Can I bring my family to USA on a student visa?

A student visa is typically not enough for you to immigrate. You will need a separate immigrant petition (also known as an adjustment of status) approved by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in order for your family to come over with you and be granted residency.

If this is what you want, please contact an immigration attorney or USCIS directly. They will be able to tell you what you need to do to bring over your family.

As an international student, you may wish to bring your dependents to live with you in the United States. Students with F-1 and M-1 visas may bring their unmarried children under the age of 21 and/or spouse to live with them while they study in the United States.

As with other foreign student advantages, you must contact your designated school official (DSO) and provide essential identifying information prior to bringing dependents to the United States. Your DSO will then mail each dependant a Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Status.” They must then apply to the US Department of State for an F-2 or M-2 visa. While the process can be lengthy, your DSO should help you throughout the process.

What is a Dependent? 

A dependent is any person who is accompanying or following to join you in the United States under school or exchange student status. A dependent includes your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21.

Once in the United States, dependents must adhere to specific rules, which include the following:

  • Dependents may enter and exit the United States with proper documentation; 
  • Dependents are not permitted to work and are not eligible for social security numbers;
  • Dependents may enroll full-time in a primary or secondary school to satisfy the state’s compulsory education requirements for minors; 
  • Dependents may enroll in a SEVP-certified school in the United States as long as they are enrolled in less than a full course of study. 
  • Additional information is available in the Adjustments to Designated School Official Limits. Questions That Are Frequently Asked.

Dependents should obtain an updated Form I-20 from the DSO if any of the information on the Form I-20 for the F-1 or M-1 student or dependent changes; and Dependents may apply for a change of status to F-1 or M-1 status (via Form I-539, “Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status”) if the adult dependent wishes to study full-time.

How to Bring Your Family to USA

1) First, your DSO will mail you a Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Status” and his/her signature is required at the top of the form. Be sure to include a photocopy of your passport with receipt page. You must not bring the original document as it will be scrutinized by USCIS.

2) You may then apply for an F-2 or M-2 visa (depending on your status). The process is tedious and drawn out for general information purposes.

3) Once the F-2 or M-2 visa is issued and approved, you may then bring over your family. You should be aware that an F-2 or M-2 status is temporary and will only last for the duration of your school attendance. When you go abroad after completing your studies, your family will typically have to leave the United States as well.

4) In order to bring over a spouse, both spouses must enter the US on an F-2 or M-2 visa. Each spouse must present his/her original I-20 and passport with the I-94 and entry stamp. Both must go to the US Consulate passport office and get their visa.

Once you have both visas, you may then apply for a change of status (a Form I-539) at your local USCIS office. Once that is approved, your spouse is able to apply for work authorization (Form I-765) which will allow him or her to legally work in USA.