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Coronavirus Stimulus Checks for H-1B Visa Holders

The United States government recently passed a $2 trillion economic stimulus package called the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Under that act, U.S. taxpayers will get a one-time stimulus check. It is very clear that most U.S. citizens and green card holding (permanent resident) taxpayers will get the stimulus. However, many H-1B visa holders and other non-immigrants are wondering whether they are eligible, also.

The stimulus checks are expected to be paid starting around April 15, 2020. The IRS will be distributing them on an ongoing basis, and this one-time deposit activity may continue through September 2020. Therefore, if you don’t receive it in a given week, don’t lose hope. Wait patiently, as long as you know that you are eligible in the first place.

Eligibility

Depending upon their income level, generally all U.S. taxpayers that are categorized as residents are eligible to receive the stimulus check.

The following are the minimum eligibility criteria:

  • You must have filed a tax return for either the year 2019 or 2018 as a resident—that is, Form 1040 and not Form 1040-NR.
  • You have a Social Security Number.

    ITIN Number holders are not eligible.

    In case a married couple files taxes together (such as H-1B and H-4 visa holders), both individuals must have a Social Security Number (SSN).

    A child is eligible only if both the child and the parents have SSNs.

As long as the above rules are satisfied, H visa holders, L visa holders, R visa holders, and other resident visa holders would qualify. There is a separate amount available for each person, including children. Of course, there are additional eligibility requirements, as described below.

That means that the following are not eligible:

  • Parents, in-laws, and other relatives visiting the United States on B-1/B-2 visa.
  • International students and their dependents on F visas, even if they are on OPT and working.
  • Exchange visitors on J visas, if they are in non-resident status (which is the case for the first 5 years for educational J visas and 2 years for non-educational J visas.)

Substantial Presence Test

In order to be considered a resident alien for tax purposes, you must pass the substantial presence test. To pass this test, you must have been physically present in the U.S. for at least:

  1. 31 days during the current year (2020), and
  2. 183 days during a 3-year period that includes the current year (2020) and the 2 years immediately before that (2018 – 2019) before that, counting:
    a. All the days you were present in the current year (2020), and
    b. 1/3 of the days you were present in the first year before the current year (2019), and
    c. 1/6 of the days you were present in the second year before the current year (2018).

Stimulus Check Amount

The following are the stimulus check amounts, which vary based on your filing status and your annual income:

  • A single tax filer whose annual income is less than $75,000 will get a one-time payment of $1,200.
  • A married couple filing a joint tax return whose combined annual income is less than $150,000 will get a one-time payment of $2,400.
  • Families can expect another $500 for each dependent child age 17 and younger, provided each child has an SSN.

For those whose annual income is above those maximum amounts, the stimulus check amounts gradually reduce until they become $0 if the annual income exceeds $99,000 for a single tax filer and $198,000 for joint tax filers.

Stimulus Check Collection

The money will be deposited directly into your bank account if you provided your account information when you filed your tax return. You can also visit the IRS website to provide your bank account information, and they can deposit the money in there. For everyone else, the IRS will send the check in the mail to the address that you used at the time of filing your last tax return. You can also check the status of your stimulus check payment on the IRS website.

It is important to note that this stimulus payment is only one time, not every month. There is a possibility of the COVID-19 situation lasting longer, and the U.S. Congress is already in talks to provide more stimulus payments or monthly payments until the situation normalizes.

Effect on Green Card Process and Citizenship

Some non-immigrants may be worried that getting this stimulus payment may affect their green card process and eventual ability to apply for U.S. citizenship. However, the stimulus payment is considered a tax credit, not a public welfare benefit. Therefore, getting this payment will not have any negative impact on non-immigration status, green card application or eligibility, or eventual U.S. citizenship eligibility.

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