If you are or will be in the U.S. as a family member in F-2 or F-1 visa status, you should familiarize yourself with the most important regulations concerning your visa status:  

Your Immigration Paperwork
 Consists of passport; I-20 (F-2) or DS-2019 (J-2); I-94 card; and visa stamp. Your passport      must   be valid at all times.

Principal and Dependent
The person in F-1 or J-1 status is called the Principal. Persons in F-2 or J-2 status are called Dependents, because their status is dependent on the status of the Principal. Only spouses and children under 21 years of age can be in Dependent status.


In general, you are in legal immigration status as long as the Principal is in legal status. You can lose legal status if you or the Principal fail to follow the immigration regulations.

Status Changes

Any request to change from one immigration status to another must be approved by the U.S. Government. Contact ISS early if planning to request a change of status, because this is generally a time-intensive process.

Travel Inside the U.S
Always carry your original immigration paperwork whenever you leave the Bryan/College Station area. When in Bryan/College Station, carry copies of your immigration documents!
Absence from U.S
If you are a Dependent, you can remain outside the U.S. for extended periods of time, as long as the Principal is maintaining status. Long absences from the U.S. will not invalidate your visa before its expiration date.

Principal Visa Holder outside U.S
Dependents can only remain in the U.S. as long as the Principal is in the U.S.( Exception: Principal leaving the U.S. for less than 3 weeks).

Public Assistance

The rules associated with your status do not allow that you or your family members take advantage of public assistance programs, including Medicaid, Temporary Cash Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). To comply with immigration regulations, do not sign up for any federally funded programs. Please also check with ISS before accepting any type of free social or medical service that may be offered.


Persons in F-2 status are not authorized to accept employment or engage in any activities for which they will be compensated in cash or in kind.For your protection, discuss all volunteer opportunities with ISS before accepting. Note: Investing in the stock market is not considered employment and is allowed.


Adult persons in F-2 status are permitted to enroll in college-level, degree-seeking programs, but may not take a full course load (F-2 students must take less than 12 credit hours for undergraduate programs, and 9 credits for graduate programs). If the F-2 student wishes to take a full course load, they must first change to a visa type that permits full-time enrollment. F-2 visa holders may also take recreational classes and basic English language classes. They may also audit classes. Dependent children in F-2 status need to be enrolled in classes as per state law. They can enroll in Kindergarten through High School on their F-2 immigration documents.

Health Insurance

Health insurance is not required for persons in F-2 status, unless enrolled in University-level  courses. However, health insurance is very highly recommended to help pay for very expensive U.S. health care. 


Persons in J-2 status are authorized to accept employment, provided they have a valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) and valid immigration papers. The EAD card is issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). Persons in J-2 status have to re-apply yearly for an extension of their EAD card.

Persons in J-2 status can pursue any kind of education without changing status and without any restrictions on how many hours they are enrolled.

Health Insurance

All persons in J status – including Dependents - must have valid health insurance coverage as long as their DS-2019 is valid, even if they are outside the U.S. Failure to have health insurance will result in status termination for Principal and Dependents.

Homestay and other Restrictions
Any restrictions that apply to the person in J-1 status also apply to Dependents. For example, if  the Principal is subject to Section 212(e) (Homestay Requirement), the requirement applies to      his  or her Dependents, too.