Spouses & Families
Many international scholars and graduate students bring their spouses, partners, and families with them to the U.S. Family members also experience adjustment challenges when encountering a new culture. Spouses and partners may feel a loss of their independence along with feelings of isolation and loneliness. The Davis International Center (Davis IC) offers programs and services to help smooth the adjustment process for international families. Spouses who have experienced the challenges of adjusting to life at Princeton suggest that the best way to overcome these challenges is to go out, get involved, and meet new people.
One fantastic way to meet new people (oftentimes in the same situation as you) is through ISPPU. ISPPU (International Spouses and Partners of Princeton University) is an organization created by and for the spouses and partners of Princeton University’s international scholars and graduate students. As the official sponsor of ISPPU, the Davis International Center (Davis IC) provides guidance and support to the organization. Learn more about ISPPU.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES FOR SPOUSES & FAMILIES:
Understanding the U.S. Educational System
The federal government does not operate public schools. Rather, each state regulates its schools from a State Board of Education that establishes guidelines for the school districts that are responsible for the operations of local public schools. Public schools in each state are funded by state government funds and also from local property taxes. Students in public schools grades kindergarten -12 do not pay tuition. Students in colleges and universities do pay tuition although many are eligible for financial aid including scholarships. In the U.S., school attendance is mandatory for children ages 6-16. In general, the U.S. educational system is made up of the following levels:
- Pre-School and Daycare (early childhood – Infant through age 4): There are a variety of methods and opportunities for young children to attend pre-school or daycare in the U.S. Attendance is not required at this level. However, parents may choose to enroll their children in pre-school or daycare as an opportunity for socialization, childcare, or early learning. PLEASE NOTE: Some pre-school programs have limited enrollment and fill up quickly. It is recommended that parents explore these options as soon as possible. For more information, consult Childcare resources offered by the Office of Human Resources.
- Elementary School: Kindergarten through Grade 5 (Ages 5-10)
- Middle School (sometimes called Junior High School) Grades 6-8 (Ages 11-13)
- High School Grades 9-12 (Ages 14-18)
Enroll Your Child in the Local Public Schools
Children who are dependents of international students and scholars are eligible to attend free kindergarten through grade 12 in the local public schools in the town where you reside. To enroll your child in school, you should contact the Board of Education Office for the school district in which you live for information and procedures. Residents of the Princeton township should refer to Princeton Township Board of Education. To find the contact information for school districts outside of Princeton, consult with the New Jersey State Board of Education School Directory.
Helping Your Child Succeed
Children also need time to settle in and adjust to their new lives. After you enroll your children in school, talk to their teachers to discuss ways you can both improve your child’s experience in their new school. In addition to the teacher, most schools offer counselors, ESL teachers, special education specialists, and administrators who are willing to help with issues related to your child’s adjustment and success. They may also be able to offer advice about resources in the local community such as sports, music, art, summer camps, or other social activities in which your child can participate. Don’t hesitate to get involved in your child’s schools and talk to other parents who can share other helpful ideas and suggestions.
Medical Records for Students, Scholars, and their Dependents
Bring copies of your medical records and the medical records of your dependents (if any) who are coming with you to Princeton. You should keep them with other important documents so they will be on hand if necessary. If you have school age children, you will be required to submit their medical records when they register to attend school in the local area. PLEASE NOTE: All medical records should be translated into English before coming to the U.S.
Visas for Dependents
Only the spouse and unmarried minor children (under 21 years of age) of the F-1 and J-1 Princeton sponsored students may be eligible for dependent visa to accompany the student or scholar to the United States or to follow and join them at a later date. It is important to remember that some of the U.S. regulations are different for dependents on F-2, J-2, O-3, and H-4 visas than they are for the primary visa holder. For more information, consult:
Visas for Dependents of F-1 and J-1 Students
Visas for Dependents of J-1, H-1B, O-1 Scholars
Employment for Dependents
Dependents on H-4, F-2, and O-3 visas are not eligible to work in the U.S. J-2 dependent visa holders are not eligible to work unless they meet certain conditions and receive official employment authorization from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). For more information, consult:
J-2 Dependent Work Authorization
The Job Search for Dependents
We regret the Davis IC is not available to assist with the job search. However, the following resources may be helpful:
Princeton Public Library Job Search Workshops
Higher Education Recruitment Consortium Job Bank (for positions in higher education)
Driver’s License Information for Dependents
International students and scholars are eligible to apply for a New Jersey driver’s license. Dependents are required to follow the same requirements and procedures as students and scholars. The New Jersey Driver’s License application requires a social security number for people who are eligible for one. However, dependents (J-2’s, F-2’s, H-4’ s, and O-3’s) are not eligible to obtain a Social Security number unless they have received official work authorization (J-2’s only). Therefore, for driver’s license application purposes, dependents should request a letter from the Social Security Administration indicating they are not eligible for a social security number. They can then submit this denial letter when applying for a New Jersey driver’s license. For more information, please view our sections on obtaining Social Security Numbers and Applying for a New Jersey Driver’s License.
Princeton University Tiger Card
Dependents are eligible to obtain a Princeton University identification card known as a Tiger Card that will enable them to get access to all campus libraries. Consult with the Tiger Card Office website for more information.
Audit a Princeton University Class
The Community Auditing Program (CAP) offers an opportunity to audit or observe a class at Princeton University for a small fee. Auditors may listen to the same lectures as enrolled students as observers only. Many CAP participants consider the program a highly valued community service since it offers many people the chance to be part of the University environment through its extensive list of courses.
English Language Resources
There are many opportunities to improve your English language skills in the local area. We suggest you check out the Friends of the Davis IC English Classes and Book Club. For more information, please check out Other English Language Resources.
American Host Family Program
The Friends of the Davis International Center provide an opportunity for Princeton’s international scholars, graduate students, and their families to develop a relationship with a host family in the local area. Some host family connections are the beginning of long-lasting relationships that provide opportunities to share your culture with Americans while learning about the American culture at the same time. For more information, please check out American Host Family Program.
Princeton Township Public Library Services & Programs
Get a township public library card and check out their community programs, as well as English as a Second Language classes. For more information, please check out The Princeton (Township) Public Library.