The J-2 Visa for Family of a J-1 Visa Holder

Family of J-1 exchange visitors can accompany the primary visa holder to the United States.

The J-2 visa is designated for spouses and children (unmarried, under the age of 21) who wish to accompany or join an exchange visitor who holds a J-1 visa. The application procedure is nearly the same as that for the J-1 visa applicant, but a bit easier.

J-2 Visa Eligibility Requirements

In order to qualify for a J-2 visa, the most important thing is that your spouse or parent qualifies for a J-1 visa! That means that he or she has signed up with an approved exchange program that is focused on teaching, training, or research, and is coming to the U.S. as part of that program. The J-1 applicant must also demonstrate sufficient financial resources to cover him- or herself and any accompanying family members during their stay in the U.S., and an ability to speak, read, and write English well enough to participate effectively in the program. And the J-1, as well as J-2 applicants, must show an intent to return home after the permitted stay in the U.S. expires.

After that, your main task as a J-2 applicant will be to show that you are indeed the spouse or unmarried child of the J-1 visa applicant. You'll also need to show that you are not inadmissible to the United States. People become inadmissible if they have committed certain crimes, carry a communicable disease of public health significance (such as tuberculosis), are possible security risks, and so on.

If you would only like to visit your J-1 visa holding family member in the U.S. rather than living with him or her, and you come from a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program, you can travel without applying for a visa ahead of time.

J-2 Visa Benefits

J-2 visa holders may come to the U.S. either at the same time or sometime after the J-1 visa holder arrives. They can work in the U.S., but only after they have been approved and received a work permit card from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The work must not be undertaken out of necessity to support the J-1 visa holder.

To apply for the work permit, you'll need to fill out and submit USCIS Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. This form requires paying a fee.

You may also, as a J-2 visa holder, study while in the U.S. without having to submit any additional applications or obtaining a different visa.  

J-2 Visa Application Process

The spouse and children of a J-1 visa holder will need the following J-2 visa documents:

  • Form DS-160, Nonimmigrant Visa Application.
  • Form DS-2019, generated by the sponsoring organization. Note that this requires the program sponsor to approve the accompaniment of the spouse and/or children.
  • One passport-style photo.
  • Copy of the J-1 visa holder’s application.
  • Your birth certificate.
  • Proof of relationship to the J-1 visa holder, such as a marriage or birth certificate.
  • Documents showing reasons that you'll return to your home country, such as proof of ownership of real estate, relationships with close family members staying behind, or that a job will be waiting for you upon return.
  • Proof of sufficient money to cover all expenses in the U.S.
  • A passport, valid for at least six months after the visa interview.

You will present these to the U.S. consulate in your home country. See the consulate's website for its exact application procedures. Many require advance appointments, while some prefer you to mail in your application.

J-2 Visa Fees and Costs

The primary J-2 visa cost is a visa processing fee, which each family member must pay. That fee was $160 as of mid-2017. Check the Fees for Visa Services page of the State Department website for the latest fees.

Although the J-1 applicant must pay what's called a SEVIS fee, to cover tracking of people studying in the U.S., the spouse and children accompanying the J-1 visa holder need not pay this fee.

There's a small chance you may also have to pay what's called a "reciprocity fee," depending on what country you're from. Check the Web link above to find out.

J-1 Visa Extension Rules

If a J-1 visa holder is granted a visa extension , the accompanying J-2 visa holders will be granted the same extension.

Most J-1 visa applicants will receive help preparing their visa applications from the sponsoring organization, which usually also helps make arrangements for J-2 visa holders.   If you have questions regarding your application that you do not want to ask the sponsoring organization, an experienced immigration attorney can help.

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