Resources for Dependents (Spouse/Children)


check-square icon

J-2 dependents are eligible to apply for employment authorization with the U.S.immigration agency (USCIS). They can apply for work authorization only after the J-1 has entered the U.S, and may not start to work until the approval is received. Learn more about the J-2 application for work permission.

F-2 dependents are not permitted to work in the U.S. in F-2 status.

For more visa types and work eligibility, read Spouse/Partner Employment Overview.

id-card icon
Social Security Numbers (SSNs)

Social Security Numbers (SSN) are issued only to those who have authorized employment in the United States. Learn about the application process for SSN.

Individuals in F-2 or J-2 status who are not eligible for an SSN may apply for an Individual Taxpayer ID (ITIN) if needed for filing a tax return.



For F-2, J-2, H-4, O-3, E-3D, and TD status:

blue divider.

Additional Resources

English Courses.

"English as a Second Language" programs, more commonly known as ESL programs, are widely available in the city:

  • American Language Program provides both full-time and part-time courses for different language goals. 
  • The Community Language Program (CLP) at Teachers College (TC) offers International Researchers Language Program (IRLP) as well as general English as a Second Language (ESL) classes.
  • Chazen Language Program offers eight-week courses taught by professional instructors in small class sizes. It is held at Columbia Business School's Chazen Institute for Global Business.
  • NY Public Libraries also offer free English classes.
  • Dependents may use Columbia University libraries with some restrictions. Their library card allows them to read in the libraries but not borrow books. See details of library access for spouses.
  • Dependents may also use the NYC Public Libraries. Get a library card and borrow books and DVDs--it’s free! Enjoy community programming, including lecture and film series of general interest for adults as well as English and computer classes.


Columbia University’s Office of Work/Life

It’s not easy to balance the demands of academic, work, and personal lives--especially in a fast-paced city like NY. Coming from another country adds to the challenge, so see how Office of Work/Life can help.

  • Child Care & Schooling supports parents at Columbia University through school placement counseling, child care referrals, a searchable database of New York City area schools, and informational resources for finding childcare and schooling.
  • Breastfeeding Support helps support parents and is committed to ensuring that the needs of lactating women are met. The Breastfeeding Support Program is available for mothers at Columbia returning to work, school, or visiting the campus who wish to express milk.
Blue divider.

Additional School & Care Resources


is an extremely helpful independent guide to NYC public schools that provides practical tools to navigate the city’s school system. Under each type of school (elementary, middle, and high) there is a section called "New to NYC?" which is a great place for you to start.


NYC Department of Education

is the largest school district in the US, serving 1.1 million students in over 1,800 schools. Their valuable information is available in 83 different languages.


The Day Care Council of New York

is a diverse membership organization of childcare and family service providers, consumers and advocates.

Morningside Playcare

provides Mandarin Immersion program for children ages 6 months to 10 years of age through play, creative activities, and exploration of their environment.

Blue divider.

Playgrounds and Activities


nyc subway map.

The subway system is extensive and avoids street traffic. It’s open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. With a total of 656 miles of passenger tracks, it serves 4 of the 5 boroughs of NYC; Staten Island has its own rail service.

nyc bus map.

Buses are a great way to get around when you are not in a hurry. It’s interesting to look out the window and observe the changing neighborhoods. The buses that run closest to Columbia Morningside campus are the M104, M4, M60, and the M5; for the CUIMC campus, the M5, M7 and M100. Each borough has its own bus routes, map and schedule.


MetroCards are electronic fare cards for use on subways and buses in the five boroughs. Choose between refillable "debit" cards or unlimited weekly and monthly cards. MetroCards are available for purchase at all subway stops. As an alternative, avoid paper cards and pay for the MTA through phones and digital wallets. Learn more on the OMNY website. MTA plans to transition to OMNY only in 2024.


Citi Bike is the nation's largest bike share program, with stations across Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Jersey City. Designed for quick trips with convenience in mind, it’s a fun and affordable way to get around town.

Taxis (also called taxicabs or cabs)

They are yellow or green with a medallion number on top of the roof. If it is lit up and says on-duty, it is available to wave down. There is a metered fare that can be paid with credit card or cash. It is also customary for customers to tip 10-20%.

train station.
Day Trips

Get refreshed by leaving the urban environment and spending more time in nature. The Long Island Railroad and Metro-North offer one-day and overnight get-away packages to get out of the City. NYC Ferry travels to various locations around the city (and even some beaches). And some of the best beaches near NYC can be reached by subway.

travel apps.
Travel Apps

To find the best travel route between two points, use Google Maps or CityMapper.

For a real-time public transportation tracker, you can try out MYmta  or Transitapp.

For ride-sharing services, Uber and Lyft are commonly used in the city.


Services and Tips

Be well-informed about personal safety. New York presents the same security concerns as any other large city worldwide. In case of an emergency, contact Public Safety. Put the numbers in your phone: 212 854-5555 (Morningside campus) or 212 305-7979 (Medical Campus).

Columbia Public Safety Services
Additional Personal Safety Tips
  • At night, take the well-lit and well-traveled paths. Avoid shortcuts through dark or isolated areas.
  • Be prepared and ready with your keys before approaching your residence halls, apartments, homes, and/or automobiles.
  • If you think someone might be following you, don’t lead them to your destination—instead, abruptly change directions and go into a store or restaurant that is open.
  • Be aware of your valuables and belongings, such as your backpack, handbag, or wallet. Even if you’re in a “safe” place for a short time, take them with you rather than leave them behind.
  • When taking the bus or subway, use well-lit, and preferably well-peopled, stations.
blue divider.

Beware of Scams and Phishing

Fraudulent phishing emails and imposter phone calls are a big problem. Scammers are very creative and skillful in seeking access to your money and/or personal information by either gaining your confidence (“con artist”) or threatening you. They pretend to be from a government agency and demand money for a variety of fake reasons, including taxes you owe or a problem with your immigration status.

The best way to avoid being a victim of a scam is to be aware that they exist and have some common characteristics:

  1. Always be suspicious of unsolicited phone calls and emails. If it doesn’t sound right—just hang up!
  2. Be aware that a government agency would never ask you to send money a certain way or purchase gift cards. Just hang up!
  3. Resist their pressure to act immediately, before you have time to think or check their information. Contact Public Safety.

Learn more on our website where we have consolidated sample scenarios and videos and additional resources.


paint-brush icon
Arts Initiative

The Arts Initiative at Columbia University connects Columbians with incredible arts experiences on campus and throughout the larger arts landscape of NYC. Review their website for free admission to multiple museums as well as city-wide events (some free) all throughout the year.

cloud icon
Spiritual and Community Life

For information about religious life on campus, learn about the Earl Hall Center. Its mission is to foster learning through spiritual, ethical, religious and cultural exchange, and to promote service to the University and its surrounding New York City communities. Read more through their affiliated websites: Office of the University Chaplain and Community Impact.

dribbble icon
Sports and Physical Fitness

To gain access to Columbia’s Dodge Fitness Center, dependents will need to provide documentation that has both their name and their spouse’s name and address on it, such as a lease or bank statement, and documents reflecting the F-2 or J-2 immigration status. See the family section of Dodge's eligibility page for more information.

To gain access to 50 Haven Athletic Center for the CUIMC community, read more on their membership page.

handshake icon

Volunteering is another great way to get involved and help others. Check out these organizations’ programs and volunteer opportunities:

street-view icon
More Resources

Resources for Students and for Scholars can provide additional guide through an exciting transition and more opportunities for building life-long friendships.