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Is B-2 status an option for the dependent spouse after the death of the principal visa holder?

By January 2, 2023Immigration
A happy family of 4

Sometimes, the unthinkable happens, such as the loss of a parent or spouse. When that parent or spouse is also the principal visa holder, the pain of loss is often compounded by the uncertainty of the U.S. immigration system.

In this post, we consider the scenario in which a principal visa holder passes away, leaving a dependent spouse and dependent child who is enrolled in school. One often overlooked option in this scenario is the B-2 visitor visa. Let’s take a look at how this option might provide some stability at a time when there seems to be none.

An Example: Losing the Principal Visa Holder

Let’s start with an example to highlight the urgency of this scenario. Laura is married to Henry, who is in the U.S. on an H-1B visa. Laura is in the U.S. on an H-4 visa. They have a son, Jimmy, who is eight years old. Henry suddenly passes away, leaving Laura and Jimmy in the U.S. Laura has no family abroad but has savings and is desperate to remain in the U.S., where Jimmy is doing well in school and is making friends.

The B-2 Visa: Not Just for Recreational Travel

The B-2 visitor visa is typically associated with recreational travel to the U.S. But it actually permits a number of possibilities. As described in an earlier post here, the B-2 visa is available for parents who are accompanying their minor children who are in the U.S. on an F-1 student visa. It is important to note that the B-2 visa does not allow work authorization.

Applying the B-2 Visa to Our Example

Let’s return to Laura and Jimmy in our example. Jimmy is enrolled in school. If he is enrolled in a private school (or if Laura transfers him to a private school), he may be eligible to change to F-1 status.

As explained in our earlier post here, an F-1 student can attend a private school between grades kindergarten to 12; F-1 students cannot attend public schools at the kindergarten through 8th grade levels. F-1 students can attend public secondary school, meaning grades 9 through 12, but certain restrictions apply.

Once Jimmy has changed to F-1 status, Laura would be eligible to change to B-2 status in order to accompany her minor son in the United States.

How long can the B-2 parent remain in the U.S. to accompany the F-1 child?

The Foreign Affairs Manual (9 FAM 402.2-4(B)(5)) states that the parent who is in the United States on an B-2 visa in order to accompany a child who is studying on an F-1 visa may apply to extend their stay in the United States in increments of up to six months “for the duration of the principal’s nonimmigrant status in the United States” – in other words, for the duration of the child’s status as an F-1 student. The parent would need to pay close attention to their I-94 expiration date and would need to apply for an extension of status before the I-94 expires.


Remember that the B-2 visa and B-2 status do not permit work authorization. As a result, it is important for the B-2 parent to have some source of financial support, such as savings, investments, or a supportive family.

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