DHS Permits Part-Time F-2 and M-2 Study and Removes DSO Cap

In our May 29, 2015 article H-4 EAD for Certain Dependent Spouses Now in Effect, we reported on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) new rule allowing certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B employees to apply for employment authorization. A stated purpose of the new H-4 EAD provision is to increase U.S. global competiveness for highly skilled workers through amelioration of disincentives, economic burdens, and personal stresses of H-1B employees and their families.

Effective May 29, 2015, the DHS also amended its regulations under the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) to expand opportunities for spouses and children of international students to engage in a course of study. Similar to the H-4 EAD provisions mentioned above, enhancing U.S. global competitiveness for the best and brightest international students (highly skilled workers in the case of the H-4 EAD) is a basis for the May 29, 2015 SEVP amendments.

Essentially, under prior regulations, F-2 and M-2 spouses of academic or vocational students with F-1 or M-1 status were prohibited from engaging in “full time” academic or vocational studies. F-2 and M-2 children could only engage in full time study if the study was in an elementary or secondary (K-12) school.

Now, per the amended SEVP regulation, F-2 and M-2 spouses and children can enroll in less than a “full course” of study in a SEVP certified school. Less than a full course of study is typically considered study less than the 12 credit hours defining a full time course load. Full time elementary and secondary study for F-2 and M-2 children is still allowed.

In addition, under the old rule, SEVP certified schools were permitted to nominate a maximum of 10 designated school officials (DSOs) to act as liaisons between the school and the SEVP in order to ensure compliance with laws regulating international students. Now, SEVP certified schools are allowed to nominate as many DSOs deemed necessary to adequately provide services such as recommendations, record keeping, and reporting with respect to F and/or M students enrolled at the school. Again, one reason for lifting the 10 DSO cap is increased flexibility ultimately resulting in enhanced attractiveness for international students to study in the United States.  

Sharma Law Offices, a highly rated Atlanta Immigration Law Firm, actively monitors rule amendments – like those discussed above – which potentially expand rights afforded under prior regulations. We are, of course, available for consultation regarding applicability to your particular set of circumstances.