Did you get a blue letter in the mail from the U.S. Census Bureau? You will see that it starts with “Dear Resident” and talks about filling in the census which goes towards directing billions of dollars in federal funds to local communities for schools, roads, and other public services; as well as more! But what about if you’re an expat? Do you have to complete the US Census 2020 if you are on a visa? What about if you hold a Greencard?

I find the Census pretty exciting. The concept of getting information from every single person in the U.S. seems like something that can do some good, so I’m all for counting everyone and getting some demographic information. But that does raise the question: who exactly needs to fill it out!?

Let’s find out.

Who has to fill in the Census?

So this is why you’re really here: Do expats have to fill in the U.S. Census 2020?

Let’s get the information straight from the U.S. Census Bureau:

Yes. Everyone living in the United States and its five territories (Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands) is required by law to be counted in the census—whether they are citizens or not.

So, yes, you do have to fill in the census! Every single person “living” in the United States does.

Who exactly does this count though? Am I considered “living in the US”?

Citizens of foreign countries who are living in the United States during the 2020 Census, including members of the diplomatic community, should be counted at the U.S. residence where they live and sleep most of time. If they are not sure about where they usually live, count them where they are staying on April 1, 2020.

So basically, ask yourself if you’d ever say “I live in America” or “I’m moving to America at the end of March”. If the answer comes back as “Yes”, then you need to fill in the Census.

Do those on temporary visas have to fill in the US Census 2020?

Yes, that includes those of you who are on temporary visas (e.g. E3s, H1Bs, and O1s).

You do have to fill in the Census as to wherever you are and what your situation is as at April 1, 2020.

What about Greencard holders?

Yes, absolutely!

There’s a theme going here…

Ok so what about if I’m on holiday in the US. Do I have to fill in the U.S. Census?

Well, that’s a little bit different because you don’t “live here”:

Citizens of foreign countries who are temporarily visiting the United States on vacation or business on April 1, 2020, should not be counted.

Nope, not you. If this is a holiday, or you’re just here to do business and you wouldn’t right now consider saying something like “I live in America”, then you do not have to fill it in. You can happily enjoy your adventure.

I do “live” in the US, but I’m on holiday or traveling at the moment

The numbers they are trying to collect are for where you normally are, so:

You should count yourself where you live and sleep most of the time, even if you are away from your usual residence on April 1, 2020.

You count as well, but just pretend like you are at home, on the couch, with a cup of your favorite drink.

How to fill in the U.S. Census 2020

There are a few different ways to complete the Census once you receive the blue letter with your Census ID on it:

  1. You can fill it in online;
  2. You can do it over the phone; or
  3. You can do it via the mail.

What to do if you didn’t get a letter from the U.S. Census Bureau

You can still fill it in online or via phone if you haven’t received the letter:

If you do not receive an invitation to respond from the Census Bureau, you may respond online or visit our Contact Us page to call our phone line.

Important things to note about the Census

It’s important that you know a few things before we finish:

  1. First off, it’s important. It helps Federal (and local, and State) departments guide resources where they need to go, so don’t ignore it.
  2. It’s private, very private. When you respond to the census, your answers are kept anonymous. They are used only to produce statistics. The U.S. Census Bureau is bound by law to protect your answers and keep them strictly confidential. The law ensures that your private information is never published and that your answers cannot be used against you by any government agency or court.
  3. You have to pretend like it’s April 1, 2020. The idea is that everyone is taking a snapshot of their situation on exactly the same day.
  4. You have to fill it in if you “live” in the U.S. whether temporarily or permanently
  5. You will be asked questions about the nature of your relationship with those who you live with. So if you live with a significant other and haven’t had “the talk” yet, it might be time before you login and get put on the spot.