Non-US Citizens are Eligible to Receive Money from the CARES Act

On March 27, 2020, President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The law provides relief to individuals and small businesses affected by the 2019 Corona virus (COVID-19) Pandemic.  Are the economic benefits under this Act available to non-citizens?  If non-citizens receive money under the CARES Act,  will it result in inadmissibility under the public charge rule?  The answer is this: Taxpaying immigrants and non-US citizens are entitled to receive benefits from the CARES Act and receiving money under the Act does not trigger a charge of inadmissibility.

Who are Eligible?

Individuals with a valid Social Security number and people who qualify as “resident aliens” as defined by the IRS are eligible to receive the payment. Resident aliens are lawful permanent residents or more popularly known as green card holders.  One can also qualify as a resident alien if the person meets the “substantial presence test”.

To meet the substantial presence test, you must be physically present in the US on at least 31 days during the current year (2020) and 183 days during the 3-year period immediately before that.  This means, most  work-authorized aliens with statuses like H-1B, L-1, O-1 and TN and DACA and TPS recipients will be able to meet the substantial presence test.

However, if you file your taxes through an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), you are not eligible for a stimulus payment. You will not receive the payment if you have a Social Security number but have filed a joint return with a spouse who has an ITIN or filed with a child who has an ITIN. An exception to this exists for military families and adopted children.  For example, if you are an H-1B worker, with a spouse who is an H-4 and does not have a social security number, and you have filed taxes jointly you – you will not receive a stimulus check.

Payment Information

This payment will be $1,200 for individuals with an adjusted gross income of up to $75,000. If you are a married couple filing taxes jointly, you are eligible for a $2,400 payment, if your adjusted gross income is less than $150,000. You may also receive an additional $500 for each eligible child under the age of 17.

The payment will be reduced by $5 for every $100 of income above $75,000 for individuals, $112,500 for a head of household, and $150,000 for joint filers. You will not receive a check if you are a single filer with an income exceeding $99,000, a head of household with one child making more than $146,500, and $198,000 if you are a joint filer with no children.

Money will be received automatically to those who are eligible based on 2019 federal tax returns, and if you did not file a 2019 return, the payment will be based on 2018 tax returns.

Will receiving CARES Act money trigger a charge of inadmissibility?

There will be no issue of inadmissibility under the public charge rule for accepting money under the CARES act. The distribution of money under the Act is structured as an “Advanced Tax Credit”  to be disbursed by the Treasury Department.  The Department of Homeland Security final rule on inadmissibility on public charge grounds is clear that tax credits are not taken into account for the purpose of a public charge determination.  In other words, tax credits (like the CARES Act payment) are not considered public benefits in a public charge inadmissibility determination.  Immigration status will not be affected by receipt of money under the CARES Act.

If you have any questions about any impact the CARES Act will have on your immigration status, please contact the Law Office of Dennis Ortiguera by telephone or email. We remain available via email, telephone or video conference during the COVID-19 lockdown.

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Ortiguera Law Office

Attorney specializing in US immigration law with emphasis on employment, investment, waivers and family-based matters. He handles family, employment and investment-based visa applications, labor certifications, appeals, naturalization applications, deportation defense, applications for adjustment of status and change of status, waivers, employment authorization, visa extensions, asylum, and motions to reopen. Speaks Filipino, studied at Ateneo de Manila, Fordham University Law School.