Understanding the F-2 Visa: Requirements & Opportunities for Spouses & Children of Foreign Students

If you would like to study and live in the United States, you will likely apply for an F-1 visa after applying to a college or university. While some foreign students will travel alone to America to complete their coursework, others would like to take their immediate family with them or have their family join them at a later date.

Under federal regulations, their spouse and minor children (unmarried children under the age of 21) may also travel to and live in the United States after being approved for an F-2 visa.

Can a person holding an F-2 visa work?

No. Although students with F-1 visa status are allowed to hold on-campus jobs and certain types of limited off-campus jobs, those with F-2 status are not allowed to work either on or off campus, either full- or part-time. They are, however, allowed to hold unpaid volunteer positions as long as the positions have a history of being unpaid in the past.

If the spouse or child of an F-1 visa holder would like to work, they need to apply for an employment visa.

Can a person holding an F-2 visa attend school?

No, an F-2 visa holder is not allowed to attend post-secondary school, though they can take part-time recreational courses that are lesson or hobby oriented (such as swimming lessons or sewing lessons).

Children of F-1 visa holders may attend elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools, K-12. To attend college, or when they turn 21, they must seek a different visa.

Can a person holding an F-2 visa travel?

Yes, anyone with a current F-2 visa may leave to travel outside of the United States and then re-enter freely. They may also travel to meet their spouse or parent with F-1 status after the spouse or parent has left for the United States. The F-2 visa holder may also stay in the United States while the F-1 visa holder travels outside the country as long as the F-1 visa is current and the student plans on returning while the visa is still valid.

Vaughan de Kirby
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San Francisco California EB-5 Investment Immigration Attorney