International Students and Their Dependents — F-2 Visas and Work and Study Authorization

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International Students and Their Dependents — F-2 Visas and Work and Study Authorization

On April 30, 2022, Freeman Law posted my blog that provided a brief overview of international students in the U.S. pursuant to an F-1 visa and the limited circumstances under which those visa-holders may work in the U.S. See International Students, F-1 Visas, Graduation an . . . Work in the U.S.? Since that blog hit the Freeman Law webpage, I was accosted with questions about dependents of the F-1 student visa holder. This blog serves to supplement that previous blog, with a focus on the F-2 visa holder.

Dependents of an F-1 visa holder are within the scope of the definition of “immigrant” contained in 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(15)(F), which defines “immigrant” to include “the alien spouse and minor children of any alien” having a residence in a foreign country which he or she has no intention of abandoning, who is a bona fide student qualified to pursue a full course of study at an established academic institution (i.e., the F-1 student), if such spouse or minor children are accompanying or following to join such F-1 student. See also 26 U.S.C. § 1201 (Issuance of visas).

The relevant regulation—8 C.F.R. § 214.2(f)(3)—provides, in part: “The spouse and minor children accompanying an F-1 student are eligible for admission in F-2 status if the student is admitted in F-1 status. The spouse and minor children following-to-join an F-1 student are eligible for admission to the United States in F-2 status if they are able to demonstrate that the F-1 student has been admitted and is, or will be within 30 days, enrolled in a full course of study, or engaged in approved practical training following completion of studies.”

At the time the spouse or minor children of an F-1 student seek admission, the eligible spouse and minor children of an F-1 student with a Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) Form I-20 must individually present an original SEVIS Form I-20 issued in the name of each F-2 dependent issued by a school authorized by the government for attendance by F-1 foreign students. Id.

As reported in the earlier blog, an F-1 student is allowed to engage in qualified curricular practical training and employment through the Non-SEVIS Form process or through a SEVIS Form I-20 process, provided that the employment is directly related to his or her major area of study. See 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(f)(10)(i)(A)-(B). After completion of the course study, the F-1 student may engage in qualified optional practical training. See id. at § 214.2(f)(10)(ii).

However, the F-2 spouse and minor children of an F-1 student—each of whom were issued an individual SEVIS Form I-20—may not accept employment and, with limited exceptions, the F-2 dependent may engage only less than a full course of study, as defined by the regulations. See 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(f)(15)(i) (“The F-2 spouse and children of an F-1 student may not accept employment.”), (ii) (authorization for qualified study for the F-2 dependent of an F-1 student).

The prohibition of employment for an F-2 spouse of F-1 student applies during the F-1 student’s authorized practical training as well as any authorized optimal practical training period. For authorization to work or to take on a full course of study, the F-2 spouse or dependent must apply for and receive alternate authorization, such as the F-1, M-1, or J-1 nonimmigrant status. See id. at § 214.2(f)(15)(ii)(A)(1)-(2). However, “[a]n F-2 child may engage in full-time study, including any full course of study, in any elementary or secondary school (kindergarten through twelfth grade).” See id. at § 214.2(f)(15)(ii)(B). “An F-2 spouse and child violates his or her nonimmigrant status by enrolling in any study except as provided in” 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(f)(15)(ii)(A) or (B).

See Sample Form I-20

Department of Homeland Security’s Students and The Form I-20

Department of Homeland Security’s Bringing Dependents to the United States

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s SEVP’s Governing Regulations for Students and Schools