U.S. Expats & Coronavirus Stimulus Checks: Top FAQs for Americans Living Abroad

Updated January 6, 2021

Do you live in the U.S.? You’ve stumbled upon information for Americans who live overseas. U.S. residents should read this Coronavirus information instead.

As a U.S. expat, you probably have more questions about the stimulus checks — both the CARES Act check and the new second round of stimulus checks — than the average American.

Since you make your income abroad, most of you don’t end up owing U.S. taxes, many of you haven't filed tax returns in a few years, and some of you have extremely complex tax situations.

To help you out, below we've answered the common (and a few uncommon) questions expats have asked about the 2020 and 2021 stimulus checks and how they will (and won't) affect U.S. citizens who live overseas.

We’ll start with the new, second round of stimulus checks for expats. Curious about the March 2020 CARES Act check? Jump to that info here. Ready to file your tax return? No matter where in the world you are, we’ve got a tax solution for you. Get started with our made-for-expats online expat tax services today!

Second Stimulus Checks & U.S. Expats: What You Should Know

stimulus checks expats will get for coronavirus stimulus bill

Q. What does the second stimulus check mean for U.S. expats?

The new stimulus check is part of a December 2020 government relief package to provide financial relief to Americans during the pandemic. The relief package includes $600 direct payments to each person who cannot be claimed as a dependent and earns under a certain amount of income. It also includes up to $600 per eligible child payments for parents of children under age 17.

Q. Do I get a second stimulus check if I live overseas?

A. Yes, expats qualify for the second stimulus check. You qualify if you fall within the income threshold, have a social security number, and file taxes — even if you live overseas.

Q. Do I need to sign up for it or sign off on it?

A. Most people won’t need to do anything to receive the second stimulus because the IRS is going to base the payments off of 2019 tax returns. If you didn’t file a 2019 return, you may be able to claim it on your 2020 tax return.

Q. If I live abroad, when will I get my second stimulus check if I qualify?

The first payments have already gone out. Most people will get a direct deposit. If not, your stimulus check should be mailed by the end of January.

The IRS’ “Get My Payment” tool, where you’ll be able to see the status of your payment, is up and running.

Q. How much will my second stimulus check be for?

A. Your second stimulus check depends on your 2019 income. The full amount is $600 per individual, $1,200 per couple, and $600 per child under the age of 17. For expats to qualify for the full second stimulus check, you must have $75,000 or less in income if you file as single, $112,500 or less if you file as head of household, or $150,000 or less if you file jointly with your spouse or as a qualifying widow. You’ll also then qualify for a $600 payment per qualifying child.

For those above this income level, your stimulus check amount will lower $5 for each $100 your AGI exceeds the above thresholds.

You can estimate your own payment amount with H&R Block's Stimulus Check Calculator.

Q. Will I have to pay back the amount I get?

A. No, you will not have to pay back any amount, even if you experience a pay hike in 2021.

Q. Will this affect my tax return this year?

A. It can only help this year’s return. If you are eligible for more, you may be able to claim it as a credit on your return that either decreases your tax liability or increases your refund. If you’re eligible for less or received the full amount, you don’t have to pay it back and it won’t affect your return.

Q. Will I owe tax on this second stimulus check in 2021 or have to pay it back?

A. No, this is considered a 2021 tax credit, not income, so you will not need to pay taxes on it in 2021 or pay it back.

Q. How will I get my second stimulus check if I’m an American living overseas?

A. There are two ways overseas Americans can get their second stimulus payment: Direct deposit or through the mail.

You should get your check via direct deposit if you received your latest tax refund through direct deposit or if the IRS has your direct deposit info from the last round of stimulus checks.

You need to have an account with a U.S. bank in order to get direct deposit.

We recommend you update your address if you:

  • Don’t know what address is on file
  • Don’t feel great about getting mail reliably or quickly in your area
  • Have moved to a different address
  • Want your check sent somewhere other than the address they have on file

In addition to Form 8822, Change of Address, you may be able to update your address via phone, through a written statement, or on your tax return. You can see the IRS’ most up-to-date address change info on the IRS website.

Q. I’m retired overseas and don’t file a tax return — do I qualify for the second stimulus check?

Yes, retired expats qualify for the second stimulus check even if they aren’t required to file a tax return each year. This also applies to Social Security beneficiaries (both retirement and disability), railroad retirees, and those receiving veteran’s benefits. If you do not receive Social Security retirement benefits, railroad benefits, Social Security Disability Insurance, or veteran’s benefits through the government, you may need to take action and file a 2020 tax return to get your payment.

Q. What if I don’t have an SSN but filed a U.S. return. Do I get to take advantage of the second stimulus check?

A. Probably not. To receive a second stimulus check, you generally must have a social security number (SSN).

Q. Will I get a second stimulus check if I filed a joint return with my NRA spouse with an IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)?

Yes. Under the March 2020 CARES Act, joint returns of couples where only one member of the couple had an SSN were ineligible for a rebate. This latest round of relief changes that provision. These families will now be eligible to receive payments for the members of the family that have SSNs. This change is retroactive, meaning that those who fall under this category who missed out on the first round of EIPs can claim that money when filing 2020 tax returns in the spring of 2021.

Q. What if I’m a U.S. expat and I haven’t filed taxes in a few years while I’ve lived abroad? Do I still qualify for the second stimulus check?

A. If you live overseas and haven’t filed taxes in a while, you still may still be eligible for a stimulus payment. However, if you haven’t filed your 2019 return, you will need to claim the payment as a refundable tax credit when you file your 2020 return. For full details, visit the IRS’s website.

We recommend getting started today with Virtual Expat Tax Services today, as the filing process for multiple years of returns can take longer to complete.

First Round of CARES Act Stimulus Checks: What Expats Should Know

Q. What did the CARES Act 2020 Coronavirus stimulus check mean for U.S. expats?

The CARES Act stimulus check expats got in 2020 was technically a 2020 tax credit in advance.

It was part of the CARES Act Coronavirus stimulus package, which was designed to help get the economy back on its feet while we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. In it are a variety of benefits for both individuals and corporations to ease the financial burden of the shutdowns and shelter-in-place orders. For the average American, the main benefits are cash payments and a variety of other debt relief options. The amount each taxpayer got depends on a variety of factors.

Q. Did I qualify for a CARES Act stimulus check if I live overseas?

A. Yes, expats qualified for the CARES Act stimulus checks. You qualified if you fell within the income threshold, had a social security number, and filed taxes — even if you lived overseas. If you didn’t get it, you can still apply for it retroactively as a tax credit on your 2020 tax return.

Q. What is the Recovery Rebate Credit?

A. If you didn’t get the full amount you were owed, you may be able to apply for the Recovery Rebate Credit. Any eligible individual who did not receive the full amount of the recovery rebate as an advance payment, also known as an Economic Impact Payment, can claim the Recovery Rebate Credit on a 2020 Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR.

Q. Could I have gotten a CARES Act stimulus check if I filed a joint return with my NRA spouse with an IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)?

A. Yes, retroactively. Couples filing jointly where one spouse is a nonresident alien did not initially receive a stimulus payment, but this can be changed on your 2020 taxes. The latest round of stimulus checks changed that provision so that Americans with NRA spouses can still get last year’s aid.

Q. How much was the CARES Act stimulus check for?

A. Your 2020 expat CARES Act stimulus check amount depended on your 2019 income. The payments were based on income thresholds, which you can see in the table below.

CARES Act stimulus check Amount Framework*
Filing Status Low Threshold High Threshold
Single Less than $75,000 $99,000
Married Filing Jointly Less than $150,000 $198,000
Head of Household Less than $112,500 $136,500
* This framework by the IRS was designed for U.S. taxpayers with tax liability and without qualifying children. Individual amounts for expats may differ.

* The high threshold may be higher depending on number of children

You can estimate your own payment amount with H&R Block's CARES Act Stimulus Check Calculator.

Q. Did I have to pay back the amount I got?

A. No

Q. Will I owe tax on this check in 2020?

A. No, this is considered a 2020 tax credit, not income, so you will not need to pay taxes on it in 2020.

Q. How would I have gotten my CARES Act stimulus check if I’m an American living overseas?

A. There are two ways overseas Americans got their stimulus payment: Direct deposit or through the mail.

Haven’t gotten your CARES Act stimulus check yet?

We’re here to help with your expat taxes no matter where you are

We understand this is a stressful, confusing time, and that's why our Expat Tax Advisors will be standing by ready to help. No matter where in the world you are, we’ve got a tax solution for you — whether you want to be in the driver’s seat with our DIY online expat tax service designed for U.S. citizens abroad or want to let one of our experienced Tax Advisors take the wheel. Head on over to our Ways to File page to choose your journey and get started.

At H&R Block, we're committed to providing information you can trust and use to help navigate the changing tax landscape for Americans abroad. Visit our Expat Coronavirus Tax Impact page for the latest information on how the Coronavirus has affected expat taxes in 2020 and 2021.