The J-2 visa is a US nonimmigrant visa for dependents. Spouses or unmarried children under the age of 21 may accompany a J-1 visa holder with the J-2 visa. J-2 visa holders are dependent on the individual’s J-1 status, so any change to J-1 status will also result in changes to J-2 status.
Because there are so many J-1 visa categories, each has its own rules for the J-2 visa. Au pairs, camp counselors, secondary school students, and work and travel participants are not permitted to be accompanied to the United States by J-2 dependents. Other categories may have J-2 employees.
However, because J-1 visa holders are sponsored by several organizations and programs, they may only be allowed to have a dependent J-2 visa if their program allows it. For example, if you are a college student and want to bring your spouse to the United States on a J-2 visa, the U.S. government does not state any goals for this. But if your sponsor doesn’t allow it, you won’t be able to bring your spouse to the United States on a J-2 visa.
As with J-1 visas, J-2 visas also do not have a limit, so there are no limitations on the number of people who can obtain this type of visa. J-2 visa holders can enroll in academic studies, obtain a driver’s license, open bank accounts, travel in and out of the United States at any time, as well as work under certain circumstances.
J-2 Visa Requirements:
The following criteria must be met in order to be eligible for a J-2 visa:
- Be the spouse of an approved J-1 visa holder
- Be the unmarried child under age 21 of an approved J-1 visa holder
- Be authorized to accompany the J-1 visa holder by your sponsor or program
Many people who are in a relationship but not yet married wonder whether they can accompany their J-1 partner to the United States. Unless you are married to the J-1 visa holder and have authentic proof of marriage, you are not eligible for a J-2 dependent visa.
J-2 Visa Application:
Applying for the J-2 visa is similar to applying for the J-1 visa. The J-1 sponsor will provide them with a separate DS-2019 form if they are permitted to bring dependents. With that form the J-2 application procedure is as follows:
- Apply online by completing Form DS-160
- Pay the visa application fee of $160
- Make an appointment for the interview and receive the confirmation letter
- Send these documents:
- Your passport
- The barcode of your DS-160 form
- Your interview confirmation letter
- A US visa style photograph
- All SEVIS pages and a copy of Form DS-2019
- A copy of the J-1 visa holder’s Form DS-2019
- If the J-1 visa holder is an intern or trainee, also submit a copy of Form DS-7002
- Marriage certificate to prove that you are married to the J-1 visa holder
- Wedding album and invitation cards
- Wedding guest list
- If married, at the registrar’s office, a copy of the affidavit and photos of the marriage witnesses
- Children’s birth certificates
- Evidence of financial resources showing sufficient funds to cover expenses
- Attend the interview where you will have J-2 visa interview questions related to your intentions in the United States, your relationship with the J-1 visa holder, and financial situation.
On top of all this, you must have health insurance in order to get the J-2 visa. The majority of exchange program sponsors cover the primary J-1 visa holder’s medical expenses. Some of them may also provide insurance for J-2 dependents as well, but others may not. If the J-1 program sponsor does not provide valid health insurance coverage for your J-2 dependents, you will need to enroll in one yourself.
If your application and interview go well, the U.S. Embassy where you applied will grant you a J-2 visa. The visa will allow you to leave for the United States at the same time as or after the J-1 visa holder. However, you cannot leave for the United States before the person who has the J-1 visa.
J-2 Visa Processing Time:
The processing time for a J-2 visa varies from case to case. Since US embassies have different caseloads, processing your visa may take more or less time. However, a general time frame for how long it takes to process the J-2 visa is approximately 30 days or 1 month. So, from the moment you submit your application to the US Embassy, you can expect a response regarding whether or not you have obtained the J-2 visa within 30 days.
Validity of the J-2 visa:
Since you are the dependent of the J-1 visa holder, the validity of your J-2 visa is directly tied to theirs. This means that your J-2 visa is valid as long as your J-1 visa is also valid. If your spouse on a J-1 visa has a visa valid for 2 years, your J-2 visa will be valid for the same period.
If the J-1 visa holder requests a visa extension and is approved, you are also eligible to request an extension. Once your extension is approved, you will receive a new Form DS-2019.
Since most J-1 visas have a two-year home residency requirement, the same applies to dependents. So, if your spouse has that requirement, your J-2 visa also depends on that requirement. This means that after your visa expires, you will have to return to your home country and stay there for 2 years before you can apply for a similar visa, with the exception of a visitor or tourist visa.
Some J-2 visa holders wish to change status to another visa. This is only possible if you do not have the two-year domicile residency requirement. You can find a job that makes you eligible for a different type of visa, such as an H-1B visa, and apply for it. If so, your employer must complete Form I-129 for you to begin employment.
If the J-1 visa holder requests a waiver based on acceptable grounds, you, as his or her employee, also do not need to apply for a waiver. The J-2 visa waiver is automatically linked to the J-1. When the U.S. government grants a J-1 waiver, it also applies to their dependents.
However, in some cases you can request a J-2 visa exemption:
- If the J-1 visa holder has died you can provide a valid death certificate
- If you divorce the J-1 visa holder and provide valid divorce documents
- If you are a child of the J-1 and reach the age of 21, provide a valid birth certificate
In addition to these three cases, you must also submit documents that explain why you are requesting a J-2 visa exemption and the J-1 person is not, and why you deserve to get the exemption.
Additionally, J-2 visa holders can also apply for a Green Card. If the J-1 person gets a Green Card, you as his or her dependent also get it. However, you can also apply for family or work reasons.
One of the most important things J-2 visa holders can do while in the country is look for work in the United States. They can do this by obtaining an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). They can obtain the EAD only after arriving in the United States.
It is recommended that you apply for the EAD three to four months after arriving in the United States. This is because you have presented to the US government proof that you have sufficient financial resources to cover your expenses in your first few months in the United States. If you apply for an EAD immediately, you will raise questions about your financial situation.
To request the EAD, send these documents:
- Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization
- Copies of your DS-2019 forms, I-94 forms, and J-1 holder passports
- 2 photographs
- Your marriage certificate
- A statement of why you wish to obtain the EAD, which does not have to indicate any financial need. When you obtained the J-2 visa, the J-1 person declared that he or she had sufficient financial resources to support you. Your reasons for obtaining an EAD should include travel, recreational and cultural purposes. Salary from employment cannot be used to supplement the J-1 person’s income. The statement should also contain information about the J-1 individual, including category, sponsor details, and salary.
- If you have already found a job, send a letter from your employer confirming this and the fact that you will not use your salary to support the J-1 visa holder
- You can request that your EAD be valid until the end of your stay in the United States by writing the expiration date found on the DS-2019 form on your EAD statement.
If you are granted EAD, you can work part-time or full-time in the United States. If your EAD expires before the DS-2019 expiration date, you can request extensions. As a working person, you also get a Social Security Number (SSN) and are required to file taxes according to US laws.