Furnish Your First Apartment: A Guide for Newcomers in the USA

Moving to the USA feels like restarting your life, but in a foreign land.

Do you remember the first time you rented a room or an apartment in College? How about when you first moved out of your parents’ house to start building your career? Or when you first got married?

In all of these cases, you had to buy almost everything you needed. Sometimes you received gifts and giveaways from your family and friends.

When you first arrive in the USA, you will need to buy a lot of things! A lot!

Thanks to the World Wide Web, you can now order most of your needs online. This is even better for the bigger items such as a sofa or mattress, especially if you don’t have a pickup truck!

Here’s a list of all the things you will need to buy right after you arrive in the USA and secured your first apartment.

Most of the items below are from Amazon.com. If you ever purchase on Amazon, make sure to signup for Amazon Prime membership to enjoy free two-day shipping and other perks.

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Our Green Card Timeline

In March 2015, I received my US R-1 Visa, which allowed me to accept a job offer in the Philippines. If you’re not familiar, R-1 is the visa granted for religious workers to work legally in the USA. Although I am not a pastor, I moved to the USA to take on a job with a religious organization, which is tre church I belong to–The United Methodist Church.

Based on conversations with our organization’s lawyer, and based on my reading of the requirements, I need to wait until I have completed two (2) years of service with my current organization before I could apply for a Green Card.

My official first day of work was May 1, 2015. That meant that the earliest time I could apply for a Green Card is May 1, 2017.

Just to make sure that I would not be a out-of-status in the US, my employer applied for an extension of my R-1 visa. The initial R-1 visa is good for two and a half years, renewable for another 2.5 years for a total of 5 years.

We got the extension but I didn’t apply right away. I got occupied by my responsibilities at work, which is why it took me another year to apply.

Here’s our Green Card timeline

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Disaster Preparedness in the USA

My phone’s alarm rang at 6 am on March 3, 2020. I turned the alarm off and after a few minutes, I checked Facebook.

What I saw alarmed me. A strong tornado ripped through Nashville (Tennessee) between midnight and 3 am! To make things worse, I was in Raleigh, North Carolina attending a 3-day meeting. My wife and sons remained in Nashville.

The photos all over Facebook and the news showed buildings without roofs, overturned cars, and electricity poles blocking the roads!

After trying to call my wife several times, she texted me. They heard the tornado warnings, hid in the safe space at home, and when the tornado passed by, they went back to bed.

From my hotel room in Raleigh, I let out a sigh of relief!

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Follow Me on YouTube and Learn What It’s Like to Live as a Filipino in the USA

I’ve had my YouTube channel for a couple of years now. But I have not really uploaded much content there.

That has changed!

Finally, I mustered enough courage to relaunch my YouTube channel. The past few weeks, I uploaded several videos to show what it is like to live as a Filipino in the United States of America.

Subscribe and Follow Me!

If you want to learn about the joys and fun stuff of living in America, or to be aware of the challenges, and just learn about How-Tos of being an Overseas Filipino, go subscribe to my channel at http://aMightyLife.com/YouTube.

Right now, I have uploaded some fun stuff that Malcolm (my firstborn) and I have done together; what winter is like in Nashville; and services such as Remitly and Xoom to use for sending money to the Philippines.

In the next few weeks and months, I plan to post more videos documenting our life in the US and sharing How-Tos and tutorials on visa application, Green Card application, Personal Finance, and even Filipino food and restaurants in the USA.

Watch this welcome video to learn more about my channel!

Do you have questions or thoughts about living in the USA? Or do you have suggestions about topics for the channel? Let me know in the comments!

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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