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Over the first two stimulus checks, Congress tweaked the eligibility rules for how those who are and aren’t US citizens qualified for payments, creating an at-times confusing set of guidelines for which individuals and families could receive stimulus money. But President Joe Biden’s proposal for a third stimulus check could benefit families with mixed-status citizenship that were initially passed over in both the first and second check

If it becomes part of the final stimulus bill, the move to include mixed-status families in the new, upcoming stimulus check would extend to millions. The National Immigration Forum estimates that 16.2 million people in the US live in a mixed-status family, with 14.4 million of those excluded from payment.

The rules around who meets the requirement for payment are already confusing. We’ll help sort out the eligibility requirements we know so far for households where at least one person isn’t a US citizen, including the IRS definition, which families did and didn’t qualify for the first two payments, and how qualifications could change with a possible third stimulus check.

What is a mixed-status family for stimulus payments?

The federal government categorizes families whose members have different citizenship and immigration classifications as “mixed-status.” Note that for a mixed-status family to qualify for stimulus money, one member needs to have a Social Security number. A household where every family member is a resident or nonresident alien with an ITIN, or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, instead of a Social Security number wouldn’t meet this requirement. 

Here are some examples of mixed-status families that would qualify for a stimulus check, where at least one household member has a Social Security number:

  • One spouse is a US citizen with a Social Security number and the other spouse isn’t a citizen and doesn’t have a Social Security number.
  • One spouse is a “lawful permanent resident” with a Social Security number and the other isn’t a citizen and doesn’t have a Social Security number.
  • Neither parent is a US citizen or “lawful permanent resident” with a Social Security number, and a child is a US-born citizen with a Social Security number.

We have a handy guide laying out the ways noncitizens may and may not qualify for payments.

Which mixed-status households qualified for the first and second payments? Is the stimulus money retroactive?

With the first stimulus check from the CARES Act, only those with a Social Security number qualified for a payment. This eligibility requirement could include “resident aliens” with a Social Security number, the IRS said. But “nonresident aliens” weren’t eligible. Married couples filing jointly were excluded from checks if one spouse didn’t have a Social Security number. For married couples who filed separately, only the spouse with the Social Security number qualified. Dependents in a mixed-status family were also excluded.

With the second check, Congress opened up the requirements (PDF) to married couples filing jointly where one spouse has a Social Security number and the other spouse doesn’t. A couple in a mixed-status household filing jointly would be eligible for a second payment of $600, as would each eligible dependent with a Social Security number. If the couple file separately, only the spouse who has a Social Security number would be eligible.

December’s stimulus bill also made the mixed-status qualifications retroactive for the first payments. Now an eligible family filing jointly can claim missing first-round payments of up to $1,200 per couple and $500 for each qualifying dependent on their taxes this year as a Recovery Rebate Credit.

What would a third stimulus check do for a mixed-status family?

Before being sworn in as president on Jan. 20, Biden rolled out his $1.9 trillion stimulus package that proposed a third stimulus check for $1,400 per person. This third round of payments, according to an overview of the plan (PDF), would “expand eligibility to adult dependents who have been left out of previous rounds of relief and all mixed-status households.”

Biden and his administration didn’t provide details during the rollout of who would be included in the expansion, and if there would be a retroactive payment.

While we wait to hear more, here’s the latest on the timeline for a third stimulus check, and how much money your household could expect to receive with a $1,400 payment.

Stimulus Check
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