An F-2 I-20 alone does not grant F-2 status to your child or spouse. Instead, your dependents must be granted F-2 status either through entry on an F-2 visa and F-2 I-20 or by successfully completing a change of status with the government. The option you choose depends on your individual situation and what you feel is most appropriate for you. Both options are outlined below in more detail.
Option 1: Obtain an F-2 Visa Outside of the United States
Once you have the F-2 I-20 for your spouse or child, they are eligible to apply for an F-2 visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy outside of the United States. If their F-2 visa is granted, they can use this visa along with their F-2 I-20 to enter the country and be granted F-2 status upon entry. This visa must be granted outside of the United States, so travel will be required for a spouse/child who is already in the United States in a different status.
Option 2: File for a Change of Status in the United States
If your spouse or child is already in the United States in another visa status (F-1, for example), they can file for a change of status without leaving the United States using USCIS Form I-539 (view form and form instructions here
). This process can take 6 months or longer. While the application is pending, your child or spouse should not travel outside of the United States as this will cancel the request. Additionally, OGE cannot advise on change of status applications beyond issuing the F-2 I-20 and directing you to the correct USCIS form. Instead, you should seek the counsel of an immigration attorney for assistance to ensure that everything is filed correctly and that your spouse or child is maintaining valid status while the application is pending.