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How To Navigate the J-2 Visa Process

April 2, 2024

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If your spouse has secured a J-1 visa to work or study in the United States, it’s understandable that you and your children may wish to join them. 

To do that, you’ll need to apply for a J-2 visa. This type of nonimmigrant visa is designed specifically for spouses and children of certain J-1 visa holders, such as research scholars and teachers.

Here, we’ll explain the J-2 visa in more detail, exploring the key requirements, application process, and necessary documentation so you can confidently move through the visa process.

What Is a J-2 visa? 

Each year, the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program enables over 300,000 individuals from 200 countries to study and work in the U.S. Many have families and want their spouses and children to join them while they temporarily relocate to the U.S. 

That’s where the J-2 visa comes in. This nonimmigrant visa enables dependents of certain J-1 visa holders to accompany them to America during their J-1 program, as long as the J-1 visa holder’s sponsor and program permit it. 

We say “certain” J-1 visa holders because only some J-1 categories qualify for J-2 sponsorship. The exchange categories that do not allow J-2 visas are as follows: 

  • Au pair
  • Camp counselor
  • Secondary school student 
  • Summer work travel 

Moreover, it’s worth noting that, even in instances where a category permits it, specific programs do not offer J-2 sponsorship. Therefore, you and your partner must review your desired exchange visitor programs carefully before committing. 

Finally,  it’s important to emphasize that there are limits on J-2 eligibility:

  • You must be the spouse of a J1 visa holder. If you are unmarried, even if you’re in a long-term relationship, you cannot claim eligibility. 
  • Children of J-1 visa holders must be unmarried and under the age of 21.
  • Parents, siblings, and extended family members cannot apply. 

Rights and Restrictions for a J-2 Visa Holder

The J-2 visa offers generous benefits for holders that allow them to integrate into American culture fully. Once you arrive in the U.S., you will be able to:

  • Apply for a work permit. To do this, you will need to submit form 1-765 (Application for Employment Authorization) to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
  • Get a U.S. driver’s license 
  • Open a domestic bank account
  • Enroll in full-time or part-time academic study, in-person or through an online learning platform, without needing to apply for an F1 student visa 
  • Travel to and from the U.S. with no restrictions 

The only major restriction of the J-2 visa stems from its reliance on the J-1 holder’s visa. If the J-1 visa holder’s status changes, the J-2 visa holder’s status will also change automatically. 

This means that when the J-1 status holder’s visa terminates, the J-2 holder’s visa status will also terminate. That said, if the J-1 visa holder seeks an extension and is approved, the J-2 visa holder can do the same. 

Requirements for a J-2 Visa: What To Know

Keeping the family unit together is essential, especially for families with young children and teenagers. To help you navigate applying for a J-2 visa, here is a closer look at the requirements you’ll need to meet. 

Proving the Relationship to the J-1 Visa Holder

As mentioned, to attain J-2 status, you must either be:

  • The spouse of a J-1 visa holder
  • The unmarried child of a J1 visa holder and under the age of 21

You must prove your relationship to the J-1 visa holder through documentation, which you will demonstrate in your visa interview at the embassy in your home country. This documentation should be a marriage certificate if you are a spouse and a birth certificate if you are a child. 

If you are dating but not married, you cannot apply for a J-2 visa. 

Financial Evidence for Support

J-1 visa holders must prove they can financially support their dependents throughout their stay. The exact funding requirements vary depending on the program the J-1 visa holder is partaking in. Check with your chosen institution to verify their minimum funding requirements.

Health Insurance

Like J-1 visa holders, J-2 visa holders must obtain health insurance that meets the requirements laid out by the U.S. Department of State, which is as follows:

  • Medical benefits at a minimum of $100,000 per injury or illness
  • $25,000 repatriation of remains 
  • Medical evacuation expenses of $50,000
  • A deductible below $500 per injury or illness

Valid Passport and Visa Application

Before entering the U.S., you will need a valid passport with a J-2 visa stamp, which you will get during your visa interview. This passport must be valid for at least six months after you enter the U.S. Otherwise, your application will be denied. 

Visa Interview

To obtain the J-2 visa stamp, you will need to fill out an online application form and then attend an interview with a consular officer at your country’s U.S. embassy. This interview is a standard procedure and nothing to worry about. Your spouse must also undergo one as part of the J-1 process. 

In the J-2 interview, the consular will aim to verify that your relationship with the J-1 visa holder is legitimate and learn your intentions during your stay in the United States. (Note that children under 13 will not need to attend an interview.) 

During the interview, the consular officer will ask questions about your relationship with the J-1 visa holder. They will also ask you about the exchange program your spouse or parent is in and your plans once the exchange period ends. 

You’ll also need to bring documentation, which we’ll explore below. 

It is worth noting that the primary causes of J-2 visa rejections are missing documentation, failure to prove financial status, or failure to confirm marital status. This underscores why ensuring you have all the necessary paperwork before attending is critical. 

Outlining the Application Process for a J-2 Dependent Visa

If you qualify for a J-2 dependent visa and would like to apply, you will need to undergo the following step-by-step process. Remember, you cannot apply for a J-2 visa until your spouse or parent has obtained their J-1 visa. 

Gather the Necessary Documentation

To apply for a J-2 visa, the J-1 visa holder’s sponsor must consent to providing J-2 visa sponsorship. Once this is given, the J-1 sponsor must issue a DS-2019 form for each dependent to fill out. 

This form contains questions about your personal information, the purpose of your visit, and the planned duration of your stay in the United States. It will also include questions concerning financial support and the program the J-1 visa holder is part of. 

Complete the DS-160 Form

Once you have completed the DS-2019 form, you will need to apply for your visa online on the Consular Electronic Application Center’s website. 

You must apply for your visa in English, so keep this in mind if English isn’t your native tongue. 

The process takes around 90 minutes and involves the following steps: 

  • Complete form DS-160. You’ll need your passport, travel plans, SEVIS ID from your DS-2019 form, and resume. 
  • Upload a photo of yourself. You can see the complete photographic requirements here.
  • Pay the visa application fee, which currently stands at $160.

Any mistakes or omitted information can lead to the rejection of your application. So, it’s important to take your time and fill out the form completely and accurately. 

After you’ve completed your application, print your confirmation form and keep it in a safe place. You’ll need to bring it to your interview at the U.S. embassy. 

Schedule the Visa Interview

Now, it’s time to schedule your visa interview with the U.S. embassy in your country. We advise scheduling this well in advance of your planned travels to the U.S. because waiting times vary widely by country. 

Attend the Visa Interview

Aim to arrive at your visa interview well ahead of time to avoid any last-minute disruptions or traffic. Make sure to bring the following supporting documentation to you: 

  • Your passport, which must be valid for at least six months after you enter the U.S.
  • Your DS-160 confirmation page, along with your payment receipt 
  • A backup copy of your photo 
  • Your completed form DS-2019
  • A copy of the J1 visa holder’s DS-2019 form
  • Marriage certificate (if applying as a spouse)
  • Birth certificate (if applying as/for a child)
  • Financial documents demonstrating you have the minimum required funds 
  • Documentation proving health insurance coverage

Follow up Post-Interview

Depending on the country you are coming from and its customs, you may receive your J-2 visa at the time of your interview. Other times, you will have to wait for a decision. Also, depending on your nationality, you may have to pay an additional visa issuance fee after your interview. 

Once you have obtained your J-2 visa, you are ready to head to the U.S. However, you are not allowed to do so before the J-1 visa holder. You can either do so alongside your spouse or parent or at a later date. 

Go from Visa Preparation to Educational Success With These Tips

We understand that the process of applying for a J-2 visa can seem complex and overwhelming at first. However, by following the steps above, you’ll be able to simplify the process and boost your chances of approval.

The crucial thing to remember is that preparation and documentation are key. Take your time while completing your application form, double-check everything thoroughly, and print and organize your supporting documents ahead of your interview. That way, when it’s time to visit your U.S. embassy, obtaining your J-2 visa application will be quick and simple.

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