There are many resources available for international spouses and families in Albuquerque both on and off the UNM campus. Some of these resources are listed below. For more information about resources or other issues that affect spouses and families, please speak with an international advisor in the Global Education Office (GEO)

J-2 Immigration Regulations & Official IDs

Health Insurance

Due to the high cost of healthcare in the US, health insurance is an absolute necessity for the whole family. International scholars, spouses, and children cannot accept any public benefits such as health benefits without the risk of exclusion from the US. International scholars are required by the university to have health insurance, but it is important to understand that you must purchase additional insurance to cover the health needs of your family. GEO has information on health insurance plans and the Albuquerque Public Schools offer special plans for school-age children. Spouses who take at least 6 units of non-degree classes can pay the student health insurance rates. If your spouse plans to take non-degree classes, this option will be cheaper for your family. However, be sure to check GEO for current immigration regulations to be sure that you are legally permitted to take classes as an international spouse.

School & Employment

J-2 status are allowed full-time study at the post-secondary level. Please check with GEO if you are considering enrolling in classes as a spouse or child of an international student or scholar. 

Dependents of J-1 scholars and students who are in the U.S. in J-2 status are eligible to apply to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for work authorization. This authorization is considered a privilege by USCIS and is NOT automatically guaranteed. This handout will explain restrictions and how to apply for J-2 work authorization.


Social Security numbers are not required for spouses living in the US unless they are given work permission. SSNs can only be issued to non-immigrants (those who are not citizens or permanent residents of the US) who have an official “need” for such numbers. Spouses on J-2 visas can only prove the need for a SSN if they have received work authorization from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).


To apply for a driver’s license, a spouse must take his/her I-94 card, passport, DS-2019 copy and Social Security Card (if available) to the Motor Vehicle’s Division (MVD) office. In addition, take two documents as proof of residence in New Mexico. You should also take a translated and notarized version of your home country driver’s license if you have one (when applying for a NM license, not the ID). He/she will need to study the New Mexico Driver’s Manual, pass the written or computerized portion of the driver’s exam, take a vision screening test, and pass a road test. Once the individual has successfully completed all these steps, he/she will be granted the driver’s license. Note that MVD personnel are not well informed about requirements for non-immigrants who want to obtain their license. GEO has a handout that lists the requirements and other details. It may help you to bring that handout with you and to ask for a supervisor if you have difficulty with the MVD staff person.


UNM Recreational Services

Spouses of scholars who are not being paid by UNM may not qualify, please check with recreational services about your situation. This sponsored LOBO ID card, allows spouses and partners to access UNM recreational services (pool, gym, and recreational non-credit classes). 

The scholar and the spouse must be present to apply for the card. You must show proof of partnership in the form of a marriage certificate, shared bank account (both names on the check), shared utility bill, rental lease, or a driver’s license showing the same address. The cost is $40.00 per semester (recreational non-credit classes, such as aerobics, are additional). To obtain the card you must first go to the Recreational Services office at the front entrance of the Johnson Gym, fill out an application, show proof of partnership, and pay the $40 fee. Then go to the LOBO Card Office in the Student Union building, Lower Level (Tel: 277-9970), to obtain the card. If you have questions call Recreational Services at 277-0178.


The Center for English Language and American Culture (CELAC) at UNM offers college preparatory language training at approximately $3,800 per semester for full-time study. For more information, please visit the CELAC website or inquire with us at GEO (2120 Mesa Vista Hall).

If you are interested in basic English, the local community college (Central New Mexico Community College) offers low to intermediate level English classes free of charge. You can call them at 505.224.4282 or go online for more information.

A local community group also offers free English conversation classes every semester at the Baptist Student Union, 401 University Blvd.

Organization for spouses

The UNM International Couples and Scholars Organization (ICASO) provides opportunities for spouses and partners from different cultural backgrounds to share cultures, learn cooking, enjoy games, potluck dinners and make friends. For more information call Linda Melville at 505.277.4032 or email her at

Volunteer Opportunities

Many spouses on J-2 visas find opportunities to enhance their career or personal objectives through volunteer work. If you are interested in volunteering in a specific field, you should research organizations in Albuquerque that provide services in that field and approach the organization(s) to ask if you can volunteer. If you would like to speak with someone about looking for volunteer work, you are welcome to speak with Linda Melville in GEO at 277-4032.

Child Care

Enrolling your Child

In the City of Albuquerque, children begin public school at the age of 5 and are assigned to schools according to their home address. To find out which school your child should attend, or for additional information, call Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) at 505.880.3700 or check the APS website. Parents should speak to APS if they want their child to attend a different school.

In order to enroll your child in an Albuquerque Public School, you will need the following documents:

  • Passport or Birth Certificate (the child must be 5 years old before September 1st in order to enroll for kindergarten)

  • Current immunization record (a waiver can be obtained if you do not want your child to receive certain immunizations)

  • Proof of residency (e.g., utility bill or a copy of a rental lease)

You may also need to show proof of your identity and the current visa status of you and your child. This would include your passport (as well as that of the child) and immigration documents (I-20/DS-2019, visa and I-94 card). One parent may also need to provide a US social security number.

Other care options

Finding good care for younger children in the US can be difficult and expensive. While UNM does have a childcare center that is very high quality, the waiting list is extremely long and many families never get into the program. Those who meet income requirements may be able to get children ages 3 to 5 into “Head Start,” a publicly funded early childhood education program (there are a few Head Start programs for even younger children, but the waiting lists are extremely long). For more information about Head Start, call their administrative offices at 505.268.0024 to find out about a center near you. NM Kids Childcare Resource and Referral at 505.277.7900 helps families locate childcare centers and in-home childcare near their place of residence. You should think carefully about the kind of care you would like for your child and call them for a list of names and numbers in your area. Be sure to investigate the home or center carefully. The New Mexico Children Youth and Families Department keeps records on and evaluations of licensed centers and home daycares that you can review upon request. In the near future, New Mexico will begin state-funded early childhood care. Check with APS about the status of these programs.