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The J2 nonimmigrant visa allows certain family members of a J1 visa holder to accompany the J1 visa holder to the United States for the duration of the J1 visa holder’s exchange program or to join them in the U.S. later.
Who Qualifies for the J2 Visa?
Generally, in order to be eligible for the J2 visa, an applicant must be the spouse or child under the age of 21 to a J1 visa holder. A J2 visa is only issued in connection to issuance of a valid J1 visa. However, there are certain categories of J1 exchange programs that do not permit the issuance of a J2 visa. These include the categories of au pair, camp counselor, secondary school student, and summer work travel.
Moreover, some specific programs do not permit J2 visas, including some programs that fall under an exchange category that generally does permit J2 visas. Thus, J1 visa applicants should be sure to confirm with their intended program whether it permits J2 visas even if it is not in one of the categories listed above.
What is the process for obtaining a J2 visa?
The application process to receive a J2 visa is the same as the process for a J1 visa. After the J1 visa applicant has researched and is admitted to the right exchange program for them, the J2 visa applicant must be approved by the sponsoring program to accompany the J1 visa applicant to the United States or join them later.
Step One: The J1 Applicant Finds the Right Program
Before a J2 family member can submit their application for admission to the United States, the J1 exchange program applicant must first determine what applicable exchange program fits their experience and qualifications. Individuals can view program requirements and an overview of each program at the United States Department of State’s chart.
Step Two: J1 Applicant Connects with a Sponsor
After the J1 applicant determines which applicable J1 visa exchange program fits their experience and qualifications, they must contact a designated sponsor directly in order to determine the sponsor’s specific program and application requirements. Designated sponsors can be found by searching for them at the United States Department of State’s sponsor search. Sponsor’s that operate in non-U.S. countries can be searched for here.
Sponsors will be responsible for selecting applicants and supporting and monitoring them during the entire program. Thus, it is important when applying to a program for an applicant to ensure he or she meets the program’s requirements.
Step Three: After J1 Applicant is Accepted into a Program
When the J1 applicant is accepted by a sponsor into an exchange visitor program, the J2 applicant(s) will also be accepted to join the J1 applicant. The program sponsor will issue the J1 and J2 visa applicants each of their own filled out Form DS-2019. While each applicant receives Form DS-2019, only the J1 visa applicant must pay the Student and Exchange Visitor System (SEVIS) fee. Proof of payment should be saved for the J1 applicant’s records.
Once the J1 applicant has paid their SEVIS fee, both the J1 and J2 visa applicants must fill out their own Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form DS-160 and pay the application fees.
Step Four: Schedule an Interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate
After the J1 and J2 visa applicants pay their application fees and submit their own DS-160 online application, they must schedule an interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate near them. The J2 applicant can usually be interviewed at the same time as the J1 applicant.
Step Five: Attend Interview
At the interview, a consular officer will review the applicant(s) documentation and ask questions related to their eligibility for the visa(s). Both J1 and J2 applicants must bring certain documentation to the interview. The consular officer conducting the interview may inform the applicant(s) whether their visa(s) are approved at the interview. In some cases, the consular officer may refer the application for further administrative processing.
Below is a list of documents that a J2 applicant should have with them at the interview:
- Original passport and photocopies;
- Form DS-160 confirmation;
- Passport photo that meets photo requirements;
- Birth certificates for children applicants;
- Marriage certificates for spousal applicants;
- Payment receipt for the visa application;
- Form DS-2019.;
- Photocopy of the J1 student’s Form DS-2019.
In addition to the documents above, the J1 and J2 applicants may be required by the consular officer to submit additional documentation before approving their visas, including evidence of:
- The purpose of the applicants’ travel;
- E.g. evidence of admission to an exchange program.
- Both applicants’ intent to depart the United States after their travel;
- E.g. evidence of family ties.
- Both applicants’ ability to pay all travel costs.
- E.g. evidence of employment or that someone else will pay costs.
Step Six: Enter the United States
After a J2 visa is approved by a consular officer, the visa holder must travel to a U.S. port-of-entry and request permission to enter the United States under the visa. Approval of a visa by a consular officer does not guarantee entry into the United States. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials at the port of entry will permit or deny entry after reviewing the J2 visa holder’s passport, visa, and DS-2019. Individuals who are approved to enter the United States will receive an admission stamp or paper Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record.
Can J2 Visa Holders Work in the United States?
Generally, J2 visa holders may seek employment so long as they first obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). To receive an EAD, a J2 visa holder must file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. Employed J2 visa holders may not use income earned from employment to support the principal J2 visa holder.
Can J2 Visa Holders Attend School in the United States?
J2 visa holders are eligible to attend part-time or full-time school in the United States at every level of education. Individuals who plan to attend an undergraduate or graduate degree program should evaluate the length of the program against the remaining time of validity of their J2 visa. A J2 undergraduate or graduate student may need to change their status to a student (F) visa. Minor children who are in the United States under a J2 visa may attend school without obtaining a student (F) visa.
For How Long is the J2 Visa Valid?
J2 visa holders may stay in the United States for only as long as the J1 visa holder stays in the United States.
The length a J1 visa holder’s visa is valid depends on the exchange category (type of work or study) and the specific program’s requirements. Thus, a J1 visa applicant should refer to the program in order to determine length of stay minimums and maximums. An applicant can refer to this chart for guidance.
Extensions may be granted to no longer than the maximum stay permitted in the exchange category.
Upon the completion of the J1 visa holder’s exchange program, the visa holder has a grace period of 30 days to depart the United States.
How Much Does the J2 Visa Cost?
It costs $160 to apply for a J1 visa.
The J2 visa holder may be charged a visa issuance fee, depending on their nationality. To determine whether an issuance fee applies to your nationality, review the U.S. Department of State’s reciprocity index.