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DIS Title Divider Visiting Scientists Title Divider J-2 Dependents
Visiting Program Scientists​​​
J-2 Exchange Visitor Dependents

Information on obtaining J-2 status for dependents of J-1 Exchange Visitors, as well as the rights and responsibilities of individuals in J-2 status can be found on this page. Additional resources for Visiting Program Participants and their dependents, including information about the D.C. area, child care information, and other useful links can be found here.

Guidance for family members who are not considered dependents (parents, siblings, children over 21, and unmarried domestic partners) is on our Non-Dependent Family Visitors webpage.



A J-1 Exchange Visitor’s spouse and/or unmarried children under age 21 are eligible for J-2 dependent status. Their eligibility to stay in the U.S. and extend their J-2 status is based on the J-1’s program.

Adding a J-2 Dependent


If you are in the process of coming to NIH as a J-1 Exchange Visitor, provide your family’s information [including copies of passport biographical page(s)] to your NIH Administrative Officer (AO), who will send these documents to DIS.

If you are already at the NIH in J-1 status and now want your family members to join you, or you recently got married or had a child born outside the U.S., submit a Request for Dependent Form DS-2019 to our office along with a copy of your dependent's passport biographical page. DIS will create a J-2 DS-2019 for each dependent.

Obtaining a J-2 Visa


The J-2 visa process is similar to that of the J-1. Guidance on obtaining a J non-immigrant visa can be found here. Remember to check with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you will be applying for your visa to learn what documents they require. As with NIH-sponsored J-1s, J-2 dependents are exempt from the visa fee and can use the NIH J-1/J-2 Fee Exemption letter as needed in support of this exemption.

Arrival of Dependents


After your dependent(s) arrive in the U.S. in J-2 status, please send DIS copies of their Form(s) I-94 and visa(s). Remember to send Personally Identifiable Information (PII) to DIS in a secure manner (i.e. email encryption, fax, hand delivery, or the Secure Email and File Transfer (SEFT) Service).

Health Insurance


J-2 dependents must obtain and maintain health insurance that meets these minimum requirements set by the Department of State (DOS). All J-1s must maintain health insurance coverage for themselves and their family members for the duration of their Exchange Visitor Program. If a J-2 dependent arrives in the U.S. after the J-1 Exchange visitor, they must be added to the J-1’s health insurance within 30 days of their arrival. For additional information, review our Maintaining J-1 Status guidance.

If you are currently at the NIH and now want your family members to join you (or you recently got married), you can request a Form DS-2019 for your dependent (s) by submitting our Request for Dependent Form DS-2019 to the DIS. After your dependent(s) arrives to the U.S., notify your IC and the DIS. They must be added to your health insurance as soon as possible due to J-1 requirements.

All paid designations (Pre- and Post-doctoral Visiting & Supplemental Fellows), should notify their Institute or Center (IC) Administrative Officer (AO) about dependent arrival to update the fellowship payroll system for family insurance coverage.

All unpaid designations must take a DIS issued form 829-6 to FAES to verify coverage within 30 days of your dependents’ arrival to the U.S. if they arrive separately.

Work Authorization


J-2 dependents may apply for permission to work in the United States (also referred to as an Employment Authorization Document or EAD). Note that a J-2 dependent cannot work until s/he receives the physical EAD from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

  • Note: EADs routinely take 90 days or more to renew through USCIS. To help avoid a gap in J-2 work authorization, NIH-sponsored J-1s and NIH administrative staff should send DIS J-1 renewal cases to DIS six months before the current DS-2019 expires so that DIS can process them as early as possible.

Income from the spouse's or dependent's employment may be used to support the family's customary recreational and cultural activities and related travel, among other things. Employment will not be authorized if this income is needed to support the J-1 Exchange Visitor.

J-2 dependents who work will also need to obtain a Social Security Number (SSN).

Refer to the J-2 EAD application procedures for NIH-sponsored J-2 dependents.

Changing Status from J-2


After entering the U.S. in J-2 status, a J-2 has limited ability to change to another immigration status. Under J-1 bars, a J-2 must wait two years after ending their J-2 status to be eligible for their own J-1 Research Scholar program. Furthermore, J-2 dependents of NIH-sponsored J-1s are subject to the 212(e) Two-Year Home Residency Requirement (see 212e section below). The primary J-1 will likely need to fulfill 212(e) to allow their J-2 dependent to change to another immigration status. Refer to our 212(e) Requirement guidance.

If a dependent family member plans on having their own scientific career in the U.S., they should carefully consider whether it is best to become a J-2 dependent and apply for an EAD card (see Work Authorization section above) or obtain their own J-1. Contact DIS with questions.



J-2 dependents may study part- or full-time. Contact the prospective school for more information.

Volunteer Opportunities


Only true volunteer activities are permissible for J-2 dependents without employment authorization. For example, volunteering at a school or church where there is no general expectation of compensation.

  • Note: J-2 dependents can only be Special Volunteers at the NIH once they have received a valid EAD from the USCIS. Guidance on obtaining an EAD is available here. Special Volunteers provide a service to the NIH, such as research services, direct patient care, clerical support, technical assistance, or any other necessary service for the NIH. Such service requires work authorization regardless if the work is paid or unpaid.



J-2 dependents who work in the U.S. are required to file both state and federal tax returns. See more on taxes here.



J-2 dependents must have a travel signature on their J-2 Form DS-2019 before any travel outside of the United States. The travel signature can only come from a Responsible Officer (RO) or Alternate Responsible Officer (ARO) of the J-1 sponsor. For Exchange Visitors sponsored by the NIH, a list of ROs and AROs can be found here. If unsure whether you have a valid travel signature, see here.

Always check whether the J-2 needs an entry visa to enter the new country before traveling. Refer to our website and travel handouts with recommended travel and visa renewal procedures.

Maintain Status Validity


J-2 dependents should always maintain a valid passport, J-2 DS-2019, and Form I-94 marked “D/S” (Duration of Status). If a J-2 dependent receives an I-94 with an expiration date listed as something other than “D/S”, contact DIS immediately.

Maintaining status is the responsibility of the J-1 and J-2 Exchange Visitor. J-1 renewal cases can be processed by DIS up to six months in advance and allowing for six months of processing time is advisable when a J-2 EAD is involved. Be proactive in ensuring that DIS receives your renewal case in a timely manner, and keep your IC informed of any circumstances that may affect the status of either the J-1 or J-2. .

212(e) Requirement and Bars on Repeat J Program Participation


Please note that if the J-1 Exchange Visitor is subject to the 212(e) Two-Year Home Residence Requirement and/or bars on repeat J program participation, the J-2 dependents are subject as well. All NIH-sponsored J-1 Exchange Visitors and their J-2 dependents are subject to these requirements, even if not directly funded by NIH.

Refer to our 212(e) Requirement guidance.

Refer to our Bars on Repeat J Program Participation guidance.

Serious Incidents:


Notify DIS if you are arrested, hospitalized, or involved in any serious accidents. Additionally, the Department of State has a hotline to ensure the health and safety of its exchange participants; for emergency situations contact them at 866-283-9090.

When to Notify DIS


NIH-sponsored J-1 Exchange Visitors must notify DIS about certain changes related to their J-2 dependents. This includes but is not limited to: 1) divorce, 2) death of a J-2 dependent, and 3) a J-2 dependent’s early departure from the U.S., if they leave without the intention of returning before the end of the J-1 program.

If you have any questions or concerns about the above information or need to notify our office of any changes or incidents, please Contact DIS.

Revised 09/2022

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