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Can My Family Come With Me While I Study in the States?

November 26, 2014
The holiday season is a time to spend with family and loved ones. As an international student, you may consider bringing your dependents to the United States to live with you. F-1 and M-1 students may be eligible to bring their children, who are unmarried and under the age of 21, and/or spouse to live with them while they study in the United States. 
As with other international student benefits, you must first notify your designated school official (DSO) that you would like to bring dependents to the United States and submit necessary identifying information. Your DSO will then send you a Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Status,” for each dependent. They must then apply for an F-2 or M-2 visa from the U.S. Department of State.
Once in the United States, dependents must follow certain guidelines, including:
  • Dependents may depart and re-enter the United States with proper documentation;
  • Dependents may not work and are not eligible for social security numbers;
  • Dependents may study full-time in a primary or secondary school to meet the compulsory education requirements for minors in the state where they reside;
  • Dependents can engage in study at an SEVP-certified school in the United States as long as they are enrolled in less than a full course of study. Read more about this in the Adjustments to Designated School Official Limits Frequently Asked Questions.
  • Dependents should obtain an updated Form I-20 from the DSO if any Form I-20 information for the F-1 or M-1 student or dependent changes; and
  • Dependents may file for a change of status (via Form I-539, "Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status") to F-1 or M-1 status if the adult dependent wants to study full-time.
Remember, your dependents can only be in F-2 or M-2 immigration status as long as you maintain your status throughout your program of study and any authorized period of optional practical training after program completion. Changes to any of this can affect their immigration status as well. For more information, visit our Dependents Resource Page.
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