F-2 visas are issued to the spouse and minor children (under 21 years old) of foreign students who have been granted F-1 visas. The F-2 visa's purpose is to allow dependents of foreign students to accompany them while they are studying in the United States.
How Do I Obtain an F-2 Visa for My Spouse/Minor Children?
In order to obtain an F-2 visa, you must show that your spouse or minor children are your dependents and that your finances are adequate to support them during your stay as a student in the U.S.
To apply for an F-2 visa, you should contact your school's international student office, and have them issue you an I-20 form. The school will probably ask you for documentation proving the relationship between you and your dependents, such as a marriage or birth certificate. You also have to prove that you have sufficient financial resources to support your dependents. This can be proved with bank statements, pay stubs, or affidavits.
Once you get an I-20, your dependents need to bring the I-20 and the necessary paperwork to a U.S. embassy or consulate for a non-immigrant visa interview. Generally, children under the age of 14 do not need to go to the interview, however that may change depending on the consulate officer.
What Can You Do on an F-2 Visa?
Dependents on an F-2 visa cannot study full time at the post-secondary level (college). In order to be able to study for a degree, the dependent will have to apply for an F-1 visa. However, children are allowed to attend K-12 schools full time and spouses are allowed to take part-time classes that are vocational or recreational (such as cooking or language classes).
Additionally, those who are on an F-2 visa can travel outside of the U.S. As long as the dependent has an unexpired visa and properly signed I-20s, they can leave and re-enter the U.S. as long as the visa remains valid.
While a person on an F-1 visa can work in the U.S., a person on an F-2 visa cannot work, unless it is in a unpaid or volunteer position. In order to work, an F-2 visa holder will have to apply for an employment visa.
Can I Change from an F-2 to F-1 Visa?
Yes, you change your visa status from F-2 to F-1 if you intend to study full-time in the U.S. To do this, you must apply to and be accepted by a school in the U.S. The school should then send you an I-20 Form which you should submit along with an USCIS Form I-539 (Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status) to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You will have to prove that you have the financial resources to cover the cost of your education in the U.S.
Do I Need an Immigration Attorney?
Your dependents' status as F-2 visa holders is dependent on your visa status as an F-1 visa holder. So if your F-1 visa expires, your dependents’ F-2 visas expire as well. If you or a loved one needs assistance with a visa application, you should contact an immigration lawyer. An experienced immigration lawyer can walk you through all the requirements for an F-2 visa and help you with obtaining one. Also, if you are denied a visa, a lawyer will be able to explain what other visa options are available to you and will be able to help you with the application.