International family learning

December 11, 2015

New regulations allow the spouses and children of international students to study, too. Why JCCC wants to help.

Spouses and children of international students can lead lonely existences. They may have culture shock and few friends. Regulations may bar them from working, so their only social outlet may be their immediate family.

However, a new change to the student-visa system will allow them into college classes, a benefit for them and for Johnson County Community College. Julie Pitts, program director for International and Immigrant Student Services, wants to get the word out that these visa-holders are welcome at JCCC.

What the change does

When a person from another country applies for a visa to study in the United States, they are approved for a certain type of visa, based on the purpose of the visit.

JCCC is certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) to admit by certain criteria F1 visa-holders (for enrollment in academic programs) and M1 visa-holders (for enrollment in vocational programs). Both types of visas require students to enroll in a full course load to maintain their status in the United States.

Spouses and children of F1 and M1 students get another designation: F2 or M2, one number higher.

Prior May 29, 2015, the USCIS rule stated that F2 or M2 visa-holders could obtain an education through high school, but after that, the rule became murky, Pitts said.

“Some higher education institutions would interpret this to mean that an F2 or M2 could take a class or two. Others would interpret it to mean that F2 or M2 couldn’t take any (classes),” Pitts said.

In one of those rare instances where “all the branches of government worked together,” the regulation was clarified in May 2015, Pitts said. Now the F2 or M2 visa students can study at a SEVP-certified school so long as any study remains less than a full course load.

Why this matters

“This is great news for (international) students,” Pitts said. “In many cases, the husband comes to the U.S. to study, but the wife would like to study, too.

“And in many cultures, parents want and expect their children to stay at home after secondary education,” she said. “JCCC becomes a great option because they can stay with their parents and still continue their education at a reasonable price.”

JCCC can also provide a community: social contacts, special events and lasting friendships.

“Many of them are lonely, and they’re just looking for a place to fit in,” Pitts said. “This is a way for us to help, to open a door that was closed before.”

In addition, the change allows the United States to stay competitive with other countries offering fewer restrictions to families of visa-holders.

“We want bright students to come to the U.S., instead of heading off elsewhere,” she said.

If you are an F2 or M2 visa-holder, or if you know a family who might benefit from this change in the regulations, contact the International and Immigrant Student Services at 913-469-7680 or