Family Matters

If you have family members who will accompany you for all or part of your program at BU, they will need to also obtain the appropriate immigration classification to allow them to enter and remain in the U.S. with you or to pursue their own work or study. For a spouse or minor child who enters the U.S. as your dependent, their lawful status in the U.S. is derivative, meaning it is dependent on your physical presence and legal status in the U.S.

Dependent Requests

Students or scholars who have dependents (or are themselves dependents) will need to make certain requests to the ISSO if they want to invite visitors, add/change dependents, or apply for work permission.

Adding a Dependent After Program Start

BU students and scholars wishing to add a family member as a dependent in F-2 or J-2 status after arriving in the U.S. should submit a request to add dependent, along with documentation of sufficient financial support to cover the dependent expenses. If you hold another immigration status and wish to add a dependent, please contact your ISSO advisor for case-specific advice.


Each F-2 dependent must have his/her own Form I-20, which is issued by the ISSO. The F-2 I-20 can be issued at the time of the F-1 student’s admission or can be issued after the F-1 student begins his/her program of study.


Each J-2 dependent must have his/her own DS-2019, which is issued by the ISSO. The J-2 DS-2019 can be issued at the time the J-1 student or scholar is initially admitted or offered a research/teaching appointment, or can be issued after the J-1 visitor begins his/her program.


No separate USCIS immigration document is required for dependents entering the U.S. in H-4 status for the first time, though a separate I-797A Approval Notice may be issued if a dependent extends H-4 status or changes to H-4 status within the U.S.

Dependent Status Eligibility

Dependent status is generally available only to family members that fall under these categories:

  1. A federally recognized spouse
  2. A child under the age of 21
    • !If your spouse or child is entering the U.S. for the purpose of work or full-time study, it may be most appropriate for them to enter in their own “principal” status (F-1, J-1, or H-1B).


    • !If you, the visa holder, depart the U.S. for a significant time or violate your status, your dependents may also be required to depart the country, as their U.S. status is tied to yours.


  • !If your spouse or child was born in the U.S., they will generally qualify for U.S. citizenship and a U.S. passport. They do not need to be added as a dependent on your status.

Other Household Members

Not all family or household members qualify for a dependent immigration status. Children over the age of 21, same-sex domestic partners with partnerships recognized abroad or by certain U.S. states, common-law spouses, second/subsequent spouses, accompanying parents, or household employees do not qualify for dependent statuses under U.S. federal immigration laws. Same-sex spouses whose marriage is legally recognized can now obtain a dependent DS-2019. Please contact the ISSO for advising and assistance if you wish to enter the U.S. with a household member who does not qualify to enter as your dependent.

Family Members as Short-Term Visitors

Perhaps your parent wishes to attend your graduation ceremony, or your spouse plans to keep his job at home while you complete your graduate degree but wants to come for a short vacation. If your family member wishes to visit you for a short period of time (a few weeks or months), they may be able enter the U.S. in a visitor status, such as B-2 “Visitor for Tourism” or WT “Visa Waiver for Tourism.” For this type of visit, you may wish to request a Letter of Invitation to assist your relative in applying for their visitor’s visa.

Dependent Children Turning 21

A dependent child can only remain in a dependent status until the date on which they turn 21 years of age. Once they reach their twenty-first birthday, they “age out” of eligibility for a dependent status. Children nearing their twenty-first birthday should contact an ISSO advisor a few months or weeks in advance to discuss options for changing to another immigration status prior to the end of their dependent status.