The spouse and minor unmarried children of an F-1 student may be admitted to the United States on F-2 status. They can accompany the student or follow the student at a later date. To qualify for F-2 status, the spouse or the unmarried minor (under 21 years old) must establish to the satisfaction of the consular officer and the immigration officer at the entry point that:
- He or she is the spouse (as demonstrated by a valid marriage certificate) or the child (as demonstrated by a valid birth certificate) of the F-1 student;
- He or she has enough funds to cover costs or arrangements have been made to cover these costs once in the United States;
- The dependent intends to leave the United States when the F-1 status of the student ends;
- If the dependents are following the student later on, the F-1 student “is, or will be within 30 days, enrolled in a full course of study, or engaged in approved practical training following completion of studies.” An eligible dependent should also present a dependent Form I-20 issued by the DSO of the school that issued the F-1 student’s Form I-20. Each dependent must have his/her own Form I-20 duly completed with a unique SEVIS ID.
Same-sex spouses and F-2 status
On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that article 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional. Immigration agencies (DHS and DOS) have implemented this decision in their policies and procedures.
The document titled SEVP Broadcast Message On Issuing I-20s For Same-Sex Spouses provides the following related information:
On August 5, 2013, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) sent Broadcast Message 1308-01 to SEVIS users, to provide preliminary guidance on the issuance of Form I-20 to a same-sex spouse of an F-1 or M-1 student, who will be seeking admission into the United States as an F-2 or M-2 dependent.
The SEVP guidance document first provides a recap of Department of State guidance regarding issuance of derivative nonimmigrant visas for same-sex spouses. As with all marriages, same-sex marriages will now be recognized for the purpose of issuance of derivative nonimmigrant visas if the marriage is “recognized in the place of celebration.” The requirement that a marriage be “recognized in the place of celebration” has been a long-standing policy in immigration law. What has changed is that now the same standard will be extended to same-sex marriages as well.
The SEVP document then provides the following guidance to DSOs on issuing F-2 and M-2 dependent Forms I-20 to same-sex spouses:
“A designated school official (DSO) should continue to verify marriages consistent with current practices and should now do so for a same-sex marriage if it is “recognized in the place of celebration.” Once the marriage is verified, a DSO then may issue a Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Status,” to a same-sex spouse of an F-1 or M-1 nonimmigrant who is seeking admission into the United States as an F-2 or M-2 dependent.”
Other domestic partners and close family of F-1 students
Other domestic partners and close family members who do not meet the F-2 dependent definition may want to explore B-2 status eligibility under 9 FAM 402.2-4 (B) (5) guidelines.