The United States has passed two coronavirus economic stimulus plans to help offset the economic hardship felt by many during the current outbreak known as the economic impact payment, and a third is all but a guarantee at this point. But do US citizens living abroad get the Covid-19 stimulus check? The answer is yes, read on to find out more about how to claim your economic stimulus payments aka economic imapct payments if you live overseas. (*updated for the soon to come 3rd stimulus payment)
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*Last Update: February 21, 2021 – Note that this article was originally focused on the first round of coronavirus stimulus checks for US citizens living abroad but has now been updated to include information on how to get the second stimulus payment if you live abroad as well as a likely soon to come third payment.
Many US citizens abroad eligible for the economic impact payment had to wait months for the first payment, although it appears most of the kinks were worked out of the system for the second round of stimulus checks for US citizens living in other countries. With a third check likely on the way, the hope is they should arrive without nearly as many delays. Still, I’ve included what I have found so far here and the comments section will hopefully continue to be a useful space for sharing experiences.
This post has turned into quite the behemoth, and I can’t thank all those who have commented and shared their experiences getting their Covid relief payments below. If you’d like to skip to the information on the 3rd economic impact payment for US citizens living in other countries, scroll to the end of the article.
I will do my best to keep this as up to date as possible as more details come out about how expats can get any further Covid-19 economic stimulus payments. Also, please note that I am not an accountant or finance professional and nothing below should be considered financial advice.
Economic Stimulus for Americans Living Overseas
Officially called the Economic Impact Payment or Recovery Rebate, the United States will soon be distributing $1,200 to most US citizens, including an additional $500 for each dependent child aged 16 or less.
But does the Covid-19 stimulus include US citizens living abroad?
Do Americans abroad get the stimulus payments?
There is nothing in the laws that prevent citizens that live abroad from getting the Covid payments. US citizens abroad qualify for the EIP with the same requirements as any other citizen.
That means that if you make less than $75,000 USD if you file as single, $112,500 if you file as a head of household, or $150,000 if you file as a couple, you should have received the full amount of the first two stimulus payments for taxpayers living abroad.
If you make above those limits according to your filing status, the payments were reduced by $5 for each $100 you make over that limit.
*There had been much debate in Congress about targeting the payments to lower income people only. Rather that would have been setting the income ceilings lower or phasing the payments out more quickly above them is not clear. It is actually looking more and more likely that the limits will stay the same, but until Congress formally passes the law, it may be that expats who make close to or above the income limits could receive less in the 3rd check (see more about the 3rd check at the end of the article).
How much will Americans living overseas get in their stimulus payment?
The first and second stimulus payments for Americans abroad were no different than for those living stateside. Presumably that will be the same for the 3rd and any subsequent EIP for taxpayers abroad.
Of course, payments could scale down if you make above the limits mentioned above (for a fuller listing of requirements and income limits, see the information below) or if those limits are changed.
There was also additional money included in you second stimulus check for a US citizen abroad if you have minors under the age of 17. For each child under 17, the second Covid stimulus payment for US citizens abroad should have included an additional $600.
Unlike the first stimulus payment for people living overseas, that payment for children is expanded to include those under 17, not just 16, and is $600 rather than $500. It’s expected that the 3rd checks will include $1,4000 per child as well as adults claimed as dependents.
Note that if you are claimed as a dependent by another tax filer, you would remain ineligible for receiving the stimulus payment abroad.
Are there additional requirements for Americans that live abroad to get EIPs?
Ok, well, maybe.
The second Coronavirus stimulus payment uses strictly your 2019 Adjusted Gross Income (AGI). That means, you need to have filed your 2019 taxes, unlike the first stimulus payment that used your 2018 AGI if you hadn’t filed. The third economic impact payment for expats is sure to follow suit.
So, if some reason, you haven’t filed your 2019 taxes, you will need to do so to make sure you are eligible for any future Coronavirus relief bill living abroad. If you aren’t required to file, you should make sure you have filled out the non-filers tool (see case 5 near the end below).
If you are required to file (most Americans living abroad, even if they don’t owe taxes are), then you should consider e-filing here ASAP to make sure you get your stimulus check if you live abroad (as well as the earlier checks if you haven’t gotten those yet!). Also, consider checking out my practical guide to filing with the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion/Deduction here.
It’s worth noting if your income changed (in particular, if it declined) in 2020 from 2019 or 2018, you will be able to claim both the first and/or the second stimulus payment for people living abroad based on your 2020 income when you file (technically the payments are advances on tax returns for 2020).
So if for some reason you don’t qualify based on your income in 2019 but would for 2020, be sure to file ASAP in 2021 to get the payment. Even if you don’t owe taxes or didn’t pay withholding tax throughout the year, you can still claim it as a return.
So, if you’re reading this in early 2021 and didn’t get payments based on your 2019 or 2018 income but qualify based on your 2020, again, you can e-file (likely for free) here. E-filing will surely speed the process of your stimulus money.
Social security beneficiaries abroad shouldn’t need to do anything else unless they didn’t for some reason receive the first round of payments. If that’s the case, they should look into why they didn’t receive the first round and go from there.
If you’d like to learn more about the requirements for either the first or second stimulus payments for citizens that live in other countries, how to go about different options of receiving your economic impact payments, or how others fared in receiving their first or second economic impact checks as citizens abroad, you can continue reading and see the comments below.
Do Americans that live overseas qualify for Coronavirus stimulus checks?
So, there was originally discussion of including minimum taxable income limits or excluding those who claimed the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion from the payments, which would have impacted if US citizens abroad qualify for the stimulus.
However, there are no minimum income requirements, taxable or otherwise, and no mention of any restrictions on the stimulus money for Americans living abroad. That means that US expats qualify for the full stimulus check subject to the same restrictions as everyone else.
You can see more about who is and is not eligible at this FAQ page from the IRS. That page has been updated now to include an explicit statement that US citizens abroad are eligible for the stimulus payment.
The exact words are as follows: “Yes, U.S. citizens living outside the country are eligible for the Payment. Anyone eligible to file Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR is an eligible person if they have a valid SSN and can’t be claimed as a dependent of another taxpayer. Nonresident aliens who file or would file Form 1040-NR or Form 1040-NR-EZ are not eligible for the Payment.”
You can find that confirmation of the stimulus check for US citizens abroad under the section EIP Eligibility and General Information in question 8 on the FAQ page linked above. That page has changed a couple times, so if that becomes out of date due to further changes I apologize. Still it confirms that you should indeed get a stimulus payment as a US taxpayer abroad.
So, yes, US citizens who live abroad are definitely eligible to receive the 2020 stimulus check. This is not without precedent as stimulus money for US expats was also provided in 2008, as long as they met certain minimum income requirements. One of the requirements for receiving the stimulus if you live abroad is to be sure you have filed your tax returns for 2019 or 2018.
Note: If you need to file, make sure you use e-File as the IRS has stated that it will not be processing paper returns right now, so it could be sometime. You can get up to 50% off filing electronically and you may even qualify for free e-File.
Continue reading to find out what you need to do to get the stimulus money if you are an American living abroad.
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- Get a 30 day free trial of Amazon Prime, which gives access to movies, TV shows, TV channels, and streaming radio, in addition to the free fast shipping. You can also try Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited for ebooks or Audible audio book services.
- Into documentaries? Check out Curiosity Stream.
- Gamers might also want a free 30 day trial of Twitch Prime.
*Or if you’d prefer to spend your time cooped up doing something more productive to better yourself:
- Take a course through Harvard, MIT, or other top universities at edX.com. The even offer lots of free courses.
- Learn a new language at Lingoda or Rocket Languages.
- Or look into how you can teach English online, a great option for those who have had their incomes disrupted.
Who Qualifies for the Covid-19 Economic Stimulus Payments?
Below are the requirements to qualify for the coronavirus economic impact payment for expats or citizens:
- Must have a valid US Social Security number (it appears this applies for the dependents you claim as well)
- You cannot be (and/or have not been) claimed as a dependent
- Must have filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return (except for a few exceptions, including Social Security recipients, more on that below)
Income Thresholds to Receive the Full Stimulus Amount:
- People that File Taxes as Individuals: $75,000
- Married Couples that File Taxes Jointly: $150,000
- People that File as Head of Household: $112,500
- *These where the thresholds for the 1st and 2nd payments. There was some debate it could be changed for a 3rd but it looks as if they will stay the same. Please see the section at the end of the article on the 3rd payments.
What if I make over those thresholds?
After those numbers, the checks so go down by $5 for every $100 dollars over the thresholds to receive the economic stimulus above you make.
*Living abroad and worried about health coverage during the global pandemic?
Do I qualify for the stimulus check if I claim the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion?
Yes, expats qualify for the stimulus money if they claimed the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion on their taxes. Again, there is no restriction on expats receiving the stimulus check whether they claim the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion or not.
By the way, many US citizens abroad mistakenly believe they do not need to file taxes if their income is abroad (I believed this for years). That is not the case. Only very high earners are actually liable to pay taxes, but you must file. Learn more about how to file taxes using the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion here.
There is an interesting question about the FEIE and the stimulus checks for taxpayers that live overseas. The FEIE allows you to deduct over $100k from your adjusted gross income (AGI), the number used to determine your eligibility for getting an economic impact payment. Therefore, theoretically, the economic impact payment for people living overseas could go out for those that make well over the normal limits. It’s not clear if the IRS is vetting the EIP payments for expats.
Regardless, with the IRS now explicitly stating that American citizens abroad are eligible for the coronavirus stimulus, there’s no doubt left that expats will receive their economic impact payment whether they take the FEIE or not.
Can people who claim the foreign housing exclusion or deduction receive the economic stimulus?
Yes, you can receive the 2020 economic impact payment if you claim foreign housing exclusion or deduction. Like above, there are not restrictions outside of those that have to do with your Adjusted Gross Income, requirement to be a citizen with an active Social Security Number, and having filed in 2018 or 2019.
How do US citizens abroad receive their stimulus checks?
What do you need to do to receive your stimulus payment if you live abroad?
You may need to do nothing or you may need to take action to receive the 2020 economic stimulus as an expat living abroad. There are five possible scenarios to receiving your coronavirus stimulus if you live abroad.
What US Citizens Abroad Need to Do to Receive the Economic Stimulus:
*Note, these cases applied to the first economic impact payment for US citizens abroad. For the second payment it was required that you had filed in 2020, including for normal non-filers, and it seems safe to assume that will be the case for any future payments. Therefore, everyone should make sure they have filed for 2019 except for Social Security recipients.
You have filed your 2019 or 2018 taxes 2018 AND your forms included direct deposit information:
You don’t need to do anything.
The IRS will use the account information they have on file to direct deposit your check. In fact, it’s probably already been made.
Do note that if you used one of the big electronic filing services such as TurboTax or H&R Block, and in particular if you received an advance on your tax return or received it in the form of a prepaid debit card, your payment may have been delayed.
My understanding of that is those companies sometimes have the IRS send your return to them, while they send you the money ahead of actually receiving it. If you used a service like that, it is worth following up and checking on, as there are reports some people are going to track their payments and seeing it’s already been paid out but not to their actual bank account.
You have filed your 2019 or 2018 taxes but DID NOT include direct deposit information:
This is probably the case for most of us waiting for our Economic Impact Payments for US citizens overseas, since few of us actually receive a tax return so there was no reason to include bank account information when we filed.
To receive the economic impact payment if you file taxes and live abroad, but did not include direct deposit information, then you will need to register a bank account for the IRS to deposit your stimulus money into.
How do I register my bank account information with the IRS to receive the stimulus if I live abroad?
There is a an online portal to enter your bank account information for people for whom the IRS does not have a bank account on file to register one for direct deposit of the economic stimulus.
After clicking Get My Payment, you will have to enter the following:
- Your Social Security #
- Your date of birth
- Your address as it appears on your 2018 or 2019 return
- Your zip code
The IRS portal to register for direct deposit is giving me an error message. What do I do?
I couldn’t advance successfully in the Get My Payment Portal until about mid May weeks of getting an error message saying either the IRS couldn’t determine my eligibility or the information submitted doesn’t match the information on file.
From comments below, it looks like this was happening to others as well. In fact, it seems like this was happening to practically everybody trying to register their bank account information to receive the economic stimulus living in a foreign country.
Finally, around mid-May I was able to successfully get into the Get My Payment tool. It appears, although this is somewhat speculation and hearsay, there was a problem with foreign addresses or formatting before.
Lots of others have commented below that they are also now able to get through with foreign addresses! So it appears, it was some formatting or data entry issue with the foreign addresses after all. But, it’s finally fixed and people with foreign addresses can enter the Get My Payment Portal!
But what if my stimulus check has already been sent to my address abroad?
That is what the Get My Payment was saying for me, that my check was mailed to the address on file on May 1st.
It looks like this was the case for lots and lots of expats. From comments below, it sounds like lots of people have received their checks (by the way if you need information on a good US bank account if you can’t deposit the check in a local account, see my comments below).
But what if I still haven’t received my Economic Impact Payment abroad?
Just to be clear it’s not 100% clear if checks are in fact going out on the exact day they are scheduled to be mailed. So, even if it’s been a few weeks since your check was meant to be scheduled, it might still be on the way, especially given that mail may be delayed given the current situation.
But what if there is no mail service where I live?
You can see all the countries that have suspended mail service on this page (many thanks to Steve for sharing this in the comments below by the way!)
If, your check has not been mailed yet, the country where you live is on that list, and you can’t successfully enter a bank account for direct deposit, then you may want to see if you can just change your address to a US one, if you have someone trustworthy who can receive the check.
However, if you check has been mailed and service has been suspended to where you live, I recommend calling and putting a trace on it.
The IRS website originally had a note saying that people who have their stimulus checks returned will get another opportunity to enter their bank account information through Get My Payment.
Basically, it sounds like once they have a chance to process and update the system with the returned check, you should be able to enter a bank account for direct deposit. However, I was doing that several times a week all through June and most of July, and nothing changed.
Now, on the IRS FAQ page, under question 52 (as of July 28) “How do I request a payment trace on my Economic Impact Payment?” it says that for economic impact payments sent to addresses overseas, you should initiate a trace after 9 weeks from the mailing date.
How to Initiate a Trace on My EIP if I live overseas?
The FAQ page above says you can call 800-919-9835 or file Form 3911 to request a trace on your stimulus payment if you live abroad. (By the way, you can call toll free 800 numbers from overseas free via Skype).
Here was my experience when I called:
I was on hold for probably 40 minutes or so. The people I spoke with were both pleasant and helpful. The lady helping me told me once I put a trace, after several weeks, they would resend the check. She told me there was no way to input direct deposit information except for when you file.
That of course contradicts the IRS’s own Get My Payment tool, which asked for bank accounts and just wasn’t functioning in time for taxpayers with foreign addresses, and also what they originally said to do if your check didn’t arrive. It also contradicts what others have said in the comments below.
So I decided ok, well, let’s put the trace, and also change my address to a US one, so if it does get sent out again, it will at least go to my mother’s address and not be stuck in limbo with the mail suspension to Colombia.
To do the trace and address change, I had to fill out Form 3911 anyway, even after calling. So, you could just do that first, although it was kind of nice talking to someone to confirm as well.
Interestingly enough, the woman I spoke to told me one address and fax number, and the page lists different ones for addresses overseas and from my home state. I faxed it to all three! I also included my direct deposit information and did the address change on the form just to be on the safe side.
You can find Form 3911 here. Make sure you write “2020 EIP” on the top, and you enter 2020 as the tax period and leave the date filed blank.
What happens if I don’t register a bank account for direct deposit of my stimulus?
According to the IRS, if you do not register an account for direct deposit, they will mail your check to the address on your 2019 return.
Comments below and people now successfully getting through on the portal indicates they will in fact mail it to foreign addresses, although service to some countries are currently suspended (see the link above).
So it sounds like direct deposit is hands down the best way for how Americans who live in foreign countries can receive their stimulus payments.
Can I receive the stimulus payment in a foreign bank account?
No, the IRS cannot deposit the economic impact payment into a foreign bank account. Thanks to Stephen in the comments below for sharing this page, where you can see it states the IRS cannot direct deposit funds in a foreign bank account. So we now have a definitive negative answer to that question.
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Can I receive my stimulus into another person’s bank account?
I’ve had a lot of people ask this in the comments. It makes sense if you don’t have a US bank account and you are unable to get it into a foreign one.
Theoretically, there are lots of US residents without bank accounts, so it seems to follow if you consent to it going to another account, there shouldn’t be an issue.
However, given stories of fraud and scams, I would lean towards this probably not working, not because you wouldn’t be able to enter another bank account, but because the bank might reject the deposit in another person’s name. However, that’s speculation on my part. If anyone has tried this, let us know how it went in the comments!
Update (August 3): Someone in the comments below confirmed they were able to successfully enter another person’s bank account and receive their payment there. So, disregard what I said above.
If you do decide to go this route, you’ll want a way for that person to transfer or send you the money. Below are several good options for sending money abroad:
Reportedly, some fintech apps like PayPal (which owns Venmo) and Square Cash App are also allowing account holders to receive their stimulus payments there and can provide you with a routing number. So if you don’t have a US bank account but one of those, it is also an option.
Also, the IRS has sent out at least some payments as prepaid debit cards instead of checks. It’s not clear how they decide which to send, and if you can use a US debit card in your country will depend, but it may be a solution if you have no US based bank account. It’s unclear if you can request a debit card, but you could always try calling and asking.
You have not filed your 2019 taxes and did not file in 2018 either (and need to):
Almost all American citizens, even expats have to file taxes and report their income, even if you have no tax burden because you have received no income in the US itself. (For what it’s worth, I didn’t know that for years).
If you did file in 2018 but haven’t yet in 2019, doing so could possibly speed up your stimulus check. It is also worth keeping in mind if your income has changed and if that affects the amount you would receive (you can see the thresholds above).
So, you should file ASAP if you do in fact need to, and include direct deposit information even if you do not owe or receive a return. That should speed up when you do get the economic impact payment.
If you do need to file, consider using E-file where you can get up to 50% off filing and may even be able to file for free! *Do not that the IRS site has said it is no longer processing paper returns, so if you haven’t filed yet, you definitely should do so via E-file.
You are a retiree abroad who receives Social Security and do not file taxes:
If you are a US citizen who lives abroad and currently receives Social Security and are not obligated to file taxes, then you do not need to take any action.
The IRS will pay into the account registered on your form SSA-1099 (where you normally receive your SS payments). This also applies if you are retired from the railroad, and the account on Form RRB 1099 is where you will receive your stimulus payment.
Do note, that if you have dependents that qualify for the $500 payment, the IRS would not have this information if you have not filed taxes. So if that is the case and you’d like to receive those payments, then you should file even if you are not obligated to.
If you do not have to file and do not receive Social Security:
I don’t know tax law well enough to know if this applies to anybody, but in the event that you do not have a tax filing obligation and do not receive Social Security benefits, then you must file a simple tax return so the IRS will have your information.
The page for doing so is now up. Go here to double check your eligibility and enter your payment information if you are a non filer (and do not receive Social Security).
For the second payment, it was required that people who had filed for 2018 but didn’t need to file for 2019 use the non-filer tool to qualify. Therefore, it seems likely that any future payments will also require that there be information on file for 2019.
Information on 3rd Stimulus Payments to US Citizens Abroad
Will US taxpayers living overseas get the 3rd stimulus payment?
While you know that saying what assuming does to you and me, there’s no reason to think that US citizens abroad would not qualify for the 3rd stimulus checks. They did for the first and second checks, so unless something comes out to say otherwise, I am going to go ahead and assume US citizens living overseas are eligible for the 3rd economic impact payments and any other future economic stimulus.
How much will the 3rd economic impact payment for US citizens living overseas be?
This is subject to change as the law works its way through Congress. However, the bill in its form as of late February, sets the following out:
- $1,400 checks for individuals making $75,000 or less with a proportional phase out between $75,000-$100,000
- $1,400 checks for heads of household making $112,500 or less with a proportional phase out between $112,500-$150.000
- $2,800 checks for couples filing jointly making $150,000 or less with a proportional phase out between $150,000 and $200,000
- $1,400 additional payment for each dependent claimed, including adult dependents
Note that those numbers are based on Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) and they are subject to change in the final bill. Also, the phase outs apply to the additional payments per dependents as well. There is a handy calculator in this Forbes article if you’d like to have a clearer idea of how much you will get in the economic impact payment for as US citizen that lives in another country.
You can see the bill as passed through the House Ways and Means Committee here.
When will US citizens living abroad get the 3rd stimulus payment?
Well, regardless of if you live abroad or not, first Congress has to act before any checks go out. The expectation is the final bill will hopefully have passed both houses of Congress and be sent to President Biden to sign sometime in the first two weeks of March.
Once the President signs it, the IRS should be able to start making payments within a week. If you’re wondering when you will get it abroad, how quickly you got the 2nd payment should be a good estimate. Presumably those who can receive direct deposit should receive it within two weeks, so probably by April.
Meanwhile, those who will wait for paper checks may have to wait a few more weeks for the IRS to send them out and for them to arrive. Again, how long it took for the 2nd payment to get there is a good indicator.
What should I do if I live abroad and still have not received my first or second stimulus checks?
If you did not receive the first two economic impact payments for US citizens living in foreign countries, you will need to take action to get them as well as to ensure you receive the 3rd and any other future payments.
First, you should file for tax year 2019 if you did not. That includes if you don’t normally need to file. While it may be too late to get the payments through the normal process, it’s still best to do it and hope for the best. That will also help make sure you get the 3rd payment immediately when it is sent out.
Second, check the Get My Payment Tool. It should say if your check was sent out and the date. If it was, and it has been a month or more, it is worth calling the IRS to initiate a trace. While calling has been a mixed bag, it’s best to start the trace so there is a clear paper trail that you never received the payment. Keep in mind that you can call 1-800 numbers for free via Skype.
Third, you should claim the payments on your 2020 tax return. This again includes for those people who normally don’t have to file. This also applies if you did not receive the full amount or if your income changed in a way that makes you eligible for a larger payment than what you received.
To claim them on your 2020 return, you should claim the 2020 Recovery Rebate. You can find the information and a worksheet on the instructions for Form 1040 and Form 1040-SR. You can see more on this IRS page.
If you need to file for 2019 or 2020, make sure you use e-File as the IRS has stated that it will not be processing paper returns right now, so it could be sometime. You can get up to 50% off filing electronically and you may even qualify for free e-File.
By the way, if you live abroad, you should be sure to check out my guide to filing the foreign earned income exclusion to help you file next year and beyond.
Happy Exploring Safe Sheltering in Place!
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Hi all, just a quick note. This post really took off in ways I honestly didn’t expect. I’m so glad it has been helpful for people, and I just want to thank everyone who has shared their experience in the comments and been nice enough to help each other out. It’s nice to see, and even when discussing the IRS, there hasn’t been any name calling!
If you’re now able to successfully get your payment, I’m glad, and if you ever want to come visit Cartagena or Colombia, I hope you’ll consider coming back to the site to help plan your trip. If you’re like me and your check was mailed to an address in a country where USPS has suspended service, then well I guess the saga continues!