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 joining 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. It also is a good idea to request a Letter of Good Standing from ISS and include it with these new I-20s or DS-2019s.

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 the packet that's available in International Student Services or download it now.

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.

Bringing Relatives and Friends to the U.S. for a Visit

Be sure to have your guest visit the website of the consular office where they will apply for their visitor visa to learn about requirements specific to their process.

In general, International Student Services suggests you provide:

  • A personal letter (written in English so the visa officer can read it) to the relative or friend: This letter should express your intention to have the person here in the United States. There also is a “letter of invitation” that is a standardized form, but the personal letter has information about your strong interest in bringing the person to the United States for a visit. Mention what you’d like to do/see/share with them during the visit and any financial support you may provide to the visitor during the stay. The letter should be addressed directly to your relative or friend
  • Letter of invitation (optional): This is more of a form than a letter. You need to fill out a letter (available for pickup in the ISS office) for each family member you would like to invite.
    • Notarizing your letter of invitation: Notarizing is the act of witnessing a document to be valid and truthful by requiring the document be signed in the presence of a notary public. To have your document notarized, take the UNSIGNED letter to any notary public. Terri Geiger is a notary public on campus located in the Thwing Center Administration Offices, on the second floor of Thwing Center. There is a charge of $1 per page and Terri requests that you call ahead to 216.368.2660 to verify her availability.

Bringing Relatives or Friends for Commencement

Be sure to have your guest visit the website of the consular office where they will apply for their visitor visa to learn about requirements specific to their process.

In general, International Student Services suggests you provide:

  • Commencement Invitation: Complete the request form, and we will gladly generate an invitation letter for your guests. Please carefully follow the instructions provided on the form and through email to prevent processing delays.
  • Financial document (optional): Provide current information to your guests and explain your willingness to support them during their visit if you expect difficulty for them in obtaining a visa for their visit.
  • Letter of good standing (optional): Request a letter from ISS and include it with information that you’re sending your guests if you think it will assist in their application for obtaining a visa.