Stimulus Checks: Foreign Workers Living Overseas Mistakenly Receive $1,200 Payments

As Congress and the White House continue their ongoing debate to hopefully compile a stimulus relief bill before the Aug. 7 recess, issues from the first round of stimulus checks are still causing problems. The CARES Act, which was signed into law back in March, allotted eligible citizens a one-time $1,200 check and was already synonymous with issues.

Now, NPR reports that thousands of foreign workers who had previously come to the U.S. on temporary work visas have received these one-time checks, with many spending the money back in their home countries. A tax preparation firm told the outlet that they have clients from 129 different countries who mistakenly received checks, including China, India, Brazil, Canada, Nigeria and South Korea. The consensus on what caused the error was caused by foreign workers filing incorrect tax returns that make them appear to be U.S. residents. Several have tried to return their payments to not put their visa status, green card application or ability to return to the U.S. in jeopardy.

"I was really surprised because I was not expecting that money," a resident of the Dominican Republic told the outlet man told NPR, who anonymously spoke to not fracture his chances of returning to the U.S. "I don't want any problems," he said. "If they say that we have to return it, I will return it. It is not a problem."

It's not clear exactly how much money ended up being sent to foreign workers, though there are some estimates. Sprintax, which handles U.S. tax preparation for nonresident, processed roughly 400 amended returns in 2019 for those who accidentally filed as U.S. residents, which has gone up to 5,000 this year, meaning it could be around $43 million. That's in addition to the $1.4 billion worth of stimulus checks that were sent to people who'd already died.

As for the second stimulus package, Senate Republicans introduced the HEALS Act, which will be mainly patterned off the CARES Act. Assuming it passes, it will provide another one-time $1,200 check. While there have been some provisions to try and prevent a repeat of the checks going to the deceased, there's nothing in place at this point that could prevent another similar error. While there's been some optimism from both sides regarding the overall progress, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows painted a notably more somber picture on Wednesday.