Dependents (Spouse & Children)

Only spouses and children (under 21) may come as dependents of the F-1 or J-1 visa holder.  Health insurance is mandatory for accompanying dependents. The B-2 (visitor) visa is applicable for parents, siblings, domestic partners, and other family members who wish to visit you.  ISSA cannot issue documents for B-2 visitor visas or advise on B-2 issues.

General Information for Dependents

Financial Guarantee Requirements for Dependents

If you bring a spouse or children as dependents, you are fully responsible for their financial support.  Be prepared to show additional proof of funds on your Financial Guarantee.  The high cost of child care is not included in the child expenses figures.

Health Insurance

Health insurance is mandatory at Penn State for international students and any accompanying dependents.  For additional information, refer to Insurance Requirement for International Students and Insurance Information for Eligible Dependents.

Services for Your Spouse

There are some services available to spouses within the community. Information on these services can be obtained through Global Connections.

Child Care

Child care is an important consideration. Penn State offers quality day care opportunities, but the cost is high, and the waitlist is long. Some Child Care Resources are available.  

Travel (F-2 and J-2)

  • If you request a travel signature, the approval is also for your F-2 or J-2 dependents.  Bring the (F-2) I-20 or (J-2) DS-2019 to DISSA for signature with the approval email.
  • If only the dependents are traveling, you must request a travel signature through iStart.
  • While traveling, dependents should carry the following: I-20 or DS-2019 with travel signature, valid passport, and valid F-2 or J-2 visa. Also recommended are financial information and proof of student’s enrollment. 

Ending Dependent Status

The dependent’s immigration status is directly related to the primary visa holder.  An adviser will ask for proof that the dependent has returned home, changed status, or is legally divorced before terminating the immigration record.

The dependent’s status ends when:

  • The F-1 or J-1 visa status ends.
  • The dependent decides to leave the U.S. permanently or for an extended period.
  • If spouses become separated/divorced
    • Remember, the purpose of the dependent visa is to accompany the primary. If this is no longer the case, the dependent should exit the U.S. or change to a different visa category.

F-2 Dependent Information

Each dependent must have his or her own I-20, to enter the U.S. in F-2 status. 

Health Insurance

Health insurance is mandatory for accompanying dependents.


F-2 dependents cannot work under any circumstances.


An F-2 spouse can only study less than full time.  Full-time enrollment requires a change of visa status to F-1.

F-2 children may study full time in kindergarten through the 12th grade. F-2 children who have completed high school and are under 21 can only study part-time. F-2 children who wish to study full time beyond high school level must apply for a change of status to F-1.

J-2 Dependent Information

Are my dependents eligible for a J-2 visa? 

The J-2 Visa is a nonimmigrant visa for the spouse or the unmarried child under the age of 21 of a J-1 visa holder.  This visa will allow your dependents to accompany or later join you to live in the United States during your J-1 program.  

If your spouse and/or children will only be visiting you for a short period, they may wish to apply for a tourist visa.  See the Department of State for more information. 

What is the health insurance requirement for J-2 dependents? 

Willful failure to purchase and maintain the required insurance coverage for your J-2 dependents will result in the termination of your exchange program. More information:

Can my J-2 dependent work in the United States? 

Before you start the process for J-2 dependent work authorization, read our handout:

J-2 Dependent Flyer (MS Word)

J-2 Dependent Flyer (PDF)

J-2 dependents cannot begin to work, either on-campus or off-campus, until they receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).This card is issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  Currently, USCIS takes three to four months to process the application and issue the EAD.

Visa regulations 8CFR 214.2 (j)(1)(v)(A) stipulate that your J-2 dependent’s earnings must be used for recreational and cultural activities and/or travel expenses.   In other words, these earnings cannot be used to support you. 

How does my J-2 dependent obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD)? 

Step 1:  

Assemble the following: 

  1. Check made payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security" in the amount of $410.  Refer to "Filing Fee" on the I-765 webpage as this amount may change. 
  2. Form G-1145 E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance signed by your J-2 dependent 
  3. Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization signed by your J-2 dependent 
  4. Two passport-style photographs – Using a pencil or felt-tip pen, lightly print your J-2’s name and date of birth on the back of each photo 
  5. Copy of your passport biographical page, J-1 visa stamp, DS-2019, and I-94 
  6. Copy of your J-2 dependent’s passport biographical page, J-2 visa stamp, DS-2019 and I-94 
  7. Copy of your marriage certificate with translation (in the case of a J-2 child, a birth certificate) 
  8. Copy of the offer letter If your J-2 already has a job offer
  9. Copy of all EAD cards your J-2 held in the past
  10. A signed and dated personal statement from your J-2 dependent that includes: 
  • The reason he or she wishes to work; 
  • That you have adequate funds to cover living expenses and medical insurance; and 
  • That any earned income will not be used to support you.

Step 2: 

Make a copy of the application for your records. 

Step 3: 

Review your application before mailing it to USCIS. (USCIS does not currently accept electronic submission of form I-765 for J-2 dependents.) Refer to "Where to File" on the I-765 webpage as the addresses may change. 

What happens after I mail the application to USCIS? 

Your J-2 dependent will receive an email within 24 hours after USCIS accepts your application.  This email will contain a case number that you can use to  check the progress of the application.  In addition, within 10 days, your J-2 dependent will receive a receipt notice to your mailing address. 

When the application is processed and approved, the EAD will be sent to your mailing address.  Unfortunately, unlike other immigration statuses, a J-2 cannot work without the physical EAD card in hand.  A J-2 cannot work with a receipt notice.

Your J-2 dependent’s EAD will be valid for 12 months or until the expiration of the DS-2019, whichever occurs first.   

If your J-1 program is extended, your J-2 dependent must apply again to USCIS to renew the EAD.