The coronavirus has changed many of our lives throughout the world. If you’re like the millions of people out of work, you’re not alone. Back in March, the U.S. Congress passed a $2 trillion package that included individual payments, or stimulus checks, to provide financial help. November 21st is the deadline for applying for a stimulus check, or Economic Impact Payment, if you haven’t received one already.
Also, with the Nov. 3 presidential election looming, negotiations about a second round of stimulus checks are underway.
Given this, you may wonder who qualifies for coronavirus relief. This is especially true for immigrants to the United States, who often support family back home besides providing for themselves.
Here at Remitly, we want to make sure that our customers and all immigrants have access to good financial information. That’s why we put together this guide for immigrants and mixed-status families about stimulus checks and pandemic-related financial help.
What is the Stimulus Package?
The U.S. president signed this historic rescue legislation package at the end of March 2020.
Officially called the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), one part of the act has authorized payments to U.S. citizens and residents through Economic Impact Payments.
The IRS, or Internal Revenue Service, sends Economic Impact Payments to qualifying individuals, and there’s no need to apply. Americans are eligible to receive up to $1,200 per person, $2,400 for those filing joint tax returns and $500 for each qualifying minor child in the household.
To prove your income eligibility, you’ll need to have filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return.
How Do I Qualify for a Stimulus Check?
To be eligible to receive a stimulus check, you need to:
- Be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or qualifying resident
- Have a valid Social Security number
- Not be a dependent on someone else’s tax return
You also must meet income requirements. For the first round of stimulus via the CARES Act, these were the income limits:
- For single residents, an adjusted gross income of less than $99,000
- For heads of household, an AGI of less than $146,500
- For joint filers without children, an AGI of less than $198,000
In all cases, the income limit increases by $10,000 per qualifying child in your family.
As for the income requirements for a potential second round of checks, we still don’t know what Congress will decide, nor when new legislation might come to pass. We will update this post with more information as it becomes available.
Do Immigrants Qualify for a Stimulus Check?
Even if you qualify based on income, as an immigrant, two other qualifying factors may leave you out. These include a valid Social Security number and you and your family’s immigration status.
Let’s break down which types of immigrants qualify.
First, you need to either be a qualifying resident alien or a green card holder (aka a lawful permanent resident). Where it gets challenging is who counts as a qualifying resident alien.
According to the IRS, a resident alien is someone who is either a lawful permanent resident or passes the substantial presence test for a calendar year.
In other words, you need to be in the U.S. for a minimum of 31 days out of one calendar year, and a minimum of 183 days for the past three years.
Individuals who pass the substantial presence test include DACA and TPS recipients, H-1B visa holders, H-1B visa holders (H-4 spouses need to have a valid Social Security number) TN visa holders, O-1 visa holders, and E-2 visa holders. You can check with the IRS to see whether you qualify.
Unfortunately, that means those who don’t have a valid Social Security number and other types of visas such as F-1, B-1, H-1B, B-2 won’t qualify.
Undocumented immigrants—even if you file taxes using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)—won’t receive a stimulus payment.
For more information about coronavirus relief and whether immigrants qualify, please read this handy guide from Remitly’s new bank for multinationals, Passbook.
What if I’m in a Mixed Status Family?
Many wonder if they will receive a stimulus check if their spouse is an immigrant. The answer is a bit complicated.
An estimated 16.7 million people are part of a mixed status family, with 6.1 million U.S. citizen children living in these households.
Because of the way the CARES Act is written, mixed status families won’t be eligible to receive payments, even if one person in the household meets the residency requirement and has a valid Social Security number. That’s even if you both file tax returns.
The only exception is if one member of a mixed status couple is serving in the Armed Forces. As the IRS states on this page under the FAQ regarding an ITIN: “The only exception is when two spouses file a joint tax return and either spouse is a member of the U.S. Armed Forces at any time during the taxable year, in which case only one spouse needs to have a valid SSN.”
In other words, for some families, even if you are a legal resident of the U.S. who qualifies for a stimulus check, you will be denied payment if you claim a dependent or identify a spouse using their ITIN number on your tax return.
If you’re in a household with a U.S. citizen or qualifying resident alien, they could receive a stimulus check only if they filed a tax return that didn’t list anyone who uses an ITIN number (dependent or spouse). So mixed status families who file taxes individually will most likely receive a stimulus payment.
Why Haven’t I Received My Check Yet?
Those who have filed their 2018 or 2019 tax returns and qualify for a stimulus check can check the status of their Economic Impact Payment through a dedicated web page the IRS set up (either spouse who files jointly can check the status). In many cases, the IRS is experiencing delays which may mean your payment is on its way once your tax return is fully processed.
The IRS has set a deadline of November 21 by 3 p.m. ET to request your payment if you haven’t filed your 2019 tax return or receive a stimulus payment.
If you’re considered a non-filer — whether it’s because you’re not required to file a tax return according to the IRS or don’t plan on doing so, you’ll need to head to another part of the IRS website to enter your payment information in order to receive your stimulus payment (assuming you’re eligible). The deadline to do so is also November 21 at 3 p.m. ET.
It’s important to make sure you use the correct link in order to request and receive payment. That means you need to understand and decide whether you’re filing a tax return and fill out the correct form.
What if I or My Family Don’t Qualify?
At this moment, there are plans to pass additional legislation to help those who didn’t qualify for stimulus payments from the CARES act.
On May 15, 2020, The House of Representatives passed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act. This coronavirus relief bill would ensure all taxpayers — regardless of their immigration status — would receive a stimulus payment. It also includes retroactive payments for mixed status families that were denied under the CARES act.
On June 25, 2020, senators Marco Rubio and Thom Tillis introduced the American Citizen Coronavirus Relief Act. This is an amendment to the CARES act that would provide retroactive stimulus payments for U.S. spouses who filed jointly with those who have an ITIN and payments for U.S. citizen children are in mixed families as long as one parent has a Social Security number.
Most recently on July 30, 2020, the Coronavirus Assistance for American Families (CAAF) Act was introduced by senators Mitt Romney, Steve Daines, Bill Cassidy and Marco Rubio. This act would give a $1,000 stimulus payment for all U.S. citizens as long as they filed a tax return, even if they filed jointly with someone who has an ITIN.
If the CAAF Act were passed, there would also be payments for dependents who are U.S. citizens that are part of a mixed status family, as long as one person filed using their Social Security number.
The HEROES, American Citizen Coronavirus Relief, and CAAF acts haven’t been signed into law yet — there is no certainty as to when or if they will be. Until then, do your best to see what you may qualify for under the CARES act, as well as understand your rights to receive other state and federal benefits such as unemployment insurance.
At Remitly, we realize the financial system is fundamentally stacked against immigrants. That’s why we’ve created a money sending platform that is accessible, affordable, and secure for over 3 million people around the world.