How to Apply for a US Green Card WITHOUT a Lawyer: 7 Tips

The process to apply for a Green Card of Permanent Residence in the US can be complicated and expensive. But if you are willing to read a lot of documents, and carefully fill out the application forms, you can choose not to use a lawyer’s services.

Disclaimer: This is not a legal advice on immigration. I am just sharing my experience for educational purposes.

Here are 7 tips to help you apply for a US Green Card without a lawyer.

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Moving to the USA? Teach Your Child the Filipino Language First

Our son Malcolm was a few months short of two years when we started planning for our move to the USA.

We decided to start talking to him mainly in English to help him prepare for the transition since he will be surrounded by English-speaking Americans.

Nope, that is not how it turned out. We were wrong.

Teach Filipino first!

Looking back, the same reasoning would have helped our son acquire Filipino as a mother-tongue first. Since he’s surrounded by English-speaking people–in church, at school, and in our neighborhood he could easily pick the language up.

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What does it mean to have children who are American citizens?

When we first moved from the Philippines to Nashville, TN, we were a family of 3: Tatay, Nanay, & Malcolm. Five years later, Caspian joined us and another baby is on the way.

It also means that in our soon-to-be family of 5, three of us are Filipino citizens while two (2) are American citizens.

To be completely accurate, Caspian is a dual citizen and our next baby will be one, too.

Citizenship by birth

The USA is one of the countries that follow the jus soli doctrine of citizenship. It means that all babies born within its territory are considered citizens. This is also called birthright citizenship, which the Trump Administration has been challenging as part of tightening policy on immigration.

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Don’t Submit Documents Unless Asked For: Lesson Learned from our Ongoing Green Card Application

Back in October 2018, we applied for Permanent Residence (Green Card) in the USA. We initially did not include the medical examination (Form I-693). The form said that we can submit it at a later time, which, I thought, made sense.

So in June 2019, I sent our Forms I-693 to the USCIS. It had a cover letter and included the receipt numbers for our application, as well as our A numbers.

As it turned out, we should not have done that.

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So We Applied for a Green Card

My family and I first moved to Nashville in the USA in 2015. At that first move, Cha and I didn’t really decide how long we were going to stay here and when we will go back to the Philippines.

I was granted an R-1 visa because I work with a global agency of the United Methodist Church. Since the R-1 is only good for a maximum of 5 years, I needed to apply for a green card if I wanted to keep working here.

Sometime in late 2017, we decided to apply for the green card so we could continue staying and working in the US.

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Bank of the Philippine Islands Just Made It Significantly More Difficult for Overseas Filipinos (OFWs) to Use their BPI Online Banking System

UPDATE: BPI finally added my US phone number to their system and I can use their online banking system now without any problems. It took several weeks of waiting.

I’ve been a loyal BPI customer since I first opened a savings account with them in 2005. I love their service and their online banking system. It’s easy to pay bills online and connect your savings, checking, and credit card accounts together.

Although I’ve been in the US for the past 4 years, I continue to use my BPI account for remittances–sending money to family, funding my investment accounts, saving some money, and paying online bills and subscriptions. I also use my BPI credit card every now and then for transactions in the US and when I travel around the world.

Towards the end of 2018, they announced the transition from BPIExpressOnline.com to Online.BPI.com.ph. The new website features a sleek new design and a more minimalist, elegant design.

Right now, that’s all the good I could say about this new service. You see, BPI just made it significantly more difficult for Overseas Filipinos to use their online banking system. Here’s why.

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How Much Does It Cost to Apply for a Green Card in the USA?

Applying for a US Green Card can be an expensive process. Some jobs provide a way to become a Permanent Resident. Sometimes, though, you arrive in the US with a work visa and after at least two (2) years, you become eligible to apply for Permanent Residence, aka Green Card.

By the way, it’s called a “Green Card” because the Permanent Resident cards issued before 1976 had the green color. Since 2002, though, the card has a light pink color.

We arrived in the USA in the third quarter of 2015. By mid-2017, we became eligible to apply for Permanent Residence. However, because of the demands of my job, we chose not to apply. But I was actively seeking information about the process and what it will require from us.

Expensive!

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Kindergarten Blues: Bus or Car?

Coco’s school is close enough to our apartment. It’s a little over 2 miles away. When we were preparing him for Kindergarten, we talked about the transportation situation.┬áMetro Nashville Public Schools a school bus for kids who live within a certain distance from the school.

For the first month of Kindergarten, we told him that I will drop him off at his school in the morning. And in the afternoon, he will ride the bus home. He agreed.

Every time he gets home in the afternoon, he rides with a bunch of other kids from our apartment complex. He has made some friends, and so the bus ride is pretty enjoyable for him.

It was perhaps a little too enjoyable that he said he wanted to ride the bus in the morning, too!

That presented a bit of dilemma for us.

He tends to wake up in the morning and being the 5-year old that he is, he would dawdle. He wanted to spend an extra 5-10 minutes lying in bed, half-asleep, when we try to wake him in the morning.

And then, he would spend another 25-35 minutes eating breakfast. Then, another 30-40 minutes to take a bath, brush his teeth, and prepare for school! That pretty much ensures that we leave home just in time for us to arrive about 10 minutes before his class time.

For him to ride the bus, we needed to adjust our morning routines at least 20 minutes earlier! That would be even tougher in the winter!

But to be honest, I like driving with him, then dropping him off at school.

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How to prepare for your first winter

If you’ve spent some time in Baguio City or Mountain Province in January or February, then you have an idea of what cold is like. You cannot take a bath without a heater or hot water. Your breath steams early in the morning and the fog!

But that is nothing when you experience your first winter in the United States. It is cold, nope not Baguio Cold, but refrigerator, freezer cold!

If you are new to the US you better prepare for the cold of winter!

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The Art of Accumulating Pasalubong

Every Overseas Filipino know the importance of stocking pasalubongs for loved ones in the Philippines. Some even send balikbayan boxes regularly. You probably see many balikbayans at NAIA with lots and lots of baggage and boxes, especially during the Christmas season.

Pinoys who have spent many years in the USA have probably come up with their system of buying and accumulating pasalubongs. But for newcomers, it may be a bit overwhelming. Here are a few tips on the art of accumulating pasalubong.

First things first: decide on a budget and stick to it!

Do not bankrupt yourself because you want to give something nice to family and friends. I repeat, do not bankrupt yourself! Decide on a budget and stick to it. Read my post on keeping up with the Joneses.

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