International students often come to Illinois on an F-1 visa that allows them to study at a U.S. college or university. However, many students around the world are married and have children. The F-2 visa can enable spouses and unmarried children under 21 to join an F-1 student visa holder. Their visa is linked to the student’s, and they can remain in the country so long as the legal, F-1 visa status of the student continues.

An F-2 visa can be issued so that a spouse and children can accompany an international student when they first arrive in the country. They can also apply for the visa in order to follow later. In order to apply for the visa, the student should request an I-20 for a dependent from their school’s office for international students. They will need to show proof of the relationship like birth certificates, marriage certificates and other documents. The student will also need to show that they can support their dependents financially. After receiving the I-20, the spouse and children can make an appointment for a visa interview at a U.S. consulate or embassy abroad.

There are significant restrictions on F-2 visa holders. For example, they may not work for pay unless they change their visa status. They also cannot enroll in a degree program or a full course of study unless they apply to change to an F-1 visa. Children may attend regular K-12 schools but must apply for their own F-1 or M-1 visas to go to college or universities.

Dealing with the visa process can be complex for international students who want to bring their loved ones close while they study in the U.S. An attorney may help international students and others to navigate the family immigration process and work to keep their families together.