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US Immigration

Posted 1/28/2009

Options for Dependents of Non-Immigrant Workers

It is not uncommon for non-immigrant workers to bring their spouses and dependent children with them to the U.S. In typical households, children usually continue to stay with their parents even after reaching the age of 21.

Normally, the spouse and unmarried minor children (under 21 years of age) of the principal non-immigrant worker may apply for accompanying visas as derivative beneficiaries.

For example, qualified family members of H-1 temporary workers can apply for H-4 visas; dependents of intra-company transferees under L-1 can apply for L-2; dependents of those in O-1 category as persons of extraordinary ability can apply under O-3; those of R-1 religious workers can apply for R-2 visas; J-1 exchange visitors may bring in their spouses and minor children as J-2, among others.
For these categories, each family member must meet the visa eligibility requirement including proof that there are sufficient funds for his/her support during his/her stay in the U.S. The authorized stay in the U.S. of a derivative beneficiary is usually co-terminus with the principal applicant, meaning that he/she will depart the U.S. when the principal applicant’s authorized stay in the U.S. ends. Normally, the dependents are not allowed to work while in the derivative status. They can only work if they apply for and are found eligible for their own work visas.

What happens if children of non-immigrant workers reach 21 years of age and would like to remain in the U.S. to study or work? There are several options available for them.
Full-time students may change status to an F-1 classification once they gain admission to an accredited educational institution authorized to issue an I-20 form to certify eligibility for academic study in the U.S.

Upon certification of the designated school official, F-1 students may be authorized to work part-time for 20 hours per week while school is in session or full-time during school breaks. They can also apply for work under curricular practical training or optional practical training if they meet the requirements to qualify under these programs.

Those who intend to pursue vocational studies instead of full-time academic and language courses may apply for M-1 visas.

For those who decide to study college in their home countries but spend vacation time in the U.S. with their families, aside from the B-2 visitors’ visa, they can also apply under the J Summer Work and Travel program as a viable option to be able to travel and work in the U.S. during summer breaks. This program is available for bonafide post-secondary students enrolled in a full-time course of study at participating accredited educational institutions or sponsor organizations which are pre-approved for exchange visitor programs to issue the DS-2019 or IAP 66 eligibility forms. A list of these sponsors can be seen on the U.S. Department of State website.

It is important to look into and consider these options for children of foreign nationals temporarily assigned and working in the U.S. in order to keep family unity intact and also to prevent the disruption of normal family life and values once the child attains majority age and is no longer qualified for derivative visa status but would still want to remain in the U.S. with his/her family to study and/or work.

has been practicing law for over 30 years and is included in the Marquis Who’s Who in American Law. A former law editor and professor, he is also the author of a book on immigrant experiences. He has spoken in international and national conventions and has been interviewed on radio and television, including the ABC Nightly News. He has participated in meetings with White House staff and the Immigration Commissioner to discuss immigration reforms. For his community service and advocacy, he has received numerous awards in the U.S. and abroad. For more information, you may log on to his website at or call (212) 695-5281
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