I have been working in H1B for a number of years, have paid my taxes, and contributed to this country. Is it true that, despite all this, I still am not eligible for the COVID-19 stimulus payment? This seems entirely unfair!


It actually is not entirely clear whether you will be eligible for the stimulus check. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was signed into law last week, excludes “any nonresident alien individual ….” Many news outlets have reported that this means any foreign national who does not have a green card is not eligible. However, the CARES Act does not actually define the term nonresident alien.

The stimulus checks technically are advances on tax credits. Therefore, it would be logical to conclude that one should look to how the phrase nonresident alien is defined by the IRS, and how this group of foreign nationals is distinguished from foreign nationals who are considered resident aliens. Based on these definitions, many H1B workers are considered resident aliens, and therefore presumably would be eligible for the stimulus payment.

That being said, we may need to wait until the IRS begins issuing stimulus payments to see how it is interpreting the phrase nonresident aliens, as it is used in the CARES Act. If the IRS determines that the phrase carries a different meaning in the context of the CARES Act, all H1B workers could be left out. If that happens, the only option may be to sue and ask federal courts to intervene.

It should be further noted that the CARES Act appears to only apply to those who have valid Social Security numbers. Therefore, regardless of how the phrase nonresident alien is interpreted, many foreign nationals may be excluded based on this provision in the law. (02.Apr.2020)

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