The University of Iowa

Inviting Spouse and/or Children to the US (Scholars)

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. 

How do I add my dependent to my record?

  1. Login to your iHawk account (click the blue login button) using your HawkID and password. Go to "J-1 Scholar Services" and complete the e-form request "Add a New Dependent." Be prepared to answer biographical questions about your dependent and upload a copy of his/her passport. If you have more than one dependent you are seeking to add, please note you will need to complete a separate request for each individual.  After submission of your request, an individual in ISSS will review your request and determine if there are any questions or further documentation needed.  If there are no questions, your request will be approved and a new DS-2019 will be issued.

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:

  • medical costs and medication not covered by health insurance
  • car expenses
  • daycare/baby-sitting or extra-curricular activities for your child(ren)
  • winter clothing for your family members


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.

Visa Issuance

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:

  1. A certified English translation of an official marriage certificate (for spouses) or evidence of family relationship (for children) such as birth certificates or adoption papers.
  2. Photocopies of your own I-94, passport, and visa pages
  3. Letter from your department verifying your scholarly activities
  4. Financial support information – send one or both as appropriate:
  • an offer letter from your department, detailing University of Iowa funding.
  • a bank statement, issued within the last month, verifying the amount of money you have in your account(s).

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.

Health Insurance

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, Schools, and Childcare

Please see the Guide to Living in Iowa City for details on how children are viewed in the U.S., how to enroll your child in school, childcare options or babysitting, safety, and child abuse/neglect.

Cultural Adjustment

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

  • Practice English every day, beginning while in your home country if possible
  • Learn to drive a car, preferably in your home country first, if feasible
  • Bring some household and children's items with you
  • Join the International Women’s Club