Deciding whether or not to have your family join you in the United States is a big decision. We highly recommend that you visit our section about Bringing Family before you make this important decision.

If you decide that having your family with you in the United States is best, ISS can guide you through the process for family members to obtain a dependent visa.

Family members may choose to either travel with you to Cleveland or join you later. Family members who will travel with you to CWRU will be provided the appropriate dependent I-20 or DS-2019 so that they can apply for the appropriate F-2 or J-2 visa in your home country. Upon your admission, ISS will request supplementary information from you to process their dependent documents.

If your family members will be joining you later to live with you in the US as your dependents, you’ll need to complete and submit a Request for New I-20 or DS-2019 along with financial documentation showing that you can support your family members’ additional expenses. The financial documents should cover your expenses as well as your dependent's expenses: $6,000 in extra living expenses for a spouse and $3,000 per child. This documentation must be less than six months old.

Upon receiving your new I-20s or DS-2019s—one for you and one for each dependent—provide your dependents with theirs and a copy of yours. They will take these documents to a local consular office and apply for their dependent visa. 

When your family arrives in Cleveland, either with you or later on, please bring their passports to International Student Services so we can make copies for your student file. And bring your family by the office, too—we’d love to meet them!

Work Authorization for Dependents

The high cost of living in the United States often requires both spouses to work; however, your spouse likely will not have employment as an available option.

F-2 dependents are not eligible for employment under any circumstances.

J-2 dependents may apply for work authorization only under specific immigration guidelines:

  • You must hold valid J-2 status, and the Exchange Visitor must hold valid J-1 status, as shown on the Exchange Visitor's Form DS-2019 and your I-94 Departure Record cards.
  • Your income may not be used to support the J-1 under any circumstances.
  • You may work only after you receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Validity dates will be printed on the EAD.
  • You may work part-time or full-time, at any job, for any employer (except that you may not practice medicine, even if you have a license). There is no legal limit to the amount that you may earn.

USCIS can authorize J-2 employment in one year intervals for as long as the J-1 Exchange Visitor has permission to stay OR for four years, whichever is shorter.

If your permission to stay in the U.S. expires, so will your EAD. An ISS advisor will explain how to extend permission to stay for the J-1 and all J-2 dependents, and will know whether you may apply for a new EAD with the application for extension, or after it has been approved. A pending application for extension of stay, or for a new EAD, does not authorize you to continue working.

Applications for J-2 work authorization are authorized by USCIS. Copies of several items must accompany your application to USCIS. A list is provided in this downloadable packet.

It takes 12 or more weeks for the EAD card to be processed and mailed back to you. You may not begin work until you receive the EAD card.

When you’ve secured a job, you’ll need to complete specific paperwork with your employer to prove that you’re legally permitted to work and to comply with U.S. Labor Law and tax regulations. You’ll need to obtain (if you don’t have one already) and then provide a Social Security Number. To apply for a Social Security Number, bring the following to a local Social Security Administration office:

  • Valid passport
  • I-94
  • DS-2019- your original document and a copy of the J-1’s document
  • EAD Card
  • Letter of employment

All individuals in the U.S. who have income must file a U.S. tax return, even if no taxes are withheld from the income because of a tax treaty exemption between the U.S. and the country of tax residence for the international visitor. For more information, please visit Filing Taxes for some general information.

Inviting Family Members to Visit the U.S.

During your time as a student at CWRU, you may want to invite family members to visit you. Visitors apply for a B-2 visa at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy in their home country. To prepare for the application and interview process, ISS suggests that you:

  • Advise family members to visit the website of the consular office where they will apply for their visitor visa to learn about requirements specific to their process.
  • Write a letter of invitation, in English, to your family members.  The letter should include the purpose of the visit (for example, to celebrate the holiday season, to attend commencement ceremonies, etc.); details about the length of the visit (usually less than three months); and if you plan to provide financial support while they are here.  Graduate Students receiving stipends may want to include a departmental funding letter to demonstrate their ability to financial support visiting family members. Also, be sure to emphasize that your invitation is for a temporary visit and demonstrate your family members' intentions to return home after the visit.
  • Include Enrollment Verification from the University Registrar's Office to confirm your student status.
  • Provide details about Commencement if your family members are visiting to attend the ceremonies.

These suggestions may improve your family members chances of obtaining a visa, but there is no guarantee that a visa will be issued. Visitor visas are issued to individuals who are able to prove that they have no intention of remaining in the U.S. permanently.

Please note that ISS staff are unable to write letters of invitation to your family members.