Don’t Convert Dollars to Pesos in Your Head

When we first came to the United States in August 2015, it was so tough to spend money on almost everything. Why? Because we often convert US Dollars into Philippine Pesos.

For example, a bottle of soda costs $2. If you convert that to Peso, that is roughly equal to PhP 100. That is expensive for us in the Philippines. And if we kept thinking this way, we would not have been able to drink soda or even eat at a nice restaurant.

Even when we went shopping for clothes or anything in particular, once we started converting to Pesos, it becomes so difficult to spend money. A pair of jeans here costs between $20 to $50. Again, if you convert that to pesos, it’s between P1,000 to P2,500.

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You’re an OFW Now, So What’s Next?

Many Filipinos consider the United States as the “Land of Milk and Honey,” and that if you had the chance to go there, your life will never be the same. If you just get there, you will be swimming in dollars and you can lift yourself and your family out of poverty.

Some Filipinos may have found that to be true. And even for those who do struggle, life in the USA tends to be more comfortable than life in the Philippines. The good thing about working and living in the US is that you earn dollars. And if you convert your money to Philippine Pesos, you’d get a lot! If you had $1,000, that would be equal to around PhP50,000, depending on the exchange rate.

Alas, you earn in dollars, you also spend in US dollars. And if you’re not careful, you also get into the consumeristic, materialistic lifestyle of most Americans.

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Apply for a US Social Security Number: Guide for Non-Resident Aliens

Transitioning to another country for work is difficult. There are just too many variables that we need to consider. Getting an apartment to live in, government-mandated memberships and regulations, plus buying a car, and settling down again. On top of that, I am also considered as a non-resident alien worker. That’s because I am not a citizen, and not a Permanent Resident (Green Card holder) in the country.

Thankfully, our organization agreed to sponsor a house-hunting trip for me and my wife. Last April, Cha and I found ourselves in Nashville, Tennessee to look for an apartment, and for me to apply for the services I need to start working.

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How Much of Your Possessions Should You Bring to the USA?

You’ve been accepted for a job in the USA, you applied for and got your visa. You let go of many things that you own in the Philippines, now it’s time to pack your bag or boxes as you travel to the United States.

How much stuff can you bring?

Most airlines traveling to the USA will allow you to check two big bags or boxes that weigh up to 50lb or 23 kg. You are also entitled to bring 2 carryon bags. That sounds like a lot, but it really is not, especially if you are a family of three or more going to the USA.

Excess baggage fees are expensive! If your bag or box weighs more than 50lb or 23 kg, you will pay $75 or more! If you are bringing more than two checked bags, the third box will cost $200 or more! If you’re willing to pay that amount, I won’t argue with you.

How much stuff SHOULD you bring?

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How to Apply for Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC)

Since you are going to the United States for work, you need to apply for an Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC). Every OFW is required to get the OEC as this is a requirement under the rules and regulations of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).

Its purpose is to ensure that Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) are documented and protected. There are several requirements before you can get the OEC such as the contract. Ideally, this requirement will protect Filipinos from being duped by illegal recruiters.

We can consider the OEC as our exit pass. If you have an OEC, you will not pay the travel tax (which is about P1,620) and the terminal fee (which is PhP 750).

How to Apply for the OEC

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How to Renew Your Philippine Passport in the USA

If your Philippine passport expires and you need a new one, here’s how to renew your Philippine passport in the USA.

Philippine passports are good for a maximum of 5 years. There is a bill at the Philippine House of Representatives that seeks to extend passport validity for up to 10 years. But we don’t know yet if that bill will make it as law and when that would happen.

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The Art of Packing and Letting Go of Books, Appliances, & Things That Won’t Fit into Your Luggage

Packing is a challenge. If you’re moving out of the country, you need to bring only the essentials and let go of anything you won’t need.

But as you start packing your things, you’ll start wondering where all those things came from. And then, you’d start thinking about which ones to bring, which ones to store in your parents’ house (if they let you), and which ones to let go.

It is tough!

There are a lot of things that are really tough to let go–the small clothes of your child, photo frames, books you love, appliances you’ve worked hard to pay for, and a million other things.

It’s not the price tag of these things that make it difficult to let go, but rather the emotional and historical value they represent in our lives.

Our things tell the story of our lives–they are the key to triggering our memories.

If you could only bring everything with you to the United States, why not? But it will be very expensive just to ship all those things from the Philippines.

So here are some tips that will help you pack or let go of your stuff.

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How to Look for an Apartment in the USA

A Guide for Non-resident Aliens moving to the USA

You’ve accepted a job offer to work in the USA; and you got your visa approved. It feels more real now… you are really going to the United States to work! The next step is to plan for your move and search for a place to stay in the USA.

How to look for an apartment in the USA

Should you take a house-hunting trip?

Here’s a tip that you should be aware of: your employer might offer a house-hunting trip for you before you move, and that might be part of your compensation and relocation package. You don’t need to take that. That house-hunting trip will be considered as taxable income, which you will need to pay for.

Here’s the good news: you can look for an apartment near the area of your office in the USA by using tools that are available online for free!

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How to Apply for a US Visa to Work in the USA

Tips for a Smooth US Visa Application & Interview

Here’s a few tips on how to apply for a US Visa to work in the USA. This process is a bit different compared to applying for a tourist visa. After you accept the job offer and signed the contract, your employer will then file a petition for you to work be given permission to work in the United States. They will send this petition to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Depending on your agreement with your employer, they may petition you for Permanent Residency or for you to receive a temporary work visa.

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If you have questions and additional tips related to process of applying for a US Visa, feel free to leave a comment on this article or send us a message at

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How to Convince Your Spouse to Move to the USA

If you are married and have kids, should you bring them to the United States with you? Are you willing to be separated from them across time and space so you could save more money?

These are not easy questions. And if you decide to bring them with you to the US or leave them behind in the Philippines, you would still need to convince your spouse either way.

So how did I convince my wife to move halfway across the world with me?

The short answer is I did not. Let me explain.

Even before we got married, my wife and I talked about the possibility of either of us going abroad. You see, for young people in the Philippines, going abroad to work is not a remote possibility. In fact, it is a very real possibility for us, although I did not really consider working abroad up until 2015.

So before getting married, Cha and I agreed that if one of us wanted to work abroad, it would be better for us to stay together in our destination country. It wasn’t a lengthy talk. We didn’t even argue about it.

When we had that talk, she was working with a large TV network in the Philippines and I was employed by a church organization.

We also agreed that as long as we’re doing okay financially in the Philippines, we were not going to work abroad. Cha enjoys a close relationships with her family and while I’m pretty close to my family, I am used to being away from them for long periods.

There were times that Cha asked me some “what if” questions: “what if you got presented with an opportunity to work in the US?”

I used to brush off her question and reply with a shrug: “that probably won’t happen…” Until one day it did.

And when it did, Cha and I talked once again about our plans. We remembered our agreement to stay together wherever we go for work.

I don’t know your situation. Here are some tips and suggestions on how to convince your significant other to move to the USA.

1. Long-Distance Relationship is tough on you and on those you leave behind.

There are countless stories of marriages that feel apart because of the Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) phenomenon. You know that you love your spouse, and your spouse loves you, too. But being away for a long time will place strain on your relationship. In a sense, you’re putting this important relationship at risk if you decide to leave your family behind in the Philippines.

And if you have young kids, you will miss a lot of their development milestones; and you may become more of an occasional Skype presence and Santa Clause instead of a loving, present parent.

But if this is a risk that you and your family is willing to take, you will need to find ways to preserve your relationship and be creative in addressing each other’s emotional needs.

2. Plan together for the long-term.

I hope that when you applied for the job opening in the USA, you consulted your significant other. If you did, that would make the convincing way easier. If you did not, then you’ll need to work harder at convincing your spouse. Plan together: it helps to look at the next 5-10 years. Those plans may not all come to fruition, but at least there is a blueprint that both of you are going to follow.

Some immediate questions you need to address are:

  • How long will work and live in the USA?
  • When will you go back to the Philippines
  • Do you intend to become citizens in the long run?
  • What are your financial goals?
  • How about your kids? If you don’t have kids yet, will you have one or two when you are in the USA?
  • What will daily life look like for you and your family?

Research online about the kind of life that you and your family will face once you get to the USA. Most of the time, spouses of work visa holders are considered dependents and are not allowed to work. If your spouse is used to having a regular job in the Philippines, there will be some struggle. Be realistic and set expectations. But before long you will be able to apply for Permanent Residency. After that, your spouse will be able to work.

3. Seek the counsel of people you both trust and respect.

This is actually one of the responsibilities of your Ninongs and Ninangs. They promised to help you as a couple by standing as your second parents. Seek their counsel. Ask for their thoughts and what options they can give you.

Ask the experiences of couples you know who have stayed together in a foreign country and those who have decided to be separated from each other because of working abroad. Ask them for practical tips how they made it work and ask them to name the challenges they faced. This will help you understand the difficulties that either option entails.

When we started planning for our move, it was always for the three of us. By the time I’m writing this post, it had been a year since we moved together to Nashville. It is more expensive since there are three of us. But it’s been worth it.