An immigrant's guide to Coronavirus relief payments

Congress has passed a new $2.2 trillion stimulus package to give additional financial support to individuals, families, and small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s called the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security), and if you’re an immigrant living and working in the United States, you may be eligible for to receive a payment.

Last update: June 17, 2020, 14:45 PDT

First, you should know…

  1. Passbook is not a legal authority and we are not giving legal or tax advice.
  2. We are offering this information with no expectation, but we are a business and would love for you to consider opening an account with us.
  3. We are doing our best to make sure the information on this page is accurate and up to date, but cannot guarantee it is.

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Eligibility

As an immigrant, am I eligible for the coronavirus relief bill payment?

If you are not a U.S. citizen, there are three main requirements you need to meet to qualify for a payment:

  1. You must have a valid Social Security number
  2. You must be a "resident client" (see below for more info on this)
  3. If you're filing as a single individual, earn less than $75,000
  4. If you're filing jointly with a spouse, earn less than $150,000
  5. You need to file a tax return to get a payout, so your total salary is based on your adjusted gross income

There’s no age requirement. Children in your household, senior citizens, and retirees are all eligible for a rebate under the bill.

I’m not sure what my IRS status is. How can I find out?

You’re considered a resident alien by the IRS if you pass one of the following two “tests”:

  1. Green Card Test: You were granted a green card (Form I-551)
  2. Substantial Presence Test: You spent at least 31 days in the United States during the current year and 183 days during the last three years. There are exceptions based on the type of visa you hold and the amount of time you spent abroad or in transit between countries.

Many immigrants in the U.S. on an F, J, M, or Q visa are considered nonresidents, depending on how long you’ve lived here. Immigrants with temporary protected status, on the other hand, are typically eligible for Social Security cards and so should be able to apply for a relief check.

There are other exceptions, so refer to the IRS for more information and any additional questions you have about your status.

I file taxes using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). Am I eligible?

Unfortunately, no. Even if you regularly file taxes, you aren’t eligible for the coronavirus relief payment unless you have a valid Social Security number.

Recently, the Leave No Taxpayer Behind bill was proposed which, if passed, provides relief to ITIN holders.

Are DACA recipients eligible?

Yes, as long as you have a valid Social Security card, you’re eligible for the relief payment.

There’s one exception to this. If you file taxes with a spouse or parent who doesn’t have a Social Security number, you won’t be eligible. In these cases, the government considers you a “mixed family”, which excludes any children or spouses in your household from applying, even if they’re U.S. citizens.

Someone in my household isn’t eligible. Does that affect my eligibility?

Yes. If you’re part of what the government calls a “mixed status” household, you’re not eligible to apply. This means dependents of Visa holders and any U.S. citizens in your household will not qualify.

receiving payments

The IRS has created a new web portal which allows you to check the status of your payment and update/add direct deposit information. If you have a Passbook account, this is where you go to update your file with routing and account numbers.

Get My Payment

What do I need to do to get my coronavirus relief check?

The process for receiving your stimulus check is different depending on your tax filing status.

If You Typically File Taxes…

You don’t need to do anything and should automatically receive your check.

You can skip the check and get your payment faster by having it directly deposited into your bank account. The IRS has created a web portal where you can update your file with routing and account numbers.

If you haven’t yet filed your taxes, you still have time. The deadline was extended to July 15th, and you can file your 2019 taxes for free through the IRS.

If You Don’t File Taxes…

If you made less than $12,200 ($24,400 for married couples) or weren’t required to file taxes in 2018 or 2019, you can apply to receive your check directly from the IRS. You’ll be asked to create an account and answer basic questions about your household income using a new application for non-filers created by the IRS.

If You Receive Disability or Social Security Benefits…

If you’re not typically required to complete your taxes as part of your Social Security benefits, you’ll still receive a check.

What if I don’t have a bank account for direct deposits?

If you don’t have a bank account or have had trouble creating an account in the past, Passbook (by Remitly) is now offering a new kind of banking account made just for immigrants. With mobile sign up and no minimum balance or fees, it’s easy to get started.

Learn more about Passbook or request an invite to set up your new bank account, right from your phone.

How much money can I expect to receive?

Single individuals will receive a $1,200 payment, with an additional $500 for each child in your household. If you make between $75,000 and $99,000 a year (or $150,000 to $198,000 for spouses filing jointly), you’ll still receive a payout but at a lower amount.

How long will it take to receive relief money?

Checks will start arriving in mid-April, and should come fairly quickly for those who have already filed 2019 taxes. If you still need to file or are seeking help to file, you can still receive your check through the end of 2020.

Risks & safety

If I apply for the relief payment will I be considered a public charge?

No. Coronavirus relief payments are a tax credit and so you shouldn’t be considered a public charge if you receive money.

While many people are understandably concerned about the impact to their long term status, the government is encouraging eligible immigrants to take advantage of coronavirus-related payouts and the USCIS recently said outright that these relief payments won't fall within public charge rules.

Will collecting a check from the emergency coronavirus bill hurt my chances of getting a green card?

Because the benefits tied to the coronavirus relief bill are not included within the most current public charge regulations, using them shouldn’t negatively impact this factor of your green card applications or future filings.  

What are the long term risks of applying for the coronavirus relief payment?

The relief benefits of the emergency coronavirus stimulus package are still changing quickly, so it’s hard to predict what the long term risks are for immigrants. The most recent related bills proposed in Congress, however, help by specifically expanding coverage for all immigrants, while giving us more details about how the CARES Act will impact communities in the long term.

Additional resources

Where can I see the full bill or learn more about potential benefits I’m eligible for?

What other relief benefits are included in the CARES Act?

What other relief benefits are there besides the CARES Act?

Where can I learn more about the IRS and my status as an alien or noncitizen?

Who can I talk to if I need help or legal support?

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