Do international students on F1 visa or OPT have to return the COVID relief money
The COVID relief bill in 2020 included relief for individuals who make less than $75,000 per year. As an international student, you very likely fall into this category and would have received the checks from the IRS based on your 2019 taxes.
However, someone might have told you that you should not have gotten the money and it would work against you given your immigration status. Well, that's not true. Let's look at these issues more deeply -
What's the criteria for getting the relief checks?
The only criteria to be eligible is to be a taxpayer making less than $75K/year. If you fit this criteria, you get the check. It does not matter if you are a U.S. citizen, someone on a green card, on work visa (H-1B, L-1 etc.) or a student (F-1, OPT etc.).
Should I return the money?
Short answer - No. If you received the benefit based on the criteria described above then you are legally eligible to get it.
Will accepting this money cause issues with my immigration status?
No. This is a benefit given out by the federal government and there is no rule linking it to social security benefit or anything similar that USCIS sees in bad light.
I don't want to take a chance. How can return the money?
If you haven't already cashed out the checks you can just let them lapse. If you, however, have cashed the money out and are now having second thoughts about it, you could try calling the IRS and talking to them or you can consult with a CA to see how best you can return the money to the federal government.
Content in this publication is not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult a WayLit-affiliated attorney or another qualified professional.