Although family members usually enter as J-2 dependents, they are not required to do so. They may enter as tourists (B-2) or on another visa type if they qualify. Funding requirements are specific to each visa classification. While the B-2 visa may be appropriate for family members who will visit the US briefly, exchange visitors should not try to use the B-2 classification as a way to avoid meeting J-1 and J-2 funding or insurance requirements for family members. B-2 holders have none of the advantages and protections given to J-2 dependents. B-2 holders are authorized for only short stays and have specific end dates on their I-94 entry/departure record. This makes them vulnerable to overstays and unlawful presence if they do not exit the country before their visa expires.
Funding and Insurance
The Exchange Visitor and/or sponsor must demonstrate adequate financial support to cover living expenses, incidental expenses and health insurance for each dependent.
2-Year Home Presence Requirement, 12- & 24-month Bars, Health Insurance
J-2 dependents are automatically subject to all rules and policies governing the Exchange Visitor Program and the J-1 principal. This means J-2 dependents are subject to the 2-year home physical presence requirement, the 12- and 24-month bars which may affect future program participation and the mandatory health insurance requirement.
Employment & Education
J-2 dependents accompanying research scholars for longer periods of time are permitted to apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS and may begin employment only after receiving the EAD from USCIS. This process can take several weeks. For more information click here.
J-2 Dependents may enroll in university courses and in public primary and secondary schools. However, if a J-2 dependent intends on enrolling in a degree-seeking program as a full-time student, the student may have to seek a change of immigration status to an F-1 student visa.
Travel Outside the USA – Departures
After entering the USA on “J” status, J-1 and J-2 visa holders in the may travel outside the USA for short trips separately or together. They may re-enter on “J” status provided they still have valid passports, J visas and their DS-2019 forms are validated for travel by the Responsible Officer in the Office of International Programs. If the J visa has expired, a new J visa is required for re-entry.
J-2 visa holders must reside with the J-1 principal as true “dependents” during their stay in the USA. If the J-1 principal completes a program and leaves the USA permanently, the J-2 dependents must also depart the USA. The J-2 holder’s immigration status is directly tied to the J-1 principal’s immigration status. A J-1 visa holder may travel outside the USA for a short period (i.e. for a conference or business trip), but may not leave J-2 dependents in the USA alone for more than 30 days. This would be a violation of program status and the J-1 and J-2 visa holders would automatically be considered “out of status,” the program would have to be terminated and they would have to depart the USA or file for reinstatement. Research Scholars who have program periods of up to 5 years must maintain insurance for themselves and their J-2 dependents for the entire period of their program, including any periods of time they may spend outside the US.
Change of Status
The US Forest Service does not support or assist program participants wishing to change their immigration status/visa classification. Restrictions and procedures for a J-2 dependent wishing to change status are the same as those followed by the J-1 principal, although in addition to documenting that the J-2 has maintained status, the J-2 must also submit proof that the J-1 has maintained status.
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