Visas for Parents to Accompany F-1 Student to the U.S.

The B-2 (visitor for pleasure) visa is as flexible as a world-class gymnast. The State Department has announced that a B-2 visa may be used by parents to accompany a minor with an F-1 (student) visa to the U.S.

As background, the F-2 visa is available for the spouse and unmarried children (under age 21) to accompany an F-1 student to the U.S. Children in F-2 status are able to attend public school in the United States.  Spouses in F-2 status may not work. Procedurally speaking, F-2 visa applicants will need to obtain a Form I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant F-1 Student Status) from the F-1 student’s school but will not need to pay the SEVIS fee.

But what about other family members of the F-1 student besides the spouse and unmarried children? For example, F-2 visas are unavailable to parents, in-laws, or adult sons and daughters of an F-1 student.

The State Department says that the B-2 classification is appropriate for noncitizens who are members of the household of another person with F-1 or other long-term nonimmigrant status. Other examples include cohabitating partners or elderly parents of temporary workers, students, or diplomats posted to the U.S.

Household members may be allowed to stay in the U.S. for the same period as the long-term nonimmigrant relative they are accompanying. For example, if an F-1 student is admitted to a 4-year high school program in the U.S., the parents may be able to stay in the U.S. for the same period. At the port of entry, they may request that the supervisor initially admit them for a period of one year. Extensions in increments of up to six months are available thereafter.

Here’s the rule:

    9 FAM 402.2-4(B)(5) Cohabitating Partners, Extended Family Members, and Other Household Members not Eligible for Derivative Status

(CT:VISA-1; 11-18-2015)
(Previous Location: 9 FAM 41.31 N14.4; CT:VISA-2195; 10-14-2014)

The B-2 classification is appropriate for aliens who are members of the household of another alien in long-term nonimmigrant status, but who are not eligible for derivative status under that alien’s visa classification. This is also an appropriate classification for aliens who are members of the household of a U.S. citizen who normally lives and works overseas, but is returning to the United States for a temporary time period. Such aliens include, but are not limited to the following: cohabitating partners or elderly parents of temporary workers, students, diplomats posted to the United States, and accompanying parent(s) of minor F-1 child-student. B-2 classification may also be accorded to a spouse or child who qualifies for derivative status (other than derivative A or G status) but for whom it may be inconvenient or impossible to apply for the proper H-4, L-2, F-2, or other derivative visa, provided that the derivative individual intends to maintain a residence outside the United States and otherwise meets the B visa eligibility requirements. If such individuals plan to stay in the United States for more than six months, they should be advised to ask the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for a one-year stay at the time they apply for admission. If needed, they may thereafter apply for extensions of stay, in increments of up to six months, for the duration of the principal alien’s nonimmigrant status in the United States. You should consider annotating to indicate the purpose and length of stay in such cases.

While the B-2 visa is flexible, there are important limitations, including the nonimmigrant intent requirement. In short, this means that a B-2 visa applicant must prove that the visit to the U.S. is temporary and that he or she has such strong family, economic, cultural, and other ties to his or her home country that the consular officer is persuaded the applicant will return home upon completion of the stated purpose of the visit. For details, see Proving Nonimmigrant Intent for a U.S. Visa.

In addition, where the B-2 visa applicant seeks to accompany an F-1 student, you can anticipate that a consular officer will also scrutinize the student’s lawful status and nonimmigrant intent. If the student has violated status or lacks nonimmigrant intent, the B-2 visa application will likely be denied.

Another challenge is that B-2 visitors in the U.S. are not authorized to work. So a parent applying for a B-2 visa will need to prove sufficient savings to cover living expenses and the child’s tuition for the entire contemplated period in the U.S.

An example of a strong B-2 visa application may be where there are compelling reasons for the child to study in the U.S., such as in a special education program or a gifted program that is not available in the home country. In such compelling situations, a U.S. consular officer may understand that a parent may be willing to take a prolonged (but still temporary) leave from a job in his or her home country just so the child can take advantage of the unique educational opportunity.

There may be other ways to achieve the same result. For example, the parent may apply for a U.S. work visa, such as an H-1B, J-1, L-1, or O-1, and the child may be able to apply for either the F-1 student visa or the dependent visa corresponding to the parent’s work visa (H-4, J-2, L-2, or O-3).

Feel free to schedule a consultation with our firm to discuss this in further detail.

 

 

38 Replies to “Visas for Parents to Accompany F-1 Student to the U.S.”

  1. My daughter will be 18 when she enters Lynn University this fall. My wife and 14 year daughter who is home schooled wish to stay in the USA for the duration of her 4 year stay. We have two businesses in South Africa which I will remain behind to manage. We have $100 000 in the USA at present and I will purchase a house cah for her in Boca Raton. She will not be working nor be required to work. We own 9 properties in South Africa and they will be returning after the four year period. Will we be able to able for a visa for them.

  2. John,

    Thanks for your question. As mentioned above, your wife and 14-year-old daughter will be required to prove nonimmigrant intent. The consular officer who adjudicates the visa applications will consider the totality of the facts. There are a couple interesting facts that you mention. First, that your wife wants to accompany your college-age daughter. In the U.S., it is common (but not universal) for college students to move away from their parents. So the consular officer may wonder why your wife wants to accompany her. Your wife may need to be prepared to answer that question in a truthful and persuasive manner because otherwise the officer may determine that the reason your wife seeks to go to the U.S. is as an immigrant. Second, while the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual doesn’t exclude siblings from accompanying an F-1 foreign student to the U.S., some consular officers may resist a broad reading of the Manual, interpreting it as covering just “closer” relatives, such as parents or domestic partners. It seems to me that such a reading would be mistaken but not uncommon. An officer with that way of thinking may believe that your 14-year-old daughter would be better off applying for her own student visa. So your family may need to be prepared to explain why the B-2 is more appropriate than than an F-1 visa for her. In sum, the officer should consider the totality of the facts in determining whether a B-2 visa applicant has nonimmigrant intent. I’ve mentioned a couple of facts that may be relevant to that determination. There are certainly other facts too. My suggestion is that you have an in-depth discussion with a U.S. immigration lawyer about the facts and available strategies, including but not limited to applying for B-2 visas.

  3. Mr. Chodorow,

    Thank you for writing about this change of the laws regarding parents accompanying minors with F-1 visas. I’m so glad I found your site! Do you perhaps have a link to an official government site or document that details this change, specifically the section that mentions that the parent’s visa can be issued for the length of the student’s visa? I have been searching official government sites for this information, but the page on B-1/B-2 visas doesn’t reflect the change you mentioned. Also, do you know if there are any grounds that customs can deny a parent a B-2 visa for the full length of the F-1 visa issued to their child? A friend of mine was given a B-2 visa for only a year, despite her child having an F-1 visa for two, and was told that after the year she (the parent) would have to leave the country for at least six months to prove she didn’t intend on living here. According to the development that you posted, this shouldn’t be happening. What course of action do you recommend?

    Many Thanks,
    Robert

  4. Robert,

    I’ve added in the text of my post a link to the relevant State Department policy.

    By the way, for the U.S., it’s the State Department that issues visas and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that staffs the inspection stations at airports and other ports entry to decide whether an individual with a visa will be admitted to the U.S. and on what terms. Your friend may want to consult with an immigration lawyer, who can learn the facts in detail and give corresponding advice.

  5. Mr. Chodorow,

    I have already got a B2 Visa. I intend to bring my children (14 and 10 years old) to study in the USA as F1 students. Normally when I travel to the USA, the Customs officer gives me a 6-month stay. Will it be the same after my children have F-1 status, and will I need to tell the officer about my children when I enter?

    (I have a business in Brazil, so I will have to travel several times a year to run my business.)

  6. Helio,

    Here’s what applicants often do. You can consult with an immigration lawyer about whether this strategy is appropriate for you:

    When your kids apply for F-1 student visas, their Forms DS-160, Nonimmigrant Visa Application, will indicate what address they intend to live at. You can explain in a letter to the officer that this address is your home and that you intend to accompany the children while in the U.S.

    Later, when you are entering the U.S. with your B1/B2 visa, the officer will ask, what is the purpose of your stay, to which you can truthfully respond that you intend to accompany your children during their F-1 studies. The officer can would most likely admit you in B-2 status for the default 6-month period but has the power, where warranted, to admit you for up to 1 year.

  7. This is fantastic!!! Thanks so much for this article—which will be coming with me when I drive across the border in a couple of months:)

    This is the hardest thing to find an answer to! I have asked at least 10 immigration lawyers, and not one has come up with this new addition to the rules!

    Thanks again—now to play the good old border version of entry roulette;)

  8. My 24-year old son is studying for a master’s in the USA. I, his mother , live in India. I’ve traveled to USA four times on a visitors visa. I want to stay with my son for a period of 1 year. Which visa should I apply for?

    1. Hema:

      Here are a couple options to consider (perhaps in conversation with an immigration lawyer):

      First, the B-2 visa for household members of long-term nonimmigrants may, as discussed above, be appropriate. You may ask the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officer at the airport (or other port of entry) for a one-year stay at the time you apply for admission. If needed, you may thereafter apply for extensions of stay, in increments of up to six months.

      The challenge will be to prove nonimmigrant intent, i.e., that your stay will be temporary and that you maintain a residence outside the United States to which you have strong ties and intend to return. Depending on the length and spacing of your prior U.S. trips, they may support or detract from your ability to prove nonimmigrant intent. (For example, if you’ve stayed in the U.S. for most of the prior 4 years, the government may suspect you lack nonimmigrant intent.)

      Second, you may want to consider whether you are eligible for another visa. For example, a U.S. work visa, such as an H-1B, J-1, L-1, or O-1. See U.S. nonimmigrant visas.

  9. Mr. Chodorow,

    My U.S. citizen son is 12 years old. I am a Chinese citizen in Shanghai. I’d like my son, who is now in 7th grade, to go to the U.S. for high school. I’d like him to attend a private independent high school. Maybe a day school. I would like to stay with him until he graduates. I will travel back and forth to China often. What kind of visa should I apply in order to legaly stay in U.S.? (When I visited the U.S. this summer with a B1/B2 visa, the officer admitted me for just 6 months stay.)

    Sincerey,

    Xiaohua

    1. Xiaohua,

      It may be feasible for you to stay in the U.S. in B2 status to accompany your son while he’s in high school. The Foreign Affairs Manual says, “This is also an appropriate classification for aliens who are members of the household of a U.S. citizen who normally lives and works overseas, but is returning to the United States for a temporary time period.” The key is that you’d be forced to prove first that your son is only going to the U.S. temporarily and that you have nonimmigrant intent. So both you and your son need to prove–with evidence, oral and/or written, that you’ll be returning to live in the U.S. after a temporary period. How will your son prove that he, a U.S. citizen, will not stay in the U.S. indefinitely? (If you can prove this, the officer at the airport can admit you each time for one year. You can then get more time in the U.S. in B2 status by reentering or applying to USCIS for an extension of status.)

      Because it’s hard to predict with any certainty whether you’ll get the B2 visa and be admitted in B2 status for the period of your son’s high school, it may be in your interests to apply for another type of visa in advance–how about a nonimmigrant work visa (H-1B temporary worker, L-1A intracompany transferee) or immigrant visa (through U.S. relatives over age 21, employment, or investment)?

  10. Hi,

    I am looking to travel to the US accompanying my wife who has received admission with a student visa as an Indian Citizen. I have a valid B1/B2 US VISA and was keen to see if i can accompany my wife for her to initially settle down for a month’s time and I return to India after a break of 1 month and continue to work with my employer. Please let me know if this is a feasible option. I will be looking to carry a proof of my employment, Last 3 months payslips and my wife’s i20 and admission papers.

    Look forward to your revert and clarification.

    Regards,
    Venkat

  11. Mr. Chodorow,

    I am very glad finding this site. My wife is applying for an F1 Visa for her Master’s in the US. We have a 7-year-old daughter. If my wife’s visa is approved, can our daughter go with her and study as well in the U.S. while her mom is doing her masters?

  12. My cousin want to bring her 5-year-old son to the US to study. He had an IQ of 148 by age 3. HK does not have a school to challenge him enough. Her husband is a policeman in HK.

    She wants to accompany him while he study in the states. Could you please advice what she needs to do?? What she should apply for??

    Thank you for your time.

    Stacy

    1. Your cousin may wish to contact our firm or another lawyer to discuss her options, such as:

      (a) the child may be eligible for an F-1 visa, the mother a B-2 visa.
      (b) the mother may be eligible to apply for a U.S. work visa, such as an H-1B, J-1, L-1, or O-1, and the child may be able to apply for the corresponding derivative visa.

  13. I am happy to read all the comments. I hope you can enlighten me too.

    I am planning to apply for a student visa to the US to take up my masters. On the other hand, i also have kids 5 and 7 y.o whom i want to bring during my 2 years stay as a student.( By the way, the 4 of us including my husband has a tourist visa. ) my husband will stay and take care of our business. I cannot leave my boys with my husband since he is so busy with our business. I am more at ease bringing them since my parents are in the US and can help me take care of my kids while i have my classes.

    Do i have to apply separately for their student visa as i am planning to enrol them there too until I finish my masters degree?

  14. Hello
    My daughter will be attending university in the USA later this year on a scholarship. She was born in the US but has lived here in Australia since 2yrs of age. I am Australian but had a perm residency card whilst living over there. Am I able to accompany her at all for the 4 yrs she is there or can i renew my residency card at all.

    1. Sharyn:

      Approval of such a case–issuing a B visa and status for a parent to accompany a son or daughter with an F-1 visa for 4 years of college–would likely be possible only in exceptional circumstances. While the above-cited DOS rule makes it possible, the background is that (a) parents aren’t automatically entitled to accompany F-1 students to the U.S., and (b) college students in the U.S. often live apart from their parents. So, an officer trying to decide whether to grant you a visa, admit you to the U.S., or extend your status in the U.S. would probably closely scrutinize whether you have proper nonimmigrant intent, as mentioned above. Folded into this issue is that the officer would probably try to determine what is “unique” or “special” about your case to distinguish it from others–is there some way in that you are dependent on your daughter or she is dependent on you so that to thrive you need to live together? Only by distinguishing your case from run-of-the-mill cases is the officer likely to feel comfortable approving your B visa without setting a “bad” precedent for the many families worldwide who would like to move to the U.S. by having a child qualify for an F-1 student visa and then relocating the whole family to the U.S.

  15. Hello Gary. My elder son will be 18 years in Sept 2014 and will be undertaking undergraduate studies in the US on F1 visa. He has already received the I-20 and the SEVIS forms. Me and my wife along with my younger son (age 13.5 years) wish to travel with my elder son for a period of 1 month to settle him before his studies start in the Fall of 2014. I wish to know what is possibility of my wife and my younger son getting a visa? I already have a B1 visa from my company. So effectively my wife and younger son (13.5 Years) needs to apply along with my elder son who will be applying for F1. What should we take care of based on your experience? We plan to be there for max 4 weeks prior to his start of studies. Please provide direction. Regards

  16. Dear Gary,

    My son was born in Florida. Can he attend public preschool for 3 and 4 year olds in Florida, near where we own properties? Can my wife and I get B visas to accompany him?

    Jack

    1. Your son can attend public preschool if he meets the local government’s requirements for residing in the district. You and/or your wife can get B visas to accompany him during all or parts of these two years’ study only if you can prove to the consular officer’s satisfaction that your stay in the U.S. is “temporary” and that you aren’t abandoning your foreign residence.

      Generally, my impression is that officers are receptive to such B visa applications only if they see some special motivation for sending the child to school in the U.S. (e.g., school for gifted students or students with special needs) and if the parents have a convincing reason that after the two years they’ll move abroad (and take the child with them).

  17. Dear Gary,
    Its really fantastic to read your so very comprehensive and informative site. Thank you. I would like to know, what documents are required to prove non-immigrant intent for a B2 applicant (my wife) wanting to go to the U.S. for a few weeks to accompany our son, who will be an F-1 student in the U.S.?
    Warm Regards, Manish

    1. Manish, There’s no single, magic list of documents to prove nonimmigrant intent. We typically tailor the list of documents, as well as the testimony during the visa interview, depending on the specific facts of the case.

  18. Dear Gary Chodorow,

    My husband and I are planning to visit to US for the graduation ceremony of my daughter in May 2015. What visa is appropriate?

    –Mahadevi Hemanth

  19. Hello! Mr. Gary.

    I have recently obtained my F-1 visa and have not yet entered the US. I will be attending my undergraduate classes this fall. My father is willing to drop me in my college, since it’ll be the first time I will be leaving my home country. He wants to make sure I get there safely, plus he too wants to look at the the college I will be attending. The problem is that, his visa has already been rejected twice, when he applied to attend my sister’s graduation ceremony in US. So, will this cause any problem for him to obtain B-2 visa now? They might suspect him as somebody willing to stay there permanently, which he is not. If he gets rejected this time as well, will he have trouble when applying for visa to attend my graduation in the future? It would be very nice of you, if you would suggest me some ideas to apply this time, keeping the things I mentioned above in mind.

    Thank you!

    Best,
    Nabaraj

  20. Hi,
    We are currently permanent residents of Canada and applied recently for our canadian citizenship.
    I intend to take my 10 year old and 8 year old daughters to study in the US because my youngest has autism and I found a very good school in Miami that meets exactly her needs. We would like to stay about 5 years. I am about to apply for F1 visas for the girls but we all have a 10 year B1-B2 visa.
    Do I need to apply for another type of visa to live with my daughters while they are studying in the US? I also know that we need to prove our intention to return to our country of residence, we are keeping our home here in Toronto, is that enough to prove our non-immigrant intent?
    Thank you.

    1. Rachida,

      It sounds like your younger daughter has a compelling reason to study in the U.S. To prove that the purpose of your stay in the U.S. is temporary, you need to be able to explain why after 5 years your daughter will be ready to continue her studies abroad. And to prove nonimmigrant intent no one fact (e.g., owning a house abroad) is ever sufficient simply because an officre must look at the “totality of the facts (i.e., all available evidence) to consider your intent.

  21. Dear Mr. Chodorow,
    My son is 11 years old now, homeschooled from Laurel Springs School at Ojai, CA. He is a gifted child with Asperger syndrome and is doing his high school at sophomore level now.
    He wants to enroll to US university once he’s completed his high school. By that time he will be 14 years old. We plan to move to US to accompany my son while he is doing his bachelor degree (3-4 years duration). We also have a younger daughter (7 years old) and I want her to come with us and study there too.
    In our case, what kind of visa do you think we should apply? Are we entitled to live there for 4 years or until he graduates?
    Thank you.

    1. Bunhauw,

      Sounds like a compelling case for allowing parents to accompany a college student with in B-2 status. There’s no time limit on B-2 status in the sense that you can extend or reenter with B-2 status indefinitely. Your daughter couldn’t attend school in B2 status but could apply for an F-1. Of course, either F-1 or, especially B-2 for such a long period, requires strong proof of nonimmigrant intent.

      Still, that’s just one option. Consult with our firm or another immigration lawyer to learn about and choose among all your immigrant and nonimmigrant visa options.

  22. please note that there has been new change transmittal as well on 10-14-2014.

    following line has been added as well in the end :
    Consular officers should consider annotating to indicate the purpose and length of
    stay in such cases.

    please comment on the importance of the above change in the implementation of the above provision in actual terms by visa officers.

    1. Here’s the transmittal regarding the change to the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM). Such annotations serve the purpose of alerting the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at airport or other port of entry regarding key terms and conditions of the visa issuance by the consular officer. As a result, the CBP officer is more likely to admit the visa holder to the U.S. with consistent terms and conditions.

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