COVID-19 Legal FAQ Update – H-1B Visas COVID-19 AND Related Benefits **4.29.20**


From:  CEA Legal Center

Date:  April 29, 2020

RE:  COVID-19 Legal FAQ Update – H-1B Visas COVID-19 AND Related Benefits

This memorandum serves as a guidance to frequently asked questions presented to the CEA Legal team regarding how to respond to the unprecedented epidemic sweeping our nation. The FAQ’s will be updated as we address questions from the field. Please be patient and understand that these circumstances present new and uncharted areas of law. CEA Legal will provide the best advice it can based on its understanding of current law however, the law is unclear in many areas.

Question: Some CEA members are not U.S. citizens. Most of these non-citizen members are either DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) holders or educators who live and work in the U.S. pursuant to H-1B visas. Are these members entitled to obtain the COVID-19 related benefits provided by federal law?

Answer: The U.S. Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act provides a number of different benefits, which I will address individually:

1) One-time stimulus cash payment.

An individual must have a social security number to receive this payment. (Undocumented individuals who pay taxes by means of an individual taxpayer ID number are not eligible.) Educators with H-1B visas are entitled to obtain social security numbers because they are authorized to work, but social security numbers are not issued to them automatically, so these educators must apply for them to the Social Security Administration (“SSA”). DACA holders who have work authorizations are also entitled to social security numbers and must apply for them to the SSA.

In addition, non-U.S. citizens are ineligible for this cash payment if:

(a) they are “nonresident aliens.” DACA holders do not fall into this category because continuous residence in the U.S. is a condition of DACA eligibility. Whether educators with H-1B visas qualify as residents depends on the amount of time that they have spent in the U.S. Educators who have spent the majority of 2018 and 2019 in the U.S. will qualify as residents.

b) they file a joint U.S. tax return with a person who is ineligible to receive the cash payment because, for example, such person is an undocumented alien not entitled to a social security card.

2) Expanded unemployment benefits for Coronavirus-related losses of work and pay, including an additional $600/week in benefits and a 13-week extension of the benefits payment period.

All DACA holders with work authorizations and all educators with H-1B visas are entitled to these expanded benefits if they lose work and pay due to a variety of reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

3) Temporary payment relief for federal student loans.

DACA holders and individuals with H-B1 visas are not eligible for federal student loans in the first place. Some other immigrants and non-citizens, including legal permanent residents, asylum grantees and T-Visa holders, are eligible for federal student loans — and they are entitled to the payment relief provided in this bill, which defers all loan and interest payments without penalty through September 30, 2020.

If you are an immigrant or a non-citizen and have a question about your entitlement to any of these benefits, please contact your local association leader or UniServ representative.