Dependent Family Members of FTE Scientists
This page contains information for dependent family members of Full-time Equivalent (FTE) employees in the Visiting Program. 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 on our
Welcome to the D.C. Area page.
As an NIH FTE employee, if you extend or change your immigration status to H-1B, O-1, E-3, or TN, your spouse and unmarried children under age 21 may be eligible to extend or change to the relevant dependent status: H-4, O-3, E-3D and TD, respectively.
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 page.
Adding a Dependent – Inside the U.S.
If your eligible family members are in the United States when DIS files an I-129 petition on your behalf for an NIH FTE position, they must complete
Form I-539 to apply to extend/change status with you. The Form I-539 is completed for the first dependent, and the Supplement Form I-539A is completed for each additional dependent.
DIS can include your dependents' application forms in the same package as your I-129 petition as a courtesy. A DIS Immigration Specialist will provide minimal guidance on the dependent application process once they are assigned to your case, and you may also review
DIS general guidance on the process.
However, dependent application forms are personal applications. You are responsible for confirming that all information on the dependent forms is correct and all required evidence is provided. Review all USCIS instructions and answer questions carefully.
If DIS is not processing a petition on your behalf when your family member wants to extend or change status as your dependent, they must independently submit the Form I-539 to USCIS.
Adding a Dependent – Outside the U.S.
If you are already at NIH as an FTE employee and your eligible family member abroad wants to join you in the United States in dependent status, they can apply for the relevant dependent visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
The dependent visa process is similar to any other application for a non-immigrant visa. Review our
Getting Your Visa page. Check with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where your family member will apply for a visa to learn what documents are required.
After your dependent arrives in the United States, send DIS copies of their Form I-94 and visa. Send any documents with Personally Identifiable Information (PII) to DIS securely, such as via the
Secure Email and File Transfer (SEFT) Service.
School and Employment in the United States
Your dependents may be eligible to study part-time or full-time. However, some schools of higher education may have special requirements, such as changing to a student visa classification. Contact the school for additional information.
Immigration regulations prohibit employment for O-3 and TD dependents. E-3 dependents and
certain H-4 dependents may be able to apply for employment authorization with USCIS with
Form I-765. DIS cannot advise on these personal applications.
Dependents who work in the U.S. are required to file both state and federal tax returns. Additional guidance is on our
Only true volunteer activities are permissible for dependents without employment authorization. The activities must be available to any person who wants to volunteer and would not displace a U.S. worker. Examples include volunteering for a charitable organization or church where there is no general expectation of compensation.
Depending on their immigration status and the type of activity, your dependents may be eligible to volunteer at the NIH. However, dependents without work authorization cannot be "Special Volunteers" at the NIH. Special Volunteers do not fit the above description because they provide a service to the NIH, such as research services, direct patient care, clerical support, or technical assistance. Such service requires work authorization even though the work is unpaid.
Dependents may travel independently of the primary FTE employee. Always check whether your dependent has the necessary visa to enter any third countries before traveling, if applicable, and that they have a valid U.S. visa to return after their trip. Travel and visa renewal guidance is on our
Maintain Status Validity
Dependents should always maintain a valid passport and Form I-94. Maintaining status is the responsibility of you, the FTE employee, and your dependent family members. Most FTE renewal cases can be processed by DIS up to six months in advance, if not earlier. Be proactive to ensure that DIS receives your renewal case in a timely manner.