Your spouse and children (under age 21) are eligible to apply for J-2 visas and join you throughout your stay in the U.S. All dependents must have their own DS-2019 immigration document, which may be obtained from ISSS.
Definition of “Dependents” – Please note that as of August 2013, federal law permits issuance of a dependent DS-2019 for same-sex spouses. Children must be under 21 and unmarried. Girlfriends/boyfriends, fiancées, or common-law (i.e. unmarried) living arrangements are currently not recognized by U.S. government agencies as being eligible for J-2 dependent status. If you fall into one of these situations, please consult an ISSS adviser.
Many international scholars want their families to join them in the U.S. Before they arrive, we encourage you to think about their adjustment to living here and how your life will change after they join you. Listed below are some issues for you to think about, do some research on, and talk with your spouse and children about before they arrive. Planning for their arrival will make things easier for everyone.
Absence Outside the U.S. - J-1 scholars should also consider whether they will ever need to be absent from the U.S. for longer than 1 month and wish to leave their J-2 dependents in the U.S. Federal law permits J-1's to be gone for 30 days while leaving the J-2's behind. J-2 dependents are not permitted to stay in the U.S. longer than this if the J-1 is outside the country, so scholars with families will need to plan accordingly.
In order for ISSS to issue an immigration document for your dependent(s), you will need to provide documentation to ISSS that you can cover minimal living costs for your spouse and children. You will also have to demonstrate that you can pay for health insurance for your dependent(s). In addition, you need to plan for these other expenses:
J-2 dependents may apply for work authorization from the U.S. government; however, the process if approved takes several months and there is an application fee of several hundred dollars.
ISSS will issue a form DS-2019 for you to send to your family member in your home country. Your family member will use that form to apply for a J-2 dependent visa. It is important that you include additional documents with the DS-2019 that ISSS gives you. These additional documents include:
Additionally, please be sure to review guidance from the U.S. consulate to which your dependent will apply for the visa. The two most common reasons visas are denied are (1) lack of adequate financial support – the consul does not believe the required funds are really available and (2) “immigrant intent”--failure by family members to convince the consul that they and the family member who is already in the U.S. will really return home after their stay in the U.S. Please see an adviser if you have any questions or concerns about these obstacles to getting a visa.
U.S. immigration law requires that every J-1 exchange visitor and J-2 dependent maintain health insurance coverage for the duration of their stay in the United States. Note: J-2 dependents must maintain continuous insurance coverage throughout the period of the J-1 scholar program as indicated on the DS-2019. Please see the J-1 Health Insurance Requirement  web page for more information.
Children under the age of 10 or 11 should not be left alone. In the system here, leaving small children unattended can be considered child neglect/abuse and is a crime. Information about daycare and pre-schools and other related family care issues is available from Family Services .
Children who are five years old by September 15 will need to be enrolled in school. It is important to find out which school your child will attend (this usually depends on the location of the place where you live), whether that school offers English-as-a-second-language instruction, and what educational documents are required for enrollment. Consult our webpage on K-12 Education for more information.
Attending universities/colleges in the U.S.
Currently there is no regulatory restriction on study for J-2 dependents.
Iowa law requires certain immunizations as a condition of enrollment in any licensed daycare center, pre-school, or school.
Many spouses experience difficulty adjusting to life in the United States, especially if they do not speak English well. It is stressful for them to carry out daily activities, assist their children with schoolwork, and make friends. You may need to spend a lot of time at the beginning helping your spouse do things he or she normally did at home. Your children will also need your assistance with their schoolwork. Remember that you yourself needed some time to adjust after you first arrived here.
During this time, your spouse may become depressed and isolated if you are frequently away from home studying and working. In order to assist in his/her adjustment, you need to help your spouse learn English and meet other people. There are opportunities for formal and informal English instruction in Iowa City. Some activities your spouse can consider include joining the International Women's Club, helping at your children' s daycare or school, participating in sports, and volunteering with local organizations.
Suggestions for your spouse from other foreign spouses