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One of the nonimmigrant visas granted by the US is the F-2 visa, which permits the spouse or unmarried child of an F-1 student visa holder to reside in the country. The student may bring their spouse or unmarried child to the United States to reside with them as a dependent until the end of their study.

Prior to receiving the F-2 visa, the applicant needs to fulfill a few eligibility and financial requirements. As long as the family member still has F-1 status, the dependent with an F-2 visa is permitted to travel within and outside of the country, study part-time, and remain in the country.

The total number of F-2 visas that the USCIS approves each year is uncapped. Should the candidate fulfill the requirements, their application will be considered.

In order to obtain an F2 Visa, it is crucial to show that the potential  F1 Visa holder has enough funds to take care of their dependents and support themselves during their time in the US.

US immigration services will want to see proof of adequate financial resources to manage tuition, living costs, and travel for the entire family. Documentation of financing or a recent bank statement (no older than three months) in U.S. dollars demonstrating at least $13,403 for a spouse and $6,701 per child will be required.

Reach out to IAS if you are unclear about the financial requirements for a successful F2 Visa application and to avoid any potential delays to your loved one joining you in the US.

In order to show proof of financial ability for an F2 Visa, the following documents must be provided:

  • Family bank statements.
  • Documentation from a sponsor showing their financial support (If applicable).
  • Financial sponsorship letters.
  • Scholarship letters of F1 Visa holder.
  • Letter from an employer showing annual salary.

You may also be required to provide a copy of a bank account verification letter. This letter must contain the following:

  • Your full legal name
  • The full name(s) of the individual(s) you’re financially sponsoring
  • Your banking account number
  • The date of your bank account’s created
  • The type of your bank account
  • The present balance of your account
  • Your average account balance is typically calculated over the past three, six, or twelve months.

Apart from the funds you must show for the F2 Visa, there are some other costs you need to be aware of. For each F2 Visa application, there is an application fee of $185. Upon making this payment, you’ll receive a receipt that confirms your transaction; be sure to retain this for future reference.

Although individuals with an F1 Visa must pay the SEVIS I-901 fee of $350, those applying for an F2 Visa are not obligated to pay this fee.

There may be additional costs that vary based on the specific U.S. Embassy or country from where you are applying, which could include fees for visa issuance or reciprocity. Reach out to IAS for the latest information on potential costs.

How to Get F-2 Visas for Your Spouse and Minor Children

If you are an F-1 visa holder planning to bring your spouse or minor children with you to the U.S. during your educational program, ask the DSO at your school or university to issue Form I-20s for each family member who intends to travel with you.

Each dependent will need to complete the visa application or DS-160 and pay the $160 application fee. They will then need to schedule interviews with the U.S. consulate or embassy.

F-2 visa applicants must bring enough evidence to show their identities and their relationship with the F-1 international student. When you go to your interview for an F-2 visa, you will need to bring all of the following documents with you:

  • An original valid passport and photocopies
  • Form DS-160
  • Passport photo
  • For children of F-1 visa holders, their birth certificates
  • For spouses of F-1 visa holders, their marriage certificates
  • Payment receipt for the visa application
  • Form I-20
  • Photocopy of the F-1 student’s I-20 form
  • Evidence of your finances such as tax records, bank statements, and salary statements

Applying for an F-2 Visa

The process of applying for an F-2 visa is fairly straightforward. Below is the application process in easy-to-follow steps to help you prepare for what you need to do.

1. Obtain a Form I-20 from the approved school

The DSO is normally responsible for handing out Form I-20s for you and your dependents at an approved university or educational institution.

Read Also: How Can I Change my H4 Visa to F1 Visa

You may have to inform the DSO of your intention to bring your spouse and/or minor children with you with nonimmigrant dependent F-2 visas, after which you and your dependents will each be provided with your own Form I-20 to fill out.

2. Complete the online Form DS-160

After you have received your Form I-20, the next step is to complete Form DS-160, the application for a nonimmigrant visa. Have in mind that you won’t be able to complete Form DS-160 without the Form I-20 from your SEVP-approved school.

Form DS-160 can only be completed and submitted online on the Consular Electronic Application Center of the U.S. Department of State (DOS). 

After you fill out this application form and submit it, you’ll be taken to a confirmation page that generates a unique barcode for your application. Print this barcode and bring it with you to your visa interview appointment. The information that you provide on your visa application will be used to process it.

3. Pay the visa application fee

Each dependent for whom you are requesting an F-2 visa for will have to pay the application fee of $160. Depending on your home country, you may also have to pay a visa issuance fee. Once you’ve made the payments that apply to you, keep the receipts; you’ll need them later on during your interview at the U.S. consulate or embassy.

4. Schedule your visa interview

After you have completed your visa application and paid your fees, the next step is to schedule a visa interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate in your country of residence. Visa interviews are usually held on a first-come, first-serve basis and may be scheduled for months in advance. This makes it important for you to schedule your appointment early. Once you schedule your interview, a confirmation will be sent to your email. You will need to print this interview appointment confirmation to show to the officials when you arrive for your visa interview.

5. Gather all important documents

You may refer to the list of recommended documents above so you know what to provide during the interview. Organize the receipts and documents and group them together according to who they are for—you, your spouse, or your children. Failure to bring required documents may result in unnecessary delays and, in worst-case scenarios, may lead to application denial. 

6. Go to your interview

Arriving early on your interview date is a good idea. Have all your documents, including your proof of financial capability. You will present them to your interviewer, who will ask you questions about your intent to study in the U.S. and your desire to bring your spouse or children with you.

The processing time for F-2 visa applications tends to vary. In many cases, however, you can expect an official decision to be made one to two weeks after your interview. Don’t make travel plans before you’ve received an official decision from the embassy or consulate.

Pros and Cons of the F2 Visa

F-2 visa holders are allowed to legally enter and remain in the U.S. as long as the F-1 student’s status remains valid. To maintain his or her status, the F-1 student must enroll and remain in a full-time program of study in the U.S. He or she must report any changes of address to the DSO and will not be allowed to work for the first academic year. After the first academic year, the F-1 student may ask for permission to work at an on-campus job, but he or she will be limited to working 20 hours per week during the academic term or 40 hours per week during holidays.

F-2 visa holders are able to live in the U.S with the F-1 visa holder. They are not, however, normally allowed to work. Spouses of F-1 visa holders may attend school on a part-time basis. Additionally, F-2 dependents who are school-age will be required to attend K-12 schools while they’re in the U.S.

Granted extensions of stay for F-1 visa students also apply to his or her dependents. Following the extension, proof should still be submitted to prove the financial capability of the family, as well as an application for renewal of the F-2 dependent visa. You will need to file Form I-539 and provide proof that you still have sufficient financial resources to obtain an extension and to renew your F-2 dependent visa.


Being a dependent visa, your F2 Visa comes with a number of limitations regarding what you’re allowed to do and not do in the US. The primary intent behind the F2 Visa is to keep families intact while the F1 Visa holder pursues their academic degree, which can span multiple years. Beyond this, the F2 Visa doesn’t serve any other function, hence the existence of these restrictions.

  • You are not allowed to work on an F2 Visa. There are no F 2 Visa work permits.
  • You are not allowed to get a Social Security Number (SSN). Since you’re not allowed to work, you cannot get an SSN either.
  • You are not allowed to enroll in a full educational degree. You are only allowed to enroll in recreational, vocational, and non-credit-bearing courses for hobbies or fun.
  • You cannot travel to the US before the F1 Visa holder.

Can I Convert my F2 Visa to a Work Permit?

After some time of residency in the United States, it is not uncommon for immigrants to change their immigration status. It is possible for someone who entered the country as a US citizen’s spouse to later file for a separate visa after divorcing. They can be a migrant worker who wants to study or a student who wants to switch to a work visa. Below, we will examine the possibility of an F-2 visa holder in the US changing to an H1b visa holder.

An F-2 visa is granted by the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) to family dependants of F1 international student visa holders who are undertaking a degree level course. Technically, the F-2 visa is classed as a nonimmigrant temporary permit that provides the right to reside. As a nonimmigrant permit, the F-2 visa cannot be used as a stepping stone to permanent residency, and it does not automatically allow holders to take up employment in the US. It is possible, however, to change status, including to H1-b visa, in order to work legally.

An H1-b visa allows migrants to work in speciality occupations in the US. The H1-b is described by USCIS as a nonimmigrant classification which “applies to people who wish to perform services in a specialty occupation, services of exceptional merit and ability relating to a Department of Defense (DOD) cooperative research and development project, or services as a fashion model of distinguished merit or ability”.

As H1-b is a nonimmigrant immigration status, it is possible to switch from other classifications of the same type, including the F-2 visa. It is important to note, however, that there are only a limited number of H1-b visas issued by USCIS each year, and those are only available for employers who have registered for the scheme. At the time of writing, this cap is set at 65,000 per year, with an additional 20,000 made available for those with master’s or higher level qualifications.

What Are The Eligibility Criteria For The H1-B Visa?

To switch from an F-2 visa to an H1-b visa, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Be in an occupation that requires the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge; and attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree in the specific specialty (or its equivalent) as a minimum for entry into the occupation in the United States.
  • Have a role where one of the following applies:
    • A bachelor’s or higher degree or its equivalent is normally the minimum entry requirement for the particular position
    • The degree requirement is common to the industry in parallel positions among similar organizations or, in the alternative, the job is so complex or unique that it can be performed only by an individual with a degree
    • The employer normally requires a degree or its equivalent for the position
    • The nature of the specific duties is so specialized and complex that the knowledge required to perform the duties is usually associated with the attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree.
  • You have:
    • A US bachelor’s or higher degree required by the specialty occupation from an accredited college or university, or;
    • A foreign degree that is equivalent to a US bachelor’s or higher degree required by the specialty occupation from an accredited college or university, or;
    • An unrestricted state license, registration, or certification that authorizes you to fully practice the specialty occupation and be immediately engaged in that specialty in the state of intended employment

The eligibility rules also state that applicants can have “education, specialized training, and/or progressively responsible experience that is equivalent to the completion of a US bachelor’s or higher degree in the specialty occupation, and have recognition of expertise in the specialty through progressively responsible positions directly related to the specialty”.

How Can I Switch From An F-2 Visa To An H1-b Visa In The US?

The first step in switching from an F-2 visa to an H1-b visa is to find suitable employment that fits the above eligibility criteria. Your employer will then submit a Labour Condition Application (LCA) to the Department of Labour to request permission to hire a nonimmigrant person on a temporary basis in a specialty occupation. The LCA requires the employer to confirm they will meet the following obligations:

  • They will pay the H-1B worker a wage that is no less than the wage paid to similarly qualified workers or, if greater, the prevailing wage for the position in the geographic area in which the H-1B worker will be working.
  • The employer/agent will provide working conditions that will not adversely affect other similarly employed workers.
  • At the time of the labor condition application, there is no strike or lockout at the place of employment.
  • Notice of the filing of the labor condition application with the DOL has been given to the union bargaining representative or has been posted at the place of employment.

Your employer will then submit an application to USCIS using form I-129 to request that your immigration status be changed from F-2 to H1-b. If the USCIS requires any additional information and/or documents from you to support your application, they will advise you.


Making the transition from an F-2 to an H1-b visa is not a simple process. In addition to having to meet strict requirements for education and experience, candidates may find the hiring process burdensome. Employers must also take proactive measures to ensure their capacity to hire under this program, given the cap on the number of H1-b visas available. Nevertheless, you (as well as your employer) can manage this process from beginning to end with the help of an accomplished immigration attorney.

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