F-2 Dependents Overview

  • F-2 is a spouse or an unmarried minor child (younger than 21) of an F-1 student.
  • Not eligible to work in the U.S.
  • Not eligible for a Social Security Number (but can apply for an ITIN number for income tax purposes).
  • Minor children may attend public school in the U.S. (kindergarten through Grade 12 only).
  • An F-2 spouse may NOT study in a program with an educational objective, but can take courses of an avocational or recreational nature.
  • May apply for a change to F-1 status, if admitted into a program of study in the U.S. and issued a Form I-20, but may not begin classes until changed to F-1 status.
  • Any name changes of F-2s must be reported to the ISSO and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) within 10 days.
  • F-2s will remain in legal status as long as they have not violated status requirements AND the associated F-1 visa holder remains in legal status.


F-2 dependents are not eligible for employment.


If dependents are traveling to Canada or Mexico for less than 30 days, please speak with an ISS Specialist regarding visa revalidation before traveling.

If dependents are traveling to a country other than their home country, they may need to obtain a tourist visa for that country.

F-2 visa holders who plan to temporarily leave the U.S. will need re-entry documentation to return to the U.S.

  • A current passport with valid entry visa stamp
  • A current, valid dependent I-20 with a valid travel signature obtained from ISSO before traveling.  If the F-1 student has changed their program of study, degree level, or had a significant change in financial status, he or she needs to get an updated I-20 from ISSO for themselves and their dependents.  Please see the F-1 Maintain Status page for more information. 
  • Evidence of the funding noted on the I-20
  • An unofficial academic transcript of the F-1 student (and a photocopy of the EAD, if the F-1 student holds OPT).

Initial Travel to the U.S.

You will need a valid passport and visa along with supporting documentation to enter the U.S. You will also be subject to secondary inspection upon arrival (see Arriving in the U.S. below).

Canadian citizens do not need a visa.

If you have questions about what documents are needed visit the embassy or consulate where you'll apply for your visa.

Arriving in the U.S.

U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security is using secondary inspections to verify SEVIS status.

If you have an I-20 when you arrive in the U.S. you will be sent to a secondary inspection where immigration officials can confirm that your SEVIS record is active. Secondary inspection will be normal procedure until a new SEVIS verification system is in place.

Expect delays. Allow extra time for connecting flights; current estimates are 1–3 hours to get through Immigration.

Travel Within the U.S.

Whenever you travel, even in the U.S., you should carry your original passport and any supporting documentation with you.

Leaving/Re-entering the U.S.

You will need to renew an expired visa before returning to the United States. Details can be found on embassy or consulate websites. Security checks for visa renewals may take several months. If you are planning to travel from the U.S. to Canada or Mexico and your visa has expired, speak with an ISS Specialist before you leave.

If you are traveling from the U.S. to a country other than your home country, you may need to apply for a visa at the embassy of the country you're visiting.

To re-enter the U.S. after a temporary departure, you must have a valid passport and visa and any supporting documentation. You will also be subject to secondary inspection (see Arriving in the U.S. on this page).