Coronavirus, Immigration

US Government COVID-19 stimulus payments: what international students and scholars need to know

April 27, 2020
By ISSS

Key takeaways: 

  • The US Government is issuing stimulus payments of up to $1,200 as part of a coronavirus relief package. 
  • Only U.S. tax residents who meet certain conditions are eligible to receive the payment. While tax residency is separate from US citizenship, most international students and scholars are nonresidents for tax purposes.
  • Nonresidents who received the stimulus money may need to return it to the Internal Revenue Service. 
  • ISSS is not authorized to provide tax advice. Please consult Sprintax with any questions. 

We have received many questions regarding the stimulus payments of up to $1,200 issued by the U.S. Government as part of the Federal Coronavirus Relief Bill (CARES Act). Our colleagues at Sprintax have provided us with guidance to help you determine whether you are eligible to receive a payment and how to proceed if you think you might have received one in error.

Please remember that ISSS is not permitted to provide tax advice. If you have any questions about filing your taxes or about the US Government’s COVID-19 stimulus payments, please use Sprintax’s Live Help feature: https://www.sprintax.com/meet-stacy.html.

You are eligible to receive a stimulus payment if all of the below apply:

  • You are a US resident for tax purposes;
  • Your Adjusted Gross Income is up to $99,000 (for those whose filing status was single);
  • You have a valid Social Security Number;
  • You are not claimed as a dependent on someone else’s US tax return.

Please note that US tax residency is separate from US citizenship (although most international students and scholars are nonresidents for tax purposes). You can use Sprintax to determine whether you are a US resident for tax purposes. If you received a stimulus payment and Sprintax has determined that you are a US resident for tax purposes, no further action is required.

However, if you are a nonresident who received the stimulus payment, you will need to prepare and send an amended tax return to the IRS.** It is likely you filed incorrectly for tax year 2018 or 2019. This is a common error when services like TurboTax or H&R Block are used as they are not designed for nonresidents. You can prepare the amended tax return (Form 1040X) using Sprintax. You will also need to return the money to the IRS. These steps should be taken as soon as possible (as local postal service restrictions or stay-at-home requirements permit) to prevent penalties from the IRS or difficulties with visa applications/changes of status in the future.

For help determining your residency status or filing an amended return, log in to your Sprintax account and use the “Live Help” feature to be connected to a member of the Sprintax team. See http://blog.sprintax.com for detailed instructions. For general information about the stimulus payments, please see https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/economic-impact-payment-information-center