No, you don’t have to be a US citizen living in America to get a second stimulus check – CNET

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If you’re a US citizen who lives outside the country, you would likely still be eligible to receive a second stimulus payment.


Angela Lang/CNET

If you’re a non-US citizen who lives and works in America, a US citizen who lives abroad or a resident of a US territory, you may have some questions about whether or not you’re eligible for a second stimulus check of up to $600, now that President Donald Trump signed a new COVID relief bill into law. You might also still be wondering if you were supposed to get a check in the first round of payments last year but never did. 

The second stimulus check changes some of the rules around who qualifies to get one, depending on your immigration status in the US, where you live outside the US and your tax filings. We’ll break down the changes and rules and explain how to claim a missing payment for yourself or your children

CNET has guides for everything you need to know about stimulus checks if you’re on SSDI, if you’re an older adult, if you have dependents, if you’re a young adult or if you are paying or receiving child support. We also have a stimulus calculator tool that can make sense of the IRS’ formula to determine your second stimulus check payment

Read more: Bad news: Not everyone will qualify for the second stimulus check, even if they got the first one

Do you have to be a US citizen to receive a stimulus check?

Not necessarily. Under the March CARES Act, all US citizens and non-US citizens with a Social Security number who live and work in America were eligible to receive stimulus payments. That includes people who the IRS refer to as “resident aliens,” green card holders, and workers using visas such as H-1B and H-2A. This rule is the same in the new law as well. 

If your citizenship status changed since you first got a social security number, you may have to update the IRS’s records to get your check through its online nonfilers tool. US citizens living abroad were also eligible for a first payment (more below).

Who does the IRS count as a US citizen?

The IRS considers all people born in the US as a US citizen, regardless of the tax or immigration status of a person’s parents. A person born outside of the US may also be a US citizen at birth if at least one parent is a US citizen and has lived in the US for a period of time. 

The IRS also considers you a US citizen if you are over the age of 18 and went through a naturalization process, which typically involves living in the US for three to five years, filling out an application, going to an interview and passing a citizenship test. You’ll need a Certificate of Naturalization or Certificate of Citizenship to prove your citizenship and get a Social Security number to be eligible for a stimulus check.


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Second stimulus checks: Everything you need to know

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Am I considered a ‘resident alien’ and if so, am I eligible for a stimulus check?

The IRS defines “resident aliens” as green card holders and workers in the US on visas such as H-1B and H-2A, or those who have a “substantial presence” in the US. All must also have a Social Security number. Resident aliens were eligible for a first stimulus check under the CARES Act, and are still eligible for a second check under the new package as well — so long as they are not claimed as the dependent of another taxpayer. 

If I’m an undocumented US resident, or if I don’t have a Social Security number, am I eligible for a second stimulus check? 

If you’re a “nonresident alien,” you aren’t eligible for a second stimulus check. The government defines a nonresident alien as someone who “has not passed the green card test or the substantial presence test.” If you don’t have a valid Social Security number, you were likely not eligible for a stimulus payment under the CARES Act and you aren’t eligible for a second payment under the new package, either. If you filed a US tax return but do not have a Social Security number, you were still not eligible. 

The House of Representatives’ Heroes Act — which didn’t become law — extended eligibility to noncitizens as long as they have a taxpayer identification number (ITIN), a substitute for a Social Security number. The final bill that did become law didn’t extend this eligibility. 

What if my spouse is considered a nonresident alien? 

Under the CARES Act, if you had a Social Security number but your spouse is a nonresident alien, and you filed taxes jointly, you weren’t eligible to receive a first stimulus payment. If filing jointly, both spouses must have had valid Social Security numbers to get a payment, unless one of them is a member of the US Armed Forces during the tax year. However, if you file your 2020 taxes separately from your spouse, you may be eligible to get a payment on your 2020 return

However, this rule changed with the new $900 billion package: In the second round of stimulus checks, a US citizen and their noncitizen spouse are both eligible for a payment as long as they have Social Security numbers. This has been referred to as a “mixed-status” household when it comes to citizenship.

If I’m a US citizen living abroad, am I eligible for a stimulus check?

Yes. US citizens living outside the country were eligible for the first stimulus payment under the CARES Act and are still eligible for a second stimulus check of up to $600 for single filers, $1,200 for married filing jointly and $600 for each qualifying dependent. Like the rest of the US population, you are not eligible if someone else claims you as a dependent on their taxes, or if you don’t have a valid Social Security number. 

If you are a US citizen abroad and meet those criteria and filed tax form 1040 or 1040-SR (for older adults) in 2018 or 2019, the IRS should have either direct deposited your payment into your US bank account (it can’t deposit money into foreign bank accounts), or mailed it to you using your information from your 2018 or 2019 tax return or from your Social Security retirement or other federal benefits program. 

If I live in a US territory, am I eligible for a stimulus check? 

If you are one of the 4 million people living in a US territory — Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam or the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands — you were eligible for a stimulus check under the CARES Act and are also eligible for a second check under the new package. However, the IRS doesn’t distribute the payments to the five territories. Instead, local tax authorities do, based on information provided by the IRS. If you live in one of the territories and didn’t receive a first payment (and don’t receive a second one by Jan. 15), you should contact your local tax authority. 

What if I live in one of the Freely Associated States? 

If you are a citizen or a resident of the Freely Associated States — the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands or the Republic of Palau — you may not be entitled to a payment. However, if you are a resident of a US territory for the tax year 2020 for US territory income tax purposes, you may be eligible for a payment through the US territory tax agency. You should get in touch with your local tax agency to find out. 

If you are a US citizen or resident for federal income tax purposes but live in one of the Freely Associated States, you may be eligible for a payment from the IRS. 

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People who live in US territories were eligible for a first stimulus check under the CARES Act.


Angela Lang/CNET

What if I didn’t file taxes for 2018 or 2019?

If you’re a US citizen living abroad or a citizen of a US territory and didn’t file taxes for 2018 or 2019 but are eligible for a stimulus check under the CARES Act or the new $900 billion package, you can claim that money during tax season this spring in the form of a Recovery Rebate Credit from the IRS. 

This credit would either increase the amount of your tax refund or lower the amount of the tax you need to pay by the amount of stimulus money the government owes you on the first and second payments. Find out more about how to claim a missing stimulus payment here, as well as everything you need to know about how your taxes impact your stimulus payment

What should I do if I live abroad or in a US territory and didn’t receive my first check? 

If you meet all of the eligibility requirements but did not receive your first payment under the CARES Act, you can claim that money this year in the form of a Recovery Rebate Credit from the IRS. If your second payment doesn’t arrive soon after Jan. 15, you may also need to claim it as a Recovery Rebate Credit (find out how to claim your missing stimulus money here). 

What if I live abroad or in a US territory and didn’t receive the extra $500 or $600 per child dependent? 

If you have a child dependent age 16 or younger who qualified for an extra $500 under the CARES Act or $600 under the new relief package, you can also claim that money as a Recovery Rebate Credit from the IRS.

How would a second check arrive if I live overseas? 

A second check would likely arrive the same way that a first one did. If you’re living overseas or in a US territory, it’s likely that your first check was either direct deposited into your US bank account (the IRS cannot deposit money into foreign bank accounts), or that it was mailed to the address the IRS has on file for you, based on your tax return or from your Social Security retirement or other federal benefits program. 

Now that a second round of checks are on the way, you’ll soon be able to track the status of your payment by visiting the IRS Get My Payment webpage, or track it through USPS if you’re expecting a check to arrive by mail. 

For more information about stimulus payments, here’s how to find out which IRS priority group you’re in to see how fast you’ll get your second payment.