). The EAD is available only after the J-2 visa holder has arrived in the United States.
To apply for an EAD, you will need the following documents:
- Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization
- Copies of your DS-2019 form, I-94 form, and passport
- Copies of the J-1 visa holder’s DS-2019 form, I-94 form, and passport
- Two photographs
- Marriage certificate
- A letter from your employer confirming the job offer (not required; some people get a job offer before applying for an EAD while others do not)
- A copy of your last EAD (if applicable)
You will also need to submit a statement explaining your reason for applying for an EAD. The most important thing to remember about this statement is not to indicate financial necessity. You were permitted in the country on a J-1/J-2 visa because you proved you had the financial means to support yourself while in the United States. Your letter can mention things like being productive, experience U.S. culture, getting to travel, or earning extra spending money, for example.
You will also need to pay a fee before receiving your EAD.
You are not permitted to use your salary to supplement the income of the J-1 visa applicant.
Once you have been granted your Employment Authorization Document (EAD), you are permitted to engage in full-time or part-time work within the United States. Some people search for work only after getting their EAD. Others receive a job offer before applying for an EAD.
As a J-2 visa holder with an EAD, you can apply for any job unless that job specifically requires you to be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. You can work off-campus from where the J-1 visa holder is studying, for example, or anywhere else you can find employment.
With your EAD, you can also apply for a Social Security Number (SSN). You are obligated to pay taxes on income you earn in the United States. If your work term is expected to last beyond the expiry date of your J-2 visa, then you can apply to renew your DS-2019 form.