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Can a parent of a minor international student enter the United States to accompany their child during their school year?

By November 9, 2021Immigration
An international student holding her school books while standing outside the school

The answer is Yes. It is well known that adult international students on F-1 visas can have their spouses and minor children accompany them on F-2 and F-2 visas and stay in the U.S. for the duration of their academic program. What is less known is that parents of minor international students on F-1 visas also have an option to accompany their child and stay with them for the duration of their academic program. This is done through applying for a B-2 visa through the applicable consulate.

A specific provision in the Department of State’s Foreign Affairs Manual provides that the B-2 visa is available to allow members of the household of another noncitizen in a long-term visa status (e.g., a student visa for a multi-year educational program) to accompany that person in the United States for the duration of his or her program. This includes accompanying parent(s) of a minor F-1 student. This also includes families in other situations such as cohabitating partners and elderly parents of adult students or workers.

9 FAM 402.2-4(B)(5) (accessed October 6, 2021).

How can I apply for this benefit?

A parent who wishes to take advantage of this use of the B-2 visa with a longer-term stay in mind can ask for a 1-year duration when they first apply for the visa. Then, once the parent arrives in the U.S., the parent can apply to USCIS to extend their B-2 status in six-month increments until the end of the duration of the child’s F-1 student status, which is the duration of his or her academic program. This allows the parent to stay in the U.S. for a longer period than is typically allowed on B-2 status.

However, the parent may not work in the United States while accompanying the student on a B-2 visa. Also, like all other applicants for non-immigrant visas, the parent will have to prove sufficient ties to the home country to convince the consular officer of “non-immigrant intent.” This means the parent must show that the purpose of the parent’s entering the United States is to accompany (visit) the child while he or she is there temporarily, and not to take up “residence” in the United States.

Proof of personal funds to support yourself during your stay, maintaining a permanent address in your foreign country, and showing family and employment ties to your home country will be helpful. This can be a tricky line to draw, so be sure to consult an attorney if you are unsure about your case.

Can I enter the U.S. on a Visa Waiver (ESTA) and extend my stay?

It is important to note that this option to extend is not available for a foreign national who enters on a Visa Waiver program (ESTA). 90 days is the maximum for your stay if you entered the United States on an ESTA, and it is not possible to extend or change status from within the U.S.

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