Final Rule Allows F-2 & M-2 Dependents to Study Part Time

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released a final rule that will now make it possible for dependents of F-1 and M-1 students to study in the United States on a limited basis. Effective May 29, 2015, F-2 and M-2 spouses and children will be permitted to pursue less than full-time studies at any school certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). The rule is being implemented in the hope of making the United States more attractive to international students.

New Rule for F-2/M-2 Spouses and Children

For many years, F-2 and M-2 spouses were restricted from participation in academic and vocational studies. Children were similarly prohibited, with the exception of an allowance for full-time elementary through secondary school (i.e. kindergarten through 12th grade). Once the new rule goes into effect, spouses will be able to pursue academic and vocational studies on a less-than-full-time schedule. Children will still be able to attend school full-time from elementary through secondary school, as well as engage in higher-level academic and vocational studies on a less-than- full-time basis.

Less-Than-Full-Time Requirement, No Work Authorization

As mentioned above, F-2 and M-2 dependents will be limited to enrolling in programs that are less than full time. The regulation sets forth a permitted course load of fewer than 12 credit hours for undergraduate colleges, universities, and community colleges. For other types of study, the full course is separately defined, based upon program requirements. There is no limitation on the eligibility for credit, degrees, certificates, or other credentials. However, F-2 and M-2 students will not be eligible for other student-related benefits, including work authorization options, such as curricular practical training (CPT) and optional practical training (OPT).

Must Attend SEVP Approved School

Those seeking to utilize the educational options established under the new regulation must attend schools approved by SEVP, which is administered by ICE. This is intended to make it more likely that the educational program is bona fide and to reduce national security concerns.


The decision to allow F-2 and M-2 nonimmigrants to study while in the United States is a welcome improvement that should make the F-1 and M-1 programs more appealing to international students and their dependent family members. MurthyDotCom will continue to monitor changes to SEVP and provide updates, as needed.


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