A “dependent” is defined as the spouse and/or unmarried child (under the age of 21) of the primary F-1, J-1, or H-1B visa holder.

Children born in the United States, or spouses or children who are permanent U.S. residents or citizens, are not considered “dependents” for immigration purposes.

To help answer some of your questions about bringing your family to the United States on a dependent visa, the ISSO has prepared the following information:

F-2 Dependent Visa (Spouse)

F-2 visa holders cannot work or receive compensation for services such as baby-sitting, tutoring, etc. F-2 dependents may attend nondegree avocational or recreational courses only, on a part-time basis – these courses cannot be used in a degree program.

F-2s wishing to pursue higher education at the college/university level must obtain an F-1 or J-1 visa. 

J-2 Dependent Visa (Spouse)

J-2 visa holders may work with prior authorization from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Please contact ISSO for questions about J-2 work authorization. J-2s should not begin any work before obtaining DHS authorization as this will jeopardize their legal status.

Current State Department regulations allow J-2 dependents to pursue a degree part-time or full-time at the college/university level. However, we strongly suggest that individuals wishing to pursue a degree program full time apply for an F-1 or J-1 visa as these regulations could change in the future.

H-4 Dependent Visa (Spouse)

H-4 visa holders may not engage in any paid or unpaid employment under any circumstances. Currently, federal regulations allow H-4 dependents to pursue a degree part time or full time at the college/university level. 

However, we strongly suggest that individuals wanting to pursue a degree program full time apply for an F-1 or J-1 visa, as individuals on an H-4 visa will not be able to participate in off-campus employment such as internships or on-campus employment (including teaching assistantships).

F-2, J-2 and H-4 Dependent Visa (Children)

Each child must attend school beginning in September of the calendar year in which he or she attains the age of 6 and must continue schooling until the age of 16.

All dependent children must change visa status before their 21st birthday or before marriage (whichever is sooner).

Apply to invite a dependent

Dependent Health Insurance

The commonwealth of Massachusetts requires all individuals living in Massachusetts to obtain adequate health insurance.

Medical services in the United States are expensive. A trip to the emergency room or hospitalization can result in large bills for those without adequate health insurance coverage. 

As a reminder, all J-2 dependents must maintain adequate health insurance coverage while in the United States as defined by the regulations governing the J Exchange Visitor Program.

Although F-2 dependents are not required by the U.S. federal government to obtain health insurance, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts does require all individuals residing in Massachusetts to obtain adequate health insurance. If your dependent family members do not have sufficient medical insurance coverage from their home country that extends to the United States, they will need to purchase appropriate insurance to cover them while they are living in Massachusetts.

Short-term insurance plans can be purchased in a variety of plan lengths specifically for visiting the United States.