October 20, 2020
Stimulus checks for people in US territories and citizens abroad: What to know

Stimulus checks for people in US territories and citizens abroad: What to know


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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, if Congress approves one.


Angela Lang/CNET

If you’re a US citizen living outside the US or a resident of a US territory, you may have questions about whether or not you’re eligible to receive a second coronavirus stimulus relief check — if a standalone bill is approved in Congress — or if you were supposed to get one in the first round but never did. 

Negotiations around another stimulus package have shifted dramatically, but are still ongoing. In the meantime, we can help you figure out if you might be eligible for a second stimulus payment based on where you live outside the US and your tax filings. We’ll also explain how to track down 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 or if you’re a young adult. We’ve also mapped out when a potential second stimulus check could arrive and how much money you might receive. (Our stimulus calculator tool can estimate that, too.)

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. Assuming the qualifications remain the same if another bill passes, they would be eligible for a second check of up to $1,200 for single filers, $2,400 for married filing jointly and $500 for each qualifying dependent. Like the rest of the US population, you would not be eligible if someone else claims you as a dependent on their taxes, or if you do not 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. 


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

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.

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. 

What if I don’t have a social security number? 

If you don’t have a valid Social Security number, you were not eligible for a stimulus payment under the CARES Act and are unlikely to be eligible for a second payment should another relief bill pass. If you filed a US tax return but do not have a Social Security number, you were still not eligible. 

What if my spouse is considered a nonresident alien? 

If you have a Social Security number but your spouse is a nonresident alien, and you filed taxes jointly, you will not receive a stimulus payment. If filing jointly, both spouses must have 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. 

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. However, the IRS didn’t distribute the payments to the five territories. Instead, local tax authorities did, based on information provided by the IRS. If you live in one of the territories and did not receive a payment, 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 are 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, you have until Nov. 21 to use the IRS’ nonfilers tool to claim your stimulus payment. This tool will ask you to provide information including your name, address, social security number and banking information. 

One caveat: You should not use the nonfilers tool if you still plan on filing a 2019 tax return (for instance, if you filed for an Oct. 15 extension), as it would slow down the processing of your return and refund, according to the IRS. (Find out everything you need to know about how your taxes impact your stimulus payment here.)

What 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 try tracking the status of your stimulus payment by visiting the IRS Get My Payment webpage. If you didn’t file your taxes for 2018 or 2019, you have until Nov. 21 to use the IRS’ nonfilers tool to claim your check.

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

If you have a child dependent age 16 or younger who qualified for an extra $500 under the CARES Act, you could have used the IRS nonfilers tool by Sept. 30 to claim that money. If you missed that deadline you’ll have to wait until 2021 to claim your stimulus payment on behalf of eligible dependents. But again, if you’re still planning to file a 2019 tax return, you shouldn’t use the nonfilers tool. 

How would I get a second check 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. 

If another relief package and second stimulus payment is approved, you’ll be able to track the status of your payment by visiting the IRS Get My Payment webpage. 

For more information about stimulus payments, here’s how fast the IRS could send out a second stimulus payment if it passes. And if you still haven’t received your stimulus check and you think it’s lost or missing, try this IRS phone number to file a report.



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