Unmarried children under 21 years of age and spouses of J-1 exchange visitors (EVs) are eligible for J-2 status. Children can no longer stay in the U.S. as J-2 dependents once they turn 21. In order to remain in the U.S., the child must change to a different nonimmigrant visa status (e.g. F-1 student, B-2 visitor).
The EV is responsible for financially supporting the J-2 dependents while they are in the U.S. If the EV’s salary, stipend, or other income will not cover the minimum funding requirements for J-2 dependents, the EV must submit evidence of additional adequate financial support before FSIS can issue DS-2019s for family members.
The minimum funding amounts for J-2 dependents are:
- $700 per month for spouse
- $500 per month for each child
When family members apply for J-2 visas, the U.S. embassy/consulate will determine whether the family has sufficient funds to cover living costs in the U.S. If the consular officer has a reason to think a prospective J-2 dependent has a prior intention of working in the U.S. to provide financial support, the J-2 visa may be denied. The officer may also expect the family to have funds set aside for return airfare before traveling to the U.S.
Obtaining & extending J-2 status
The UH department should include the J-2 dependents in the initial DS-2019 request being submitted for the exchange visitor (EV) so FSIS can issue a DS-2019 for each person. Ideally, J-2 family members should travel with the EV to the U.S. at the start of the program, but it is also possible for dependents to arrive after the EV has already started the program. If J-2 family members will be following to join the EV after the program begins, the UH department may submit a DS-2019 request for “J-2 dependents arriving separately” to FSIS through the HR specialist.
Extensions of J-2 status may be granted only if the department will request an extension of the EV’s J-2 status. In such a case, the UH department should include the J-2 dependents’ information in the DS-2019 extension request for the EV so that each person can receive their own extension DS-2019.
Employment for J-2 dependents
After arriving in the U.S., a J-2 dependent who finds it necessary to work for their own support may apply for employment authorization with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Any income earned by a J-2 dependent may be used only to support the J-2 dependents – the J-2 may not work to support the J-1 exchange visitor (EV). USCIS generally takes 3-5 months to process work authorization applications; there is no guarantee of approval. If approved, USCIS will issue an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), which functions as proof of work authorization. The J-2 dependent may begin working only after receiving the EAD.
To apply for work authorization, J-2 dependents may file Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization with USCIS. Before completing the I-765, the J-2 dependent should carefully review the I-765 instructions. After thoroughly reading the instructions, the J-2 should follow these procedures:
- Complete the I-765.
- Attach supporting documents to the I-765:
- Brief cover letter explaining the reasons for requesting work authorization and providing a list of the I-765 attachments;
- Copy of the J-2’s current I-94 from CBP’s I-94 website;
- Copy of the J-2’s current DS-2019;
- Copy of the biodata/photo page of the J-2’s passport;
- Copy of the J-1 EV’s current DS-2019;
- Copies of the front and back sides of the J-2’s last EAD(s) (EAD renewals only);
- Documentation proving the J-2’s income will not support the EV (e.g. EV’s financial document(s) showing dates and amounts of payments from funding source); and
- Two passport-style photographs.
- Staple a filing fee check/money order from a U.S. bank, payable in U.S. dollars to the “U.S. Department of Homeland Security” to the bottom right corner of the first page of the I-765. The filing fee is currently $410, subject to change — review the I-765 instructions to confirm.
- Make a copy of the entire application packet for personal records.
- Mail the Form I-765 with the fee and supporting documents to the proper USCIS mailing address. USCIS will issue a receipt notice upon accepting the I-765 for adjudication. The J-2 should keep this notice as a record of the receipt number, which can be used to check the status of the application.
After mailing the I-765 to USCIS, the J-2 dependent should not leave the U.S. until USCIS reaches a decision on the application. If the application is approved, USCIS will mail the EAD to the address entered on the I-765. The J-2 dependent can use the EAD to work in the U.S.
EADs are not automatically renewed when a J-2 dependent’s DS-2019 is extended. At least 120 days before the EAD expires, the J-2 dependent should apply for renewal of the EAD by filing another I-765 application with USCIS .
Study permitted for J-2 dependents
J-2 dependents may undertake full-time study in the U.S., including in K-12 programs.
Ending J-2 status
At the end of the program, J-2 dependents are expected to leave the U.S. and return to their home country with the exchange visitor (EV) to carry out the exchange of skills and knowledge. Upon completion of the program, some EVs and their J-2 dependents may become subject to the two-year home country residence requirement, which will prevent them from immediately applying for an H-1B visa or for U.S. permanent residence until they have resided in their country of citizenship for at least two years. Depending on the length of the program and/or the J-1 category the EV held, some EVs and their J-2 dependents may also be subject to the 12-month or 24-month bar on repeat participation as J-1 professors or research scholars.
Changes of status
Some J-2 dependents may wish to change their nonimmigrant status due to opportunities that arise during their stay in the U.S. This is possible as long as the J-2 dependent is not subject to the two-year residence requirement and is otherwise eligible for an in-country change of status. If the J-2 is not eligible for an in-country change of status, they must leave the U.S., apply for the appropriate visa, and then reenter the U.S. in the desired nonimmigrant status.
Though the situation is rare, a J-2 dependent may want to change to J-1 status. This usually arises when a university offers a J-2 a scholarship or graduate assistantship in which F-1 student status is not an option. If the J-1 professor or research scholar categories are being considered, the J-2 dependent should check to see if they are subject to the 12-month or 24-month bar to confirm eligibility for these categories.