With over 170,000 J1 visa holders in the USA each month, there are going to be situations where partners will want to bring their significant other, known in the visa world as dependents. If you are traveling on a J1 visa, your spouse or unmarried child (under the age of 21) typically arrives on a similar visa as dependents of the J1 visa, called the J-2. This is similar to the J1 visa in that it allows you to travel and live in the USA for a defined period of time.
Dependents of the J1 visa include a spouse or child under the age of 21, but it does not extend beyond these two categories and would exclude parents, siblings, grandparents, etc. Not all programs allow the J1 holder to bring dependents, so be sure to check to see if your program is eligible.
When it comes to travel, many of the same rules that apply to a J1 visa holder also applies to the J-2 visa. The duration of stay in the US, for example, is the same under both visas and while the J-2 visa holder cannot arrive in the US in advance of the J-1 holder, once admitted in the US they do not need to be accompanied by the J1 holder when leaving and reentering the US.
Under the J-2 visa, dependents can become a full-time or part-time degree-seeking student, and can choose to stop their program at any time. J-2 dependents who find that their academic program extends beyond their J-2 status in the US can switch their status to a F-1 (international student) .
The US Department of State requires that J-1 visa holders obtain a specified amount of coverage. These same health insurance requirements also apply to J-2 dependents and will be required throughout the duration of their stay.
Like J-1 visa holders, J-2 dependents can also accept financial support for work as long as they’ve received an employment authorization from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. Those interested in working will need to submit Form I-765 after arrival in the US, wait approximately 3-5 months for processing and will receive their EAD authorizing work up to one year.