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

Do you live in the U.S.? You’ve stumbled upon stimulus check 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 all three Coronavirus 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 American Rescue Plan Act and third round of stimulus checks for expats. Need to know about the second stimulus check from January 2021? Skip ahead to that section here. 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!

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

stimulus checks expats will get for coronavirus stimulus bill

Q. What does the third stimulus check mean for U.S. citizens living abroad?

A. The third stimulus check is part of the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), a Coronavirus government relief package designed to provide further economic assistance to Americans struggling with the economic impacts of COVID-19. The relief package includes direct $1,400 payments to each eligible individual, plus $1,400 per dependent, including dependents over 17. These payments are technically an advance payment of a 2021 tax credit.

The biggest differences between the third stimulus checks for expats and the other two are the phaseout thresholds and addition of payments for dependents of all ages.

Q. Do expats qualify for the third stimulus check?

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

Expat Group Third Stimulus Eligibility
Families with NRA spouses or mixed U.S. citizenship Yes, so long as family members fall within the income threshold and have a social security number, but the NRA spouse does not qualify
U.S. citizens living abroad Yes, if you fall within the income threshold and have a social security number
U.S. expat retirees, SSDI and other expat nonfilers Yes, but if you did not file 2019 or 2020 taxes you may need to take action
Non-U.S. citizens Non-U.S. citizens residing within the U.S. are not included
Expat dependents Expat dependents with SSNs qualify for stimulus payments if their caretakers qualify under the income limits and at least one caretaker has an SSN

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

A. Yes, retired expats may qualify for the third 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 and you haven’t filed a 2019 or 2020 tax return, you may need to take action 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 third stimulus check?

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

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

A. Yes, but you would only get $1,400 instead of the full $2,800, plus $1,400 for each dependent with a Social Security Number.

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 third 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 and the IRS doesn’t have your account information through a federal benefits program, you may need to file your 2020 return to qualify for the third stimulus check. For full details, visit the IRS’s website.

We recommend getting started with multi-year expat tax filing today, as the filing process for multiple years of returns can take longer to complete.

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

A. Your third stimulus check depends on your 2020 or 2019 income (whichever tax return the IRS has processed most recently).

Qualifying group Low Threshold High Threshold(you won’t receive a payment if your AGI is above this level)
Individuals: $1,400 An AGI of $75,000 or less An AGI of $80,000 or more
Head of household: $1,400 An AGI of $112,500 or less An AGI of $120,00 or more
Couple filing jointly: $2,800 An AGI of $150,500 or less An AGI $160,000 or more
Dependents of all ages: $1,400 $1,400 apiece, no cap -- but only if caretakers make under the above limits
* This framework by the IRS was designed for taxpayers who are living and working in the U.S., so expats should ensure they’re looking at their AGI and not their gross income when determining their eligibility, especially if they’re claiming the foreign earned income exclusion.

Additional Payments: If your third stimulus payment is based on their 2019 return and your 2020 return makes you eligible for a larger payment, the IRS will redetermine your eligibility and issue a supplementary payment (a “top up”) later this summer.

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

Q. Will I have to pay back my stimulus check?

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

Q. Will this round of stimulus checks affect my tax return this year?

A. The third stimulus check will not affect your 2020 tax return, but it may help your 2021 tax return. If you are eligible for more stimulus money than you receive with the advance payment, you may be able to claim the difference as a credit on your 2021 return that either decreases your tax liability or increases your refund. If you’re eligible for less or received a stimulus check for the full amount of the Recovery Rebate Credit, you don’t have to pay it back and it won’t affect your return.

Q. Will I owe tax on this third stimulus check in 2022 or have to pay it back?

A. No, the third stimulus payment is considered a 2021 tax credit (Recovery Rebate Credit), not income, so you will not need to pay taxes on it or pay it back.

Q. Do I need to sign up for the third stimulus check it or sign off on it?

A. Most people won’t need to do anything to receive the third stimulus because the IRS is going to base the payments off of your most recent tax return, whether that’s 2020 or 2019. If you need to catch up on past returns, we can help you file with amnesty. Get started with multi-year expat tax filing now.

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

A. The first round of direct deposits have begun. Once the IRS processes your payment, the IRS Get My Payment website will display when you should expect the payment as well as the account information where a direct deposit will be sent or if a payment will be mailed.

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

A. There are two ways overseas Americans can get their third 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 and you haven’t filed yet this year.

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
  • 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. What happens if I live abroad and my direct deposit payment is returned by my U.S. financial institution?

A. Once your payment is returned, the IRS will issue your payment by mail as a check or U.S. Treasury-issued debit card. Typically, IRS will reissue the payment by mail within two weeks. Once the payment is reissued, the IRS Get My Payment tool will update to reflect your payment status.

Q. What if my third stimulus check was for the wrong amount?

A. If you didn’t receive the full amount of the third payment you were owed (due to a new baby, lower income, etc.), there are two times when you may receive additional stimulus money:

  • With a “top-up” payment later this year: If your third stimulus was based on your 2019 return and the 2020 return you file would qualify you for money, the IRS will re-determine your eligibility 90 days after the filing deadline or by September 1, 2021 at the latest, and issue you an additional payment for the difference later this summer.
  • Recovery Rebate Credit next tax year: If you had a change in circumstances in 2021 that would qualify you to receive additional third stimulus money, you can claim a Recovery Rebate Credit when you file your 2021 taxes (in 2022).

Q. Do expats qualify for the advanced 2021 child tax credit in the ARPA?

A. Probably not. You only qualify for the advanced child tax credit if you’ve had your primary abode in the U.S. for more than half the year.

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

Q. What was the second stimulus check?

A. The second stimulus check was part of a December 2020 government relief package to provide financial relief to Americans during the pandemic. The relief package included $600 direct payments to each person with a Social Security Number who cannot be claimed as a dependent and earned under a certain amount of income. It also included up to $600 payments for each qualifying child under age 17.

Q. Did I get a second stimulus check if I’m an American living overseas?

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

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

A. Most people didn’t need to do anything to receive the second stimulus because the IRS based 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 as a Recovery Rebate Credit.

Q. If I live abroad, when should I have gotten my second stimulus check if I qualified?

A. All of the second stimulus payments have gone out. Most people got a direct deposit.

What if I haven’t gotten my stimulus payment yet?

Q. How much was the second stimulus check for?

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

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

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

A. No.

Q. Will this affect my 2020 tax return?

A. It could only help your 2020 return. If you are eligible for more stimulus than you were awarded, 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 tax credit, not income, so you will not need to pay taxes on it in 2021 or pay it back.

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

A. Yes, retired expats may qualify for the second stimulus check even if they weren’t required to file a tax return each year. This also applied to Social Security beneficiaries (both retirement and disability), railroad retirees, and those receiving veteran’s benefits.

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

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

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

A. Yes. These families were eligible to receive second stimulus payments for the members of the family that have SSNs. This change was retroactive to the first stimulus payment, so if you missed out on the first round of stimulus payments because your NRA spouse has an ITIN, you can claim the first stimulus payment as the Recovery Rebate Credit when you file your 2020 tax return.

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

A. If you lived overseas and haven’t filed taxes in a while, you still may still be eligible for the stimulus payments. 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?

A. 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 second 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(full amount) High Threshold(no payment if your AGI is above this level)
Single $75,000 or less $99,000
Married Filing Jointly $150,000 or less $198,000
Head of Household $112,500 or less $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

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 was considered as 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?

H&R Block’s Expat Tax Advisors are here to help you with your stimulus 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.