U.S. Citizens With Undocumented Spouses Can Get Stimulus Checks

by Christy Bieber | Updated July 25, 2021 - First published on Jan. 15, 2021

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Make sure you claim your stimulus money.

When the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed last March, it provided $1,200 stimulus checks for most adults in America as well as an additional $500 in stimulus money for each eligible child dependent. Not every American received this money in their bank accounts, though. The CARES Act excluded families with mixed immigration status.

Not only did the legislation require people to have Social Security numbers to claim the stimulus check, but it also excluded U.S. citizens with Social Security numbers who filed a married joint tax return with a non-citizen spouse. In fact, under the CARES Act, if anyone in the household used an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), the entire household was disqualified from the payment unless at least one of the spouses had served in the military in 2019.

As a result, millions of people were deprived of their stimulus funds. An estimated 16.7 million people in the U.S. live in households with mixed immigration status. Fortunately for those families left out the first time, the recent $900 billion coronavirus legislation changed the rules.

Families with mixed immigration status now entitled to both stimulus checks

In December, another coronavirus stimulus bill passed Congress and was signed into law. This bill provided a second COVID-19 check to eligible Americans. The second payment was valued at up to $600 per adult and an additional $600 for dependent children.

The bill also offered relief to Americans excluded from receiving the CARES Act payments due to the Social Security number requirement. Under the newly-passed bill, stimulus payments are available to both U.S. citizens and green card holders -- even in circumstances where they file joint returns with undocumented spouses. And not only would these individuals receive their own payments, they'd also become eligible for the dependent payments as well.

However, children who are U.S. citizens but who have two undocumented parents remain ineligible for the dependent funds. At least one parent must be a citizen or green card holder in order for them to qualify.

The new relief bill didn't just make the second $600 stimulus check available, either. It applied retroactively to the CARES Act payments as well. That means someone who was denied the first $1,200 check because of filing a tax return with an undocumented spouse could receive the first stimulus check as well as an additional $600 from the newly-passed legislation.

You won't be denied stimulus because of who you're married to

Some lawmakers believe this change still did not go far enough, as undocumented taxpayers are still excluded from relief. In fact, a number of Democrats have argued that anyone who pays taxes in the U.S. should be entitled to stimulus money, even if they are undocumented. However, this is more controversial than simply making sure citizens aren't deprived of their payments because of who they're married to.

Those who were denied their first payment need to know that two separate stimulus checks should now be delivered. If you do not receive the funds, you should file a 2020 tax return to claim your credits as soon as possible. That way you can get the money into your bank account during these troubled times.

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