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Many international students and scholars want to bring their families with them to Lehigh. Learn more about how to get a dependent visa and about childcare.

Getting a Visa for Your Dependents

International students and scholars can bring their dependents (spouse and unmarried children up to age 21) to join them at Lehigh University. 

To request an I-20 for your dependent(s):

  1. Log in to iHome and click the option that applies to you:
    • F-1 Student Services
    • J-1 Student Services
    • J-1 Scholar Services
  2. Complete and submit “Add an F-2 (or J-2) Dependent.”
  3. Upload:
    • A copy of your dependent’s passport
    • A recent bank statement (in English), issued within the past six months, showing sufficient funding for your dependent while he or she is in the U.S. (at least $5,000/spouse and $3,000/child)

OISS will notify you when your dependent I-20 is ready to be picked up.

Your dependent will need the original F-2 (or J-2) I-20 to apply for an F-2 (or J-2) dependent visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate.

Please note that F-2 dependents are not permitted to work; they may study part-time. J-2 dependents may study part-time or full-time and are eligible to work in the US with an EAD (Employment Authorization Document).

Prospective F-1/J-1 students and J-1 scholars can request to add a dependent after completing the New Student Checklist (F-1/J-1 students) or the New Scholar Checklist (J-1 scholars) in iHome.

H-1B Workers

If your dependent is currently residing overseas, he or she can directly apply for an H-4 visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate.

If your dependent is in the U.S. in a different nonimmigrant status, he or she may choose to change his or her status to H-4 by filing a Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status.

Please note: H-4 dependents may engage in full- or part-time study but are not permitted to work in the U.S. unless the H-1B nonimmigrant is the principal beneficiary of an approved I-140 or has been granted H-1B status under sections 106(a) and (b) of the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000.

Schooling for Children

Dependent children are welcome to attend daycare and public schools (kindergarten-12th Grade) while their parents pursue their studies or research work at Lehigh University.

Daycare centers in the U.S. provide care and supervision for babies and toddlers age six weeks and up old while their parents are at work or in school. Preschools and child care centers provide early educational experience for children before they attend kindergarten. You can find local providers through the Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning website. Lehigh University also has its own child care center that’s open to children (aged six weeks to five years) of Lehigh faculty, staff and students.

Kindergarten in Bethlehem (Age 5)

Find more information on the Bethlehem Area School District website. Please note that your child must be five years old on or before October 1 in order to enroll.

Public Schools in the U.S.

In the U.S., where your child goes to school, whether it’s an elementary (Grades Kindergarten-5), middle (Grades 6-8) or high (Grades 9-12) school, depends on where you live. A city in the U.S. is divided into school districts. The city of Bethlehem falls into the Bethlehem Area School District (BASD). To find out which school your child should attend in Bethlehem (if you live in Bethlehem), please use the search tool on the BASD website. Learn about the process of registering your child at a school in Bethlehem here.

Employment Authorization for J-2 Dependents

J-2 dependents can apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS in order to work in the U.S. To apply for an EAD, you will need the following documents:

  • G-1145
  • A letter to USCIS from the J-2 stating why the employment is desired, indicating the source and amount of support for the principal participant, and specifically stating that the income derived from employment will not be used for the support of the J-1 exchange visitor. A J-2 dependent does not need to demonstrate financial need to receive employment authorization
  • Completed Form I-765 [(question 27: (c)(5)]
  • Copy of the current DS-2019 of the J-2
  • Copy of the current DS-2019 of the J-1
  • Copy of Forms I-94 of both J-1 and J-2
  • A copy of your J-2 visa stamp in the passport, and the passport page with your photo and information
  • A personal check or money order for $410 payable to the US Department of Homeland Security.
  • Two recent passport-type color photographs. You should print your name lightly in pencil on the back of the two photographs (include the number on your previous EAD if you have one).
  • Optional: a copy of the marriage certificate (in English)
Length of J-2 Employment Authorization

Per regulations 8 CFR 214.2(j)(1)(v), "J-2 employment may be authorized for the duration of the J-1's authorized stay as indicated on Form I-94 or a period of four years, whichever is shorter. The employment is authorization is valid only if the J-1 is maintaining status."

Inviting Friends and Family to Visit

You can invite friends and family to visit you in the United States during your time at Lehigh without any assistance from OISS.  If your visitor is from a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program, they should be able to visit for up to 90 days once they complete ESTA.  If your visitor is not from a visa waiver country, they will need to visit the US Embassy to apply for a Visitor/Tourist (B-2) visa.  The Department of State provides details about what is required to apply for a Visitor visa, and Consular Officials have confirmed that an invitation letter from the University you attend is not considered as a part of a visitor visa application.  Beacuse of this, OISS no longer writes invitation letters for this purpose.

Your visitor should carefully review the requirements for the visa as listed on the website of the US Embassy/Consulate where they will apply.  Generally, documentation required from you (the student/scholar receiving the visit) may include:

  • Evidence of your student status (a photocopy of your passport, visa, I-20 and I-94) 
  • A copy of your unofficial transcript and/or proof of current enrollment
  • If you are providing financial support for the visit, you should provide evidence of this to your visitor (via a bank statement, assistantship letter, etc.).  This is only needed if your visitor is not providing their own financial support for their visit.

If you would like to provide your visitor with an invitation letter, you can find a template with suggested format for your letter.