In response to the coronavirus outbreak and its threat to the nation’s economy, the US Congress passed a $2.2 trillion economic stimulus package, that includes economic stimulus payments to most US citizens as well as many immigrants. If you are eligible, you can receive your payments through your private bank account (if it is registered with the Internal Revenue Service) or by paper check mailed to your home address.

Most individual adult taxpayers will receive $1,200, plus an additional $500 for each child under 17. Married couples filing joint tax returns can receive $2,400 plus $500 for each child. The amount of your check will decrease on a sliding scale if your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) from your most recent tax return exceeds $75,000 for an individual or $150,000 for married couples filing joint tax returns.

What You Need to Do

In most cases, as long as you qualify, you will not need to do anything to get this money. It is important, however, that:

  • If you filed a federal tax return for the tax years of 2018 or 2019. If you have not done so, do so now. It is possible to do so electronically, and for this year only, late filing penalties will not begin to accumulate until July 16, 2020.
  • You can also get your money faster (by bank transfer rather than by paper check) if you provide the IRS with your direct deposit bank account details. You don’t even need to do this much if the IRS already has this information. Most people provide the IRS with this information in order to receive tax refunds from the IRS.

Do You Qualify for a Payment?

Not all immigrants qualify for an economic stimulus payment. See below for information to determine whether you qualify. If you are a not a US citizen but you otherwise qualify for a payment under the rules stated above, you have one additional barrier to surmount — you must pass one of the following two tests to qualify for a payment: (i) the lawful permanent residence test or (ii) the substantial presence test:

The Lawful Permanent Residence Test (“Green Card”) Test

You are considered eligible for a stimulus payment if you are a lawful permanent resident (a “green card” holder). If you have ever been issued a green card, you will retain this status indefinitely unless:

  • you renounce your permanent residence status writing and send the renunciation letter to the USCIS;
  • the USCIS terminates your permanent residence status in writing; or
  • an immigration court terminates your permanent residence status by court order.

The “Substantial Presence” Test

You can qualify for a stimulus check without a green card if you pass the “substantial presence” test. To pass this test, you must have spent at least 31 days in the United States during 2020 alone, and 183 days during the 3-year period that includes 2018, 2019 and 2020.

To calculate the number of days for which you qualify to reach the benchmark of 183, however, you may count only:

  • All of the days you were present in the US in 2020;
  • One-third of the days you were present in the US during 2019; and,
  • One-sixth of the days you were present in the US during 2018.

For example, if you spent 90 days in the US in 2020, 180 days in the US 2019 and 240 days in the US in 2018, your score will be (100% X 90 = 90) + (⅓ Xf 180=60) + (⅙ Xf 240 = 40) = 90 + 60+40= 190. Since this score exceeds 183, normally will pass the physical presence test and be eligible for a stimulus payment.

Exceptions

Unfortunately, however, additional barriers apply, even if you meet the conditions outlined above, that could prevent you from receiving an economic stimulus payment:

  • You will not qualify if your presence in the US is based on an A, F, G, J, M or Q visa, or if you are in the US to receive medical treatment. If you find yourself in this situation, speak with an experienced immigration lawyer for details, because there may be a loophole available to you.
  • You will not qualify for an economic stimulus payment if (i) you file your taxes using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) instead of a Social Security Number (SSN); (ii) you filed a joint tax return with a spouse who used an ITIN instead of an SSN; or you filed a tax return with a qualifying child who has an ITIN instead of an SSN.

An example of an immigrant class within the foregoing problems arise are many workers in H-1B status. This exclusion has been criticized by many people, including domestic immigrant advocacy groups since it means that some US taxpayers will not receive economic stimulus payments at all.

What About the “Public Charge” Rule?

Don’t worry — your receipt of a coronavirus-based economic stimulus payment will not be held against you for the purpose of determining whether you are a public charge.

Undocumented Immigrants

Unfortunately, undocumented immigrants are ineligible for coronavirus-based economic stimulus payments.

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