Asked in Immigration Law for California

Q: Does USCIS consider ‘Economic Impact Payments’ (Stimulus) as ‘Means-Tested Public Benefits’ for Immigration purposes?


I came to the US and got married to a US citizen in 2019. My wife who is my Sponsor on Affidavit of Support Form I-864 received 2 Stimulus Payments in 2020/2021 - they were based on her last Tax Return when she was single. Because I didn’t work in the US in 2019, I didn't file Tax Return and thus I haven’t received any Stimulus myself.

We want to file a Joint Tax Return for 2020 because we both worked that year. We’ve read that we could technically apply for ‘Recovery Rebate Credit’ which means that even though I would file my very first Tax Return for year 2020, I would still receive those 2 Stimulus Payments just at a later date.

My question is whether it’s something that I should do? Or does USCIS consider those ‘Economic Impact Payments’ as ‘Means-Tested Public Benefits’ and I’m not allowed to claim them?

I became Conditional Permanent Resident very recently in 2021 -few weeks ago, however I was working in 2020 based on my Employment Authorization Card.

Thank you

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2 Lawyer Answers
Agnes Jury
Agnes Jury
  • Immigration Law Lawyer
  • Traverse City, MI

A: As far as I am aware, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has not clarified whether accepting the stimulus check is considered a public benefit for purposes of inadmissibility, but the USCIS Policy Manual indicates that tax credits are not considered public benefits in a public charge inadmissibility determination. Also, since the stimulus check is technically a tax credit paid in advance it should also not fall under the income maintenance category per the USCIS Policy Manual, which states, “USCIS considers any other federal, state and local tribal cash assistance for income maintenance (other than tax credits). Lastly, the stimulus check is not means-tested and thus is not a public benefit. I hope this information helps you make your decision but if you need more guidance then I suggest you do a consultation with an immigration attorney. Best wishes!

1 user found this answer helpful

Hector E. Quiroga
Hector E. Quiroga
  • Immigration Law Lawyer
  • Las Vegas, NV

A: It is not a means tested public benefit, no. In any case, you are now a lawful permanent (conditional) resident. It is not longer so much a question of how your accessing this will impact your immigration status but rather how your immigration status will impact your eligibility to receive such payments.

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