Bringing Family

Bringing Your Family (Spouse and Children Only) to Live With You

It can be exciting to think about having your spouse and/or children join you in the United States while you are studying at Case Western Reserve University.

Knowing your family will be with you may allow you to feel a sense of security and peace of mind. You may believe that you will be better able to concentrate on your studies if your family is physically present to support you. This is often true, but sometimes it’s not. There are many things that you must consider—not just the positive impacts—before you make this important decision.

It cannot be emphasized enough that the overall cost of living in the United States is very high. When an emergency occurs, it can be financially devastating. Therefore, you must consider whether you can afford the extra time commitment and financial expense you will have to make so that your family's presence in the United States will be a comfort and not a burden.

Financial constraints and cultural pressures may affect the marital relationship of our students. Differing cultural values and expectations can create emotional, physical and legal problems, especially when an unforeseen crisis occurs.

The following information is designed to help you and your family decide whether or not you should be together in the United States. It describes some of the major obstacles that have been observed as contributing to adjustment problems of international students, their spouses and families.

It is important that you and your spouse be aware of these issues. We hope you will discuss the information together so you are equipped to make this very important decision in your life.

In this section, we provide information on:

In addition, we have a full section on employment, including what you and your family need to know.

Cost of Living for Families

Before a visa can be issued for your spouse and/or children to enter the United States as your dependents, you are required to show proof of sufficient financial support. This funding is meant to demonstrate your ability to financial support them so they do not become dependent on the U.S. government for subsistence.

Having adequate funds to support yourself and your family is very important. If you or a member of your family accepts public benefits such as Medicaid, food stamps, federally subsidized housing, or free public school meals for children from a U.S., state, or local public service agency, you risk jeopardizing your nonimmigrant status and may possibly be denied future entry into the United States.

International Student Services estimates the following as dependents’ annual minimum costs, based on Federal Poverty Guidelines:

  • Spouse: $6,000
  • Children: $3,000

Health Insurance

Medical care in the United States is excellent but extremely expensive! Not seeking medical attention when necessary can be very dangerous to you and your family's health; therefore, medical insurance is a must. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as "cheap "medical insurance. The saying "You get what you pay for" applies to every insurance policy. It’s very important to purchase comprehensive medical insurance.

As an international student, CWRU requires you to have proper medical insurance and provides coverage through the university’s student medical plan, which is an excellent source of coverage and relatively inexpensive for the comprehensive benefits provided. Your spouse and children are not eligible for this student rate, but a dependent medical plan is offered. Visit the Medical Resources page for more information.


Knowing where you will live while attending Case Western Reserve University is essential to your planning process. With options for undergraduate students, graduate students and families, we can provide you the resources to secure your living arrangements, no matter your affiliation. Visit the Housing page for more information.

Food + Clothing

Your food and clothing costs will be higher if you are living with family members.

A variety of clothing will be necessary to accommodate the seasonal changes of weather in Cleveland. Temperatures range from very cold during the winter months to extremely warm in the summer. January, with a mean temperature of 23° F (−5° C), is the coldest month, but it’s not uncommon for snow to fall as early as October and as late as April. July is the warmest month, with a mean temperature of 81° F (27.2° C), but it can feel much warmer due to high humidity levels.

Child Care + School

Under no circumstances should young children be left alone at home unsupervised; it is against the law. If you have children under the age of 5, you may have to pay for qualified daycare or babysitting. If your children are of school age (5 or older), you will be required by law to enroll them in an appropriate public or private school.

Public school districts are determined by your place of residence; therefore, you are encouraged to secure your housing before having your children join you in the United States. The initial cultural adjustment to the United States will be difficult enough without the added stress of adapting to a new school each time a change occurs in your housing needs.

The availability of English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction in the school district may be an important consideration for you when deciding on a place to live.

Loneliness and Homesickness

Family members will require your time and attention, which means you will need to balance those demands with your academic work.

For some spouses who come to the United States, the English language poses a challenge, as they may not be as fluent in English as the principal F-1 or J-1 visa holder. He/she may face great frustration and difficulty communicating with others while completing simple tasks (such as shopping) on a daily basis without your assistance. This can lead to spouses feeling very lonely and isolated.

Some spouses may have left successful careers in their home country to be supportive of your studies. The limitations of the dependent spouse’s visa status can also cause frustration for them. Transitioning from a working person’s routine to one that may no longer include employment can be difficult and also contribute to a sense of loneliness and isolation. For more information on your spouse's employment eligibility, visit our employment page.