From the Philippines to USA: Your Ultimate Moving Guide!

Moving from the Philippines to the USA is a life-changing adventure! Before boarding that plane, plan carefully and prepare for a smooth transition to your new life!

I’ve done this journey and I know it’s not easy. In this guide, I’ll share essential things to do before making the big move.

Visa and Immigration Matters

Get the Appropriate Visa.

Before anything else, make sure that you have the necessary visa to enter and stay in the USA legally. You may need a tourist visa, student visa, work visa, or immigrant visa. Check the official website of the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines for up-to-date information and requirements. Keep in mind that visa application wait times can be long. Book your interview schedule as early as possible.

Gather Required Documents.

As part of the visa application process, you’ll need various supporting documents, such as a valid passport, passport-sized photos, financial documents, and letter of invitation (if applicable). Prepare these documents meticulously to avoid delays or complications.

Understand Immigration Laws.

Familiarize yourself with the immigration laws and regulations of the USA. Knowing your rights and responsibilities as an immigrant or non-immigrant will help you navigate the system with confidence. There are immigration requirements in the Philippines as well. If you are going to the US as an overseas Filipino worker, you may need to go through a Pre-Departure Orientation Seminar (PDOS). You may also need to secure an Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC).

Financial Preparedness

Continue reading “From the Philippines to USA: Your Ultimate Moving Guide!”

How to Rent a Car for Your First Few Days in the USA

Here’s how to rent a car in the USA so you have transportation in your first few days or weeks in the USA.

You definitely need transportation when you move to the USA. The biggest cities such as New York, Chicago, and Atlanta have a good bus or train system. However, in smaller cities and suburbs, you will need a car.

Check with your employer or sponsor if they will be providing you with transportation. If not, then you will need Uber, Lyft, or some other means of transportation. The other option is to rent a car.

What you need to rent a car.

In order to rent a car, you will need:

Credit card. Unfortunately, you cannot rent a car without a credit card. If you have a credit card from your home country, keep one and use it to rent a car for a few days. Just make sure to pay it.

Driver’s license. As long as your driver’s license is in English, or it has English translation, you can use it for about 30 days. In other states, you may be able to use it for a maximum of 90 days. Do check with the Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) in your destination state.

How to Rent a Car Before Arriving in the US

Go to http://CluelessintheUS.com/booking and start searching for a car.

Decide how long you’ll need a car for: a few days, or maybe a week or two. Remember that you will need a car to move around: to find an apartment, apply for your social security number, and buy groceries.

Look at the price and compare it with your budget. Depending on the time of year and the city you’re going to, you may be able to rent a car for $30 a day, or as high as $90! Just don’t go too crazy with the kind of car or SUV you’d want to rent.

Consider the rating of the car rental company. Some rental companies are better than others. Do check out the reviews and ratings left by other customers.

Choose the type of car you want. You can get a small, compact car, a small SUV, a huge SUV, or even electric cars. Just don’t go overboard and rent something too expensive!

You can choose to pay online or pay for the rental when you pick it up. My suggestion is to pay for it when you pick it up. Oftentimes, car rentals at booking.com can be canceled 48 hours the pickup date and time. So if there are changes to your schedule, you will not be charged for it when you cancel on time.

How to pick up your car rental.

When you arrive at the airport, get your luggage, and look for signs toward the car rental stations. They could be within the same airport terminal. Or it could also be off-site, which means you’ll need to ride a shuttle bus to get to the car rental office.

Just look for the signs. You can’t miss those. They would usually be near the exit and right by the ground transportation area of the airport.

Inspect your rental car before driving off! Check all sides of your rental car for any scratches or damages. Also take note if the fuel tank is full. It should be full! If not, then let the car rental staff know.

Returning your car rental.

It’s easy to return your car rental. Just fill up the fuel tank, then drive to the designated location for car rental returns. Most of the time, this is at the airport. Just drive to the airport, follow the signs for “car rental returns” and when you get there, you will just drop off the car and its keys. It’s that easy!

How to Buy Groceries at Sam’s Club

This post shows you how to buy groceries at Sam’s Club. If you’re new to the United States, you will need to find all the ways that will help you save money.

Get a $20 e-gift card by signing up using my link: http://CluelessintheUS.com/samsclub.

Sam’s Club is a membership club, meaning you can enjoy lower prices but you need to buy in bulk or in bigger packs of goods. You cannot buy a single 2-liter bottle of soda, you need to buy six! You cannot buy four pieces of paper towels, you need to buy a pack of 24!

If you prefer to watch, check out the video below:

Membership Fee

Sam’s Club has two tiers of membership: Club and Plus. The Basic Club membership costs $50 per year while Plus membership costs $110.

Basic membership is great if you think you will not be buying a lot of things from Sam’s Club. But if you anticipate spending at least $300-$500 monthly, then it’s best to opt for the Plus membership. the membership fee looks expensive but we pay for our membership fee through Sam’s Cash, which you can earn by buying eligible items.

Of all the perks listed below, Sam’s Club Plus membership is worth it because of free shipping and Sam’s Cash. We are a family of five, so we definitely shop a lot at Sam’s Club.

What to buy at Sam’s Club

Food items. You can buy rice, canned goods, soda, meat, snack items, chips, cookies, and almost all the food items on your grocery list.

Party supplies. Planning for a party? Get some paper plates, plastic cups, aluminum trays, and many more!

School and Office supplies. They also have school and office supplies such as paper, notebooks, post-its, and printer ink or toner.

Furniture and Appliances. They also have freezers, refrigerators, window air conditioning units, and more. Couches, shelves, gazebos, pergolas, and even yard slide and playground sets for kids!

Cleaning supplies. You can also get paper towels, detergent, dishwashing liquid, mops, floor cleaners, and fabric conditioner among others.

Fruits and Vegetables. They also offer oranges, mangoes, grapes, strawberries, as well as broccoli, cauliflower, and more.

And many more! Sam’s Club pretty much sells anything you can find at your grocery store.

Use Scan and Go

If you don’t want to wait in line for a long time, use Scan and Go! Download the Sam’s Club app on your Android or iPhone. You will essentially scan all the items you bought and pay on the app. You need a credit card for this to work! I don’t mind doing it because I don’t need to line up at the counters. As soon as I am done, the Sam’s Club app sends a QR code that an employee at the gate will scan.

Get a $20 e-Gift card when you sign up using my link!

Who doesn’t want some freebies? Get a $20 e-gift card when you sign up using my link: http://CluelessintheUS.com/samsclub.

From R1 Visa to EB-4 Green Card: How to Fill Out USCIS Form I-360 Step by Step Guide

If you’ve been working as a religious worker in the United States for at least two (2) years, you can start the process of becoming a permanent resident by applying for USCIS Form I-360. Here’s a step by step guide on how to fill out USCIS Form I-360.

Before you proceed, make sure that you have read this article: http://cluelessintheus.com/from-r1-visa-to-permanent-resident-how-to-apply-for-eb-4-green-card-special-immigrant-religious-worker/.

Download the USCIS Form I-360

Go to https://uscis.gov/i-360 to download the form, the instructions, and the optional checklist. Familiarize yourself with the form and start preparing the supporting documents you’ll need.

Take your R-1 Visa Supporting Documents and use them as reference.

Almost all of the documents that you and your employer submitted for the I-129 petition for your R-1 visa will come in handy for the I-360. In fact, thanks to those documents, I was able to easily navigate the requirements for the i-360.

Watch this step-by-step video guide.

If you’re more of a “show-me-how” type of person, please watch this video tutorial I published on my YouTube channel.

List of Documents You Need to Prepare

Here’s a list of documents you need to prepare.

  1. Cover Letter. Download a free cover letter here: http://cluelessintheus.com/i360-cover-letter
  2. Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant
  3. Letter of Support from employer, with additional supporting documents (see below)
  4. Copies of current passport with current R-1 visa, R-1 Extension Approval Notice, initial R-1 Approval Notice, prior passport with R-1 visa, and most recent I-94 Admission Document;
  5. Copies of spouse’s current passport, R-2 extension approval notice, prior passport with R-2 visa, and I-94 admission document;
  6. Copies of child’s current passport, R-2 extension approval notice, prior passport with R-2 visa, and I-94 admission document;
  7. Copy of marriage certificate;
  8. Copy of the birth certificate of child; and
  9. Filing fees in the amount of $435 (Form I-360) in Postal Money Order.

Additional documents in addition to letter of support from employer:

  • Excerpts from the website or organizing document of your employer, showing the kind of work it does, including work that you do;
  • Tax exemption notice from the IRS confirming the tax exempt status of your employer
  • Recent printout from the IRS’s Exempt Organizations Select Check Website (http://apps.irs.gov/eos/) confirming that your employer and the religious organization it belongs to remains tax-exempt;
  • Letter from the IRS confirming the Employer ID Number (EID) of your employer;
  • Job Description for your position
  • Consolidated Financial Statements and Schedules of your organization (to show that it is in good financial standing and has the ability to pay for your salary).
  • Your certificate of baptism or proof of membership in your church or religion;
  • Letter or certification from your pastor, bishop, or religious leader that you’ve been a member for at least two years prior to applying for the R1 visa and Permanent Lawful Residence.
  • Carefully review the Instructions for the USCIS Form I-360 and provide any other document that could support your application.

Questions?

If you have any questions, suggestions, and if I miss anything, just leave them in the comments below and I will answer to the best of my knowledge and experience!

How to Finance a Car if You Have No Credit History

You will need a car in most places in the USA, unless you live in major cities like New York, Atlanta, or Chicago. If you’ve just arrived as a visa holder or permanent resident, then you will most likely need to buy a car.

One big problem is that if you don’t have a credit history, it is difficult to buy a new car. So what do you?

Here are several options. I’ve saved the best one for last!

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From R1 Visa to Permanent Resident: How to Apply for EB-4 Green Card (Special Immigrant Religious Worker)

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. This is not legal advice. I am only sharing our experience for educational and entertainment purposes. Please do your due diligence when applying for any immigration process.

If you’ve had your R1 Visa and been working for two years as a religious worker in the USA, then you are eligible to apply for a green card. After all, the R1 visa has dual intent, meaning that while it is a nonimmigrant visa, there is a path toward becoming a permanent resident in the US. Here are several tips for how you can move from the R1 visa to become a permanent resident.

For this article, the terms “green card,” “immigrant visa,” “permanent residence,” and “EB-4 visa” are used interchangeably to refer to the green card for special immigrant religious workers.

You’re eligible to apply for a green card after two (2) years of having the R1 visa.

I officially started my religious worker job in the US in May 2015. I moved to the US with my family. My wife and our son were given the R2 visa. Technically, we were eligible to apply for a green card in May 2017. But because of work responsibilities and some confusion on my part, we ended up applying in 2018. 

Renew your R1 visa, then apply for a green card.

The R1 visa is good for a maximum of five (5) years. Most of the time, though, the first R1 visa is good for 2.5 years or 30 months. We decided to renew our R1 visa because of two main reasons:

  • There are significant delays in processing Green Card applications. 
  • We did not want to be out of status in case our application takes longer than expected. 

We renewed our R1 visa, got extended for another 2.5 years. Then we started the Green Card application process.

Continue reading “From R1 Visa to Permanent Resident: How to Apply for EB-4 Green Card (Special Immigrant Religious Worker)”

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Guide to the US R1 Visa for Religious Workers

I came to the United States with an R1 Visa, which is the visa issued for religious workers. If you don’t know this type of visa, don’t worry. It’s not a very popular type of visa. In fact, in 2021, according to the Department of State website, there were only 1,942 R1 visas issued out of 2,275 applications. R2 visa, on the other hand, is issued to the dependents of R1 visa holders.

If you want to know more about the R1 Visa, I have created several videos that I have uploaded to YouTube. I have compiled them here for easy reference. Below, you can watch basic information about the R1 visa: what it is, how to apply for one, what are the limitations, and how to renew your R1 Visa.

Please keep this mind. If you have had your Visa for at least two (2) years, you are eligible to apply for Permanent Residence (Green Card) through USCIS Form I-360. My suggestion, though, is to renew your R1 visa first so you’re covered and remain in good status while applying for your green card.

All the information you need about the R1 Visa can be found at this USCIS link: https://www.uscis.gov/working-in-the-united-states/temporary-workers/r-1-nonimmigrant-religious-workers

IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT THE R1 VISA, PLEASE LEAVE THEM IN THE COMMENTS SECTION BELOW.

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We are Buying a House: Our Homebuying Journey as Immigrants

Seven years after moving to the US from the Philippines, we are finally buying our own home! It’s been quite the journey. Charina and I just rented apartments in the Philippines so this is our first time buying such an expensive building!

There are several challenges though! Interest rates are going up, the housing market is crazy, and we cannot afford homes in the Nashville area! We’re definitely priced out!

But we’re doing it anyway.

I will share with you things we did to prepare for this process.

Continue reading “We are Buying a House: Our Homebuying Journey as Immigrants”

5 Things to Plan For Before Arriving in the USA: Guide for New Immigrants

Your preparations and stress paid off! You got your US visa; you’ve booked your flight; and you are moving to the United States for real! This is it!

But wait just a minute!

Before you start packing, you need to plan for these 5 things right after you land in America! Save this article or print it out because I will provide some practical steps that you can follow. If you have any question, feel free to comment below or message me at cluelessintheus@gmail.com.

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Save Thousands of Dollars, Buy a Used Car!

Unless you live in huge cities such as New York, Atlanta, or Los Angeles, you will need a car to move around in the USA. But it doesn’t need to be brand new!

If you want to save thousands of dollars, buy a used car! Read on find how much I saved and how you, too, can save a lot of money!

Why You (Most) People Buy a Brand New Car

Let’s face it. People want the smell of a new car. You open up the door, sit down and the smell of success hits you. Buying a new car makes you feel like you’re a big time! That you’ve made it. And you can move around in style! Different brands have different reputations, too! A BMW or Mercedes Benz will turn people’s heads and will give you a reputation that you’re either a big shot, or on the way there.

With new cars, you should also have fewer headaches with maintenance problems. The conventional wisdom says that since the car just rolled off from the lot, if you maintain it properly, it should last for a long, long time!

Why It’s Better to Buy a Used Car

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