How do I get a J-2 visa stamp? / Instructions for Entering the U.S. as a J-2 Dependent

Dependents of J-1 exchange visitors (spouse and unmarried children under age 21) can enter the United States in J-2 status. Dependent children cannot remain in J-2 visa status after their 21st birthday. Each dependent must have a separate Form DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status). This document will permit dependents to apply for J-2 visa stamps at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate and enter the United States in J-2 status. Dependents may travel with the J-1 exchange visitor or join the J-1 exchange visitor later.

In order to issue the J-2 Form(s) DS-2019, information about the J-1 exchange visitor and any J-2 family members will be entered, as required by law, into SEVIS (the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System), a government tracking program used by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

If your plans change and you do not use a J-2 DS-2019, please inform the International Scholars Office (ISchO) and then return the unused DS-2019 promptly.

To enter the United States as a J-2 dependent:

1. Complete the DS-2019. Carefully read pages one and two and then sign the "certification" at the bottom of page one. Each J-2 dependent should sign his/her own DS-2019, unless the dependent is under the age of 14, in which case the J-1 exchange visitor should sign on behalf of the dependent.

2. Go to the website of the U.S. Consulate at which you plan to apply for your visa stamp. Consulate-specific instructions can usually be found in the "Nonimmigrant Visas" section of the website.Complete the online Nonimmigrant Visa Application (Form DS-160), pay the visa application fee and reciprocity fee, if any; schedule an appointment; and submit Form DS-2019 and other required documents. Canadian citizens, please read the information below.

The J-2 visa is a nonimmigrant visa. The U.S. Consulate must be satisfied that you do not plan to immigrate to the United States. The burden of proof will be on you to show you have a residence in your home country which you do not intend to abandon and that you qualify for the J-2 visa category.

  • Canadian citizens are not required to obtain a visa stamp from a U.S. Consulate. However, they are admitted in a specific visa classification and must present the DS-2019 and SEVIS I-901 fee receipt at the border or port of entry in order to be admitted in J-2 status and be issued an I-94 record with the correct notations. Canadians are typically asked to pay a $7 border-crossing fee related to the Form I-94.

Please note:

  • J-2 dependents are NOT required to pay a SEVIS I-901 fee before applying for a visa stamp or admission to the United States. Only the J-1 exchange visitor must pay this fee.
  • J-2 dependents may apply for their J-2 visa stamps either with the J-1 exchange visitor or separately, without the J-1 exchange visitor. If you apply separately, we recommend that you bring with you a copy of the J-1's appointment or invitation letter from MIT, and documentation supporting the J-1's funding listed on the DS-2019.
  • Please review our Travel Advisory for important information about the visa application and travel to the United States.

3. When you arrive at the U.S. airport or border, show your DS-2019 and passport with J-2 visa stamp to the immigration inspector, and request to be admitted in J-2 status. As soon as possible after your arrival, you should print/download your electronic I-94 admission record and make sure it contains the notations "J-2" and "D/S" (duration of status). The U.S. immigration inspector may also place an admission stamp in your passport, marked with these notations.

Please note:

  • Like J-1 exchange visitors, J-2 dependents may enter the United States up to 30 days before the start date listed on the Form DS-2019. However, unlike J-1 exchange visitors, who must enter the United States within 30 days after the start date listed on the Form DS-2019, J-2 dependents may enter the United States at any time after the start date.

Travel Outside the United States

Please do not leave the United States without the immigration documents that are required for your return. You must have a valid J-2 entry visa stamp in your passport and a valid DS-2019, with a valid travel signature in the lower right section, in order to re-enter the United States. Be sure to check your documents before departing the United States.

We are happy to assist you with questions about your documents. If your visa stamp has expired or will expire soon, please check with us to get the proper instructions for applying for a new visa stamp. It is not possible to apply for a U.S. entry visa stamp within the United States.

Special regulations apply to visits to Canada, Mexico, or adjacent islands. See the Travel and Visa Renewal Information webpage.

Department of State (DOS) program information and requirements

Health Insurance: All J-1 scholars and J-2 dependents must have health insurance that meets specific requirements. We must notify DOS if you fail to meet the requirements.

Twenty-four Month Bar: The J-1 Exchange Visitor Category (Research Scholar, Professor, Short-Term Scholar, or Specialist) is listed in Box 4 of the DS-2019. J-1 Research Scholars and Professors, and their J-2 dependents, will become subject to the 24-month bar if: (1) the J-1 scholar completes a full five years of J-1 Research Scholar or Professor program participation with one or more J-1 program sponsors, or (2) the J-1 scholar completes a particular J-1 Research Scholar or Professor program of ANY LENGTH, and the SEVIS record becomes inactive BEFORE the full five-year period is over. Both J-1 scholars and J-2 dependents who are subject to the 24-month bar must wait at least 24 months before beginning a new J-1 program in the Research Scholar or Professor category.

Two-Year Home Country Residency Requirement [212(e)]: J-1 scholars and their J-2 dependents will be subject to this requirement if the J-1 program is funded by either the J-1 scholar's government or the U.S. government, involves specialized knowledge or skills deemed necessary by the J-1 scholar's home country, or if the J-1 scholar came to the U.S. for graduate medical training. If this requirement applies, the J-1 scholar and his/her J-2 dependents must return to their home country for a cumulative total of two years at the end of the J-1 program. They are not prohibited from traveling to the U.S. but they may not benefit from certain employment-based or family-based visas until the requirement is satisfied.

Employment authorization for J-2 dependents

Permission to work will be authorized by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) if the employment is for support of the spouse and/or minor children in the United States but not for the support of the J-1 exchange visitor. The money earned may be for J-2 travel, recreational, or cultural activities. If the income is needed to support the exchange visitor, USCIS will not authorize employment. More information about J-2 work permission

Page updated May 2023