Who is eligible for J-2 status?

The spouse and unmarried minor children (under 21 years of age) of the J-1 Exchange Visitor are eligible for J-2 dependent status. A J-1 Exchange Visitor at Penn can be either a “student” or “scholar.”

How can I become a J-2 dependent?

Each J-2 dependent must have his/her own Form DS-2019.  This DS-2019 Form can be obtained from International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) by the J-1 status holder. Once the dependent has the DS-2019 Form, he/she must either.

  • Apply for an J-2 visa stamp at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas (except Canadian citizens). Gain J-2 status through entry to the U.S. by presenting their dependent DS-2019 Form, passport and J-2 visa stamp (accompanied by any supporting documents) at the U.S. Port of Entry; or
  • Apply for a Change of Status within the U.S. (please meet with an advisor at ISSS for further details)

  • Instructions for completing the form
  • Use this eform to obtain a DS-2019 form to bring your spouse and/or dependent children to the US. Parents or other relatives are NOT eligible. ISSS will issue a DS-2019 for a fiancé(e), but keep in mind that in order to obtain a dependent J-2 visa, your spouse will need to demonstrate proof of the marriage during the visa interview. Dependent children must be unmarried and under 21 years of age.

    You must demonstrate the ability to support your dependents by providing proof of additional funding ($6,000 for a spouse and $4,000 for each child) in addition to the funds used to cover your tuition, fees, and living expenses. This amount must be shown regardless of the length of time your dependent(s) will stay in the US.

    Required Documentation
    • A copy of your proof of funding, such as a recent official bank statement; a letter (on bank letterhead with the bank officer’s signature, seal or stamp) confirming your funds; or a University of Pennsylvania letter of funding. See the section below for acceptable sources of funding. Multiple funding sources are permitted.
    • Photocopy of your I-94 card (front and back if issued paper I-94) or US entry/admission stamp in passport  (if issued electronic I-94)
    Refer to the automated I-94 process at http://global.upenn.edu/isss/travel

    • Copies of the passport identification page for each dependent, where available.

    What Funding Sources are Acceptable?
    • Liquid assets (generally checking or savings accounts)
    • Scholarships, grants or fellowships from Penn or a non-Penn source
    Not Acceptable
    • Non-liquid assets (stocks or mutual funds)
    • Assessments of the value of real estate or other property
    • A letter stating the salary of a parent or other sponsor

  • Federal Health Insurance Requirement for J-1 and J-2
  • Unlike any other immigration categories, the Department of State federally mandates all J-1 and J-2 status holders to carry adequate health insurance coverage. The J-1 scholar must purchase insurance for him/herself and his/her J-2 dependents immediately upon arrival in the U..S

    If the J-1 scholar and/or dependents fail to maintain the mandatory health insurance coverage, they will be in violation of federal immigration regulations; will be subject to termination as a participant; and must leave the U.S. immediately.

    DOS required Insurance coverage must meet the following:

    • Medical insurance must cover the entire period of participation in the Exchange Visitor program.

    • Medical benefits must provide a minimum of $50,000 per accident or illness.

    • Medical evacuation must be covered in the amount of $10,000, minimum. (Medical evacuation is emergency medical transportation to the home country.)

    • Repatriation must be covered in the amount of $7,500, minimum (In the unfortunate event of death, repatriation is the transportation of remains back to the home country.)

    • The deductible must not exceed $500 per accident or illness.

    The University’s employee health insurance plan coverage varies, so check for specific coverage.  If the J-1/J-2 is covered under the Penn's postdoc insurance plan, s/he meets the DOS insurance coverage requirements.  Some of Penn’s employee health insurance plans do not cover repatriation and medical evacuation. Thus, the J-1/J-2 should purchase supplemental insurance to cover repatriation and medical evacuation.  Failure to secure or maintain adequate health insurance will result in termination of the J-1 program participation.

  • Employment while in J-2 Status
  • J-2 dependents are eligible to apply for employment authorization from the USCIS as long as the employment is not for the purpose of supporting the J-1. See J-2 Work Permission below for instructions

  • Study while in J-2 Status
    • J-2 children are permitted to enroll in elementary or secondary schools while in the U.S.
    • Currently, the regulations do not have a prohibition for J-2s engaging in post-secondary study on a full-time basis, as long as their primary purpose in the U.S. is to accompany the J-1 status holder.
  • Extension of J-2 Stay
    • The duration of the J-1 status holder's program is stated in item 3 of the DS-2019. If the J-1 is eligible and applies for an extension of stay, the dependent's period of stay will automatically be extended.
    • J-1 Students can request an extension by completing the “Student Program (I-20 or DS-2019) Extension Request” eform.
  • J-2 Work Permission
  • J-2 non-immigrants (the spouses and children of J-1s) may apply to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for permission to work in the United States. Title 8, Code of Federal Regulations, part 214.2(j)(1(v) states:

    "Income from the spouse's or dependent's employment may be used to support the family's customary recreational and cultural activities and related travel, among other things. Employment will not be authorized if this income is needed to support the J-1 principal alien."

    • All applications for the Employment Authorization Document (EAD), including applications for J-2 employment authorization, must be submitted to USCIS.
    • The USCIS can take 2 to 3 months to process the EAD.  J-2’s work may begin only after the J-2 has received an EADl card and during the EAD validity period
    • J-2 holders can only apply for J-2 work permission after they have entered the US in J-2 status or have successfully changed their visa status to J-2 within the US. 
    • They are valid for any kind of full-time or part-time employment for the period stated on the card as long as the J-1 is maintaining status.
    • To apply for an EAD extension, follow the same instructions below. Processing time for renewals is also 2 to 3 months.

    Application Materials

    To apply for J-2 work permission, you need the following:

    • Completed USCIS Form I-765 with “(c) (5) ( )” noted in section 16.
    • Copies of both J-1’s and J-2's
      • I-94 (front and back if issued paper I-94) or US entry/admission stamp in passport  (if issued electronic I-94)
        Refer to the automated I-94 process at http://global.upenn.edu/isss/travel
      • the visa used for last entry into the U.S. (except for citizens of Canada and Bermuda)
      • DS-2019 Forms
      • Copies of the identification pages of both passports, including the photo page
    • I-765  Application Fee, payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
    • Two identical color passport style photographs. Immigration regulations require that your head be uncovered unless you wear a headdress for religious reasons.  Print your name lightly in pencil on the back of the photos.
    • If you have applied for an EAD before, copies of your previous EAD card(s) - front and back
    • A letter stating why income is necessary. See the sample cover letter below.
    • To send your application, see the Mailing Instructions below.

    Social Security and Taxes

    Anyone who earns money in the United States must have a social security number for taxpayer identification purposes. You may apply for a social security number only after you have received your EAD card. J-2 visa holders are subject to social security taxes, federal income taxes and, where applicable, state and local income taxes.

    Sample J-2 Cover Letter

    [Your address]


    [refer to the address under Mailing Instructions]

    Dear Sir or Madam:

    With this letter, I am applying for employment authorization on the basis of my J-2 status. I am the dependent [husband or wife] of [name], a J-1 [student or scholar] at the University of Pennsylvania.

    I want to work because [reason for employment]. (Please remember that income from employment is to be used to support the family's customary recreational, educational and cultural activities and related travel.)

    I declare that the money I earn will be used for cultural, recreational, and related travel activities and will not be used to support the J-1.

    [J-2 signature]
    [J-2 name]

    Mailing Instructions
    • Before mailing, make a photocopy of the completed application for your records.
    • Staple the check and envelope with photos to the form I-765 and place on top. Mail the application to the USCIS Service Center which has jurisdiction over the address you listed on the I-765 in item 3.
    • Pennsylvania or New Jersey addresses use the USCIS “Dallas Lockbox” filing location:

      U.S. Postal Service deliveries:
      P.O. Box 660867
      Dallas, TX 75266

      Express mail and courier deliveries:
      Attn: AOS
      2501 S. State Highway 121 Business
      Suite 400
      Lewisville, TX 75067

    • People filing at the lockbox can sign up to receive an email and/or text message confirming that the application was accepted by adding Form G-1145 as the first page of the EAD application.
    • We strongly recommend you mail your application by express mail or by “Certified Mail Return Receipt” so that you will have a record of its delivery.

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