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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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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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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How to Apply for an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN)

Disclaimer: The article that follows tells the story of how my wife and son applied for their Individual Tax Identification Number (TIN)s. It is not meant to be taken as financial or tax advice. This is only for educational and informational purposes. The reader is encouraged to do their due diligence.

After my first year of working in the United States, I had to file my income tax return. I had my Social Security Number, our HR Department withheld my tax every payday. All I had to do was to file my income tax. I decided to do it online through TurboTax. It was easy–all I had to do was upload my form W-2, which our HR provided.

There was a catch, though. I was taxed as a single person because I could not claim my wife and my son as my dependents. They did not have Social Security numbers and they couldn’t get it either. They are considered as dependents of a non-immigration alien. What that meant is that my wife cannot work at all.

I, on the other hand, was being treated as a resident-for-tax purposes.

Good thing, I got in touch with a few Filipinos who had been in the same situation as we were. They told us to explore the possibility of getting an ITIN for my wife and son. That’s exactly what we did in November 2016.

If you have family members who are dependents, but you want to claim them as dependents in your tax returns, then this information may help you.

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How to Save Money on Your Child’s Haircut

Kids haircut in America costs at least $12, plus tip, it would be around $15-$18. Our son gets a haircut probably 8-10 times in a year. That would be about $120 to $180 yearly.

When I was a small boy, my father cut my hair. I know that I looked pretty good as a kid. But I don’t really remember what my haircuts then were like. As I progressed through my elementary years and my father got busier, I started going to a barber. I usually got a “flat top” or a “barber’s cut.”

When I felt like I had haircut problems in America, I started looking for the right barber. At about the same time, my wife and I decided that I could cut our son’s hair in the comforts of our home. That’s important tip for y’all out there. Always consult your wife in all important matters such as your child’s hair!

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The Best Ways to Send Money to the Philippines: Transferwise

Like any good Overseas Filipino, I need a fast and reliable way to send money to the Philippines. For the past three years, the main way for me to send money to the Philippines is Xoom.com. I have reviewed this remittance website in the past. You can read that review here: http://amightylife.com/the-best-ways-to-send-money-to-the-philippines-from-the-usa-xoom

My main problem with Xoom, however, is their terrible, terrible exchange rate. They charge an upfront fee of $4.99 for USD to PHP transfers or $7.99 for USD to USD transfers from your US bank account to your recipient in the Philippines.

However, they also make additional money on the backend through their exchange rate. It’s the same criticism that has always dogged Paypal.com.

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