Visa Status with Study Restrictions

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International Services

The Office of

Visa Status with Study Restrictions

If you are in or plan to enter the United States in another non-immigrant status, you may or may not need to obtain F-1 or J-1 student status in order to study at Teachers College. For example, most dependents (such as H-4 dependents) are permitted to study while accompanying their family members in the U.S. However, many non-immigrant statuses carry immigration restrictions on employment that may make it desirable to seek F-1 status. Contact the Office of International Services at tcintl@tc.columbia.edu with specific information about your individual situation. Some typical situations include the following:

The following immigration classifications are not permitted to study or to lawfully accept employment while in the U.S.:

  • Tourists (individuals admitted in WT / WB or B-1 / B-2 status) are not eligible to study while in the United States, but must obtain F-1 or J-1 status as appropriate.
  • F-2 dependents of F-1 students in the United States may now study part time in any certified program at an SEVP-certified school at the postsecondary level, as long as it does not amount to full time study.  F-2 dependents can still participate full time in avocational or recreational studies, such as hobbies. F-2 minors must still comply with compulsory education requirements in attending kindergarten through 12th grade. However, an F-2 dependent who wants to enroll full time in a course of postsecondary academic or vocational study must apply for and obtain approval to change nonimmigrant classification to F-1 or J-1 student status before beginning full-time study.


The following immigration classifications are permitted to study, but may not lawfully accept employment while in the U.S.:

  • H-4 dependents of H-1 temporary workers
  • TD dependents of TN (NAFTA) workers


The following immigration classifications are permitted to study full or part-time, and may apply for employment authorization incident to their status:

  • Dependents in E-2 or L-2 status
  • Dependents in G-4 status
  • Dependent spouses in J-2 status


If you are the primary visa holder and your immigration status depends on employment (as a A-1 diplomat, H-1 temporary specialty occupation worker, G-4 international organization employee, etc.), you will need to switch to F-1 or J-1 status if you decide to terminate your employment. Otherwise, in most cases you may study 'incident to status,' i.e., as long as you continue to fulfill the terms and obligations or your current immigration status.

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