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.

Moving to another house is challenging. But even more so when you are moving to another country! You may be coming on a work or immigrant visa as a nurse, Information Technology professional, or some other kind of work. You may be coming over because of family petition. No matter the reason, this is a big move and you need to plan well to make it smooth and easy.

Housing: Where will you stay?

If you are moving as part of a family-based petition, most likely, your family member (mother, father, brother, or sister) will welcome you and let you stay in their home. But it helps to know the length of time that they are willing to let you stay. This could be a touchy subject if you’re not very close with the family member in the US.

Living in the USA can be very expensive and while you are starting out with a new job and with your new life in the country, family members may need to help you with many things such as shopping for food, moving around, and navigating employment, school, and many other things.

But if you’re moving as part of an employment-based visa, it helps to ask the following questions:

  • Will you be staying at a hotel, motel, or rental house?
  • Who will book and pay for it?
  • Is it covered by your relocation plan? Will your employer pay for it?

What will most likely happen:

If you are hired by an agency or a US organization, you will most likely stay at a hotel for a short period of time: any time between a few days to a month. Make sure to clarify what is included in a relocation package if they offer you one. I’ve known of some nurses that received a $1,000 relocation bonus. Some have higher. But there are also those who moved to the US and used their own funds in the first few weeks.

My experience:

My employer covered my airfare and paid for my hotel stay for about a week. I started in my job the week I arrived but my employer let me get settled. I looked for an apartment, signed a lease, and moved in within 6 days! My family didn’t travel with me initially. I’m like the advance party and I prepared most of what we needed for them to arrive a couple of months later.

Recommended Resources:

Booking.com: This is my go-to website for finding inexpensive hotels or motels. It’s easy to use and provides a good number of options for doing that.

How to Look for an Apartment in the USA: I have written a guide that will help you look for an apartment in the USA.

Zillow.com – This is my preferred website for finding an apartment to rent.

Transportation: How will you move around?

You will need a car to move around in the USA unless you live in a city with good public transportation system such as New York City, Atlanta, or Chicago. Before you arrive, it helps to ask the following questions:

  • How will you travel from the airport to your hotel, motel, apartment, or house? Will a family member pick you up? Will your employer meet you at the airport?
  • Will you take a taxi, Uber, or Lyft?
  • How about your daily transportation? Do you need to rent a car?
  • Will your driver’s license be honored in your destination city? Or do you need an International Driver’s license?

What will most likely happen:

You can rent a car, usually from the airport so you can move around in the US for a few days until you are able to buy your own car. But there are too many variables for me to provide you a good scenario for what will most likely happen. Do your research and ask questions as much as you can!

My experience:

Nashville TN is definitely a car city! It doesn’t have a good public transportation system. It has a train line and bus transit system but it takes a long time to travel from one place to another in the city.

Thankfully, I was lucky because my boss is such a saint! He let me borrow his own Jeep Wrangler for two (2) weeks so I can look for an apartment, go to the office, and eventually buy a car! The process of buying a car is pretty complicated and I don’t have the space to write about it in this guide. But I will provide another article: a guide on how to buy your first car in the US. Watch out for that.

Budget: How much money will you need initially?

It should be very clear what types of relocation expenses your employer will cover. So, how much money do you need to prepare for your first 30 days in the USA?

your employer may cover your initial expenses, it would be important to estimate how much you’ll need for your first few weeks in the USA. I found a cool way to estimate monthly expenses in the USA. Watch the video below and you’ll learn about this nifty tool!

Most companies pay their employers every two weeks. At the very least, be prepared for your start-up expenses in the USA for the first 15 days. Some immigrant workers bring only $1,000, others prepare $5,000, do your research and estimate your 15-day expenses for the following items.

One other tool you can consult is the Per Diem travel rate for the USA. Go to this link and enter your destination city and it will give you a daily estimate of your expenses: https://www.gsa.gov/travel/plan-book/per-diem-rates.

The example below is for someone moving to San Antonio, Texas.

Here’s a sample budget for 15 days

  • Meals & incidentals: $915 ($61 per day)
  • Housing/Lodging (hotel rates): $1,860 ($124 per day) – you may be able to save money if your employer provides temporary lodging for you.
  • Transportation: $525 ($35 daily car rental rate) – you may not need this amount if there’s a bus or train line in the city.
  • Prepaid mobile phone subscription: $50 – one-time cost
  • Other needs: $300
  • TOTAL for 15 days: $3,650

Again, this is merely a sample computation. But it helps to be prepared! It is difficult to bring too much cash so you may want to bring a credit card or debit card from your home country or a traveler’s check.

Prepare for the Weather

Is it gonna be cold? Or hot? Since my family and I came from the Philippines, we are no strangers to hot weather! We moved to Nashville, TN in August, which is the middle of Summer so we didn’t have a lot of problems adjusting. But when September rolled around and it started getting chilly, we bought thicker and warmer clothes that could help us survive fall and winter.

Make sure to research the weather patterns in your destination state and city. I still think that Nashville’s weather is great! It’s not too cold and we don’t get too many snow in the winter. It’s also not too hot compared to Florida or Southern Texas. But if you are going to the Midwest, Virginia or any state that is in the Northern USA, then brace yourself for cold weather!

Get a Mobile Phone Plan

Do you ever wonder how migrants before the 2000s survived without mobile phones and the Internet? It would have been a bit more challenging, I think! Your mobile phone will help you navigate directions while driving, text people your questions, call anybody at any time, and also check the weather for the day!

It has definitely become a necessity these days! Most newer mobile phones will work in the USA: Samsung, Google Pixel, Motorola, iPhone, etc. You just need to be aware that there are two types of network that phones are in: GSM and CDMA. The major difference is that you need a SIM card for a GSM phone.

When we arrived, we got a T-Mobile SIM card for my wife’s phone. It cost us $50 a month. That was really helpful because we needed to be in touch with each other while I’m at work or running errands. You have other options as well: AT&T is also good; and there are mobile phone providers that offer lower cost such as Mint Mobile, Ting, Cricket, Boost, or Metro.


If you are planning to move to the USA or you have just arrived recently, what questions do you have? Feel free to reach out to me or comment with your questions below.

1 comment

  1. Hi sir pks contact me as
    I come to usa on R1 visa
    How to get I360 petition recipt number my religious org. Not provided me my recipt number ? I can call to uscis he is provided me recipt number ?

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