Immigrate to the USA: A guide for Filipinos
Every year, thousands of people gamble to get a USA green card and hope to immigrate to the USA. With a multitude of opportunities to offer for people of different backgrounds, the USA has become a top choice for migrants to fulfil the American dream.
If you’re a Filipino who wants to immigrate to the USA, then you’re not the only one. Filipinos are some of the most prominent groups of immigrants in the USA. Filipino migration to the USA goes way back to the late 19th century due to the longstanding ties between the two nations.
As of 2019, over 4.2 million Filipinos were living in America, significantly making up 18% of the total Asian population in the country. They are the third-largest Asian immigrant group, following the Chinese and Indians.
If you wish to move to the USA as a Filipino citizen, the process might seem overwhelming. To help you get started, here is some crucial information about America that you might find helpful:
- Information about the USA
- US visa requirements for Filipino citizens
- Cost of living in the USA
- Opening an American bank account
- Finding housing in the USA
- Understanding the American healthcare system
- Sending money to the Philippines from the USA
About the USA
A nation consisting of 50 states, the United States of America is a big and powerful country with a melting pot of different cultures. It is, in fact, the third-largest country in the world in terms of area size and is more than double the size of the whole European Union.
Many people wish to immigrate to the USA because America is at the forefront of global economic and military power and because people believe they can find a better life in the country.
Here are some other facts about the USA:
Official Name: United States of America
Capital: Washington, DC
Population: 333.5 million (Worldometer, 2021)
Official Language: English
Weather: The weather in America varies greatly depending on the location. Given the country’s massive size, the climate is significantly different depending on the area, regardless of what time of the year it is. Alaska, for instance, has an Arctic tundra climate, while Hawaii has a tropical climate. Other states and regions would also have varying temperatures depending on their location.
Time zones: The USA is divided into six time zones, including Alaska time, Hawaii-Aleutian time, Central time, Eastern time, Mountain time and Pacific time. Interestingly, some states even have more than one time zone.
Because the USA is such a massive country, make sure to do intensive research to find out the best place where you can see yourself living.
US visa requirements for Philippine passport holders
There are two different types of visas Filipinos can apply for to go to the USA:
- Nonimmigrant visa – If you’re temporarily travelling to the USA (e.g. tourism, business, education or exchange).
- Immigrant visa – If you’re moving to the USA permanently.
Depending on the purpose of your travel, you have to make sure you’re applying for the correct visa to prepare the correct list of requirements.
Visit the US Visa Information Service for more information on the requirements and step-by-step process to apply for a nonimmigrant US visa.
If you plan to immigrate to the USA for good, you must apply for an immigrant visa. To obtain this type of visa, you must receive sponsorship from a US citizen, a lawful permanent resident family member or an employer and have an approved petition.
The different US immigrant visas include:
- Family-based immigration
- Fiancee visa
- Employment-based immigration
- Diversity visa
- Returning resident visa
Applying for an immigrant visa begins with the sponsor filing a petition on the applicant’s behalf with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
For a complete step-by-step process on the immigrant visa application, click here.
Cost of living in the USA
The cost of living in America varies significantly depending on the state. According to World Population Review, Hawaii is the state that has the highest cost of living, while Mississippi has the lowest.
Comparing the two states, you’ll see a massive difference between the costs of housing, as well as the products and services offered in each state.
However, to give you an idea of the average cost of living in the USA, here’s a breakdown we’ve put together from Numbeo:
Accommodation (Monthly Rent)
1 bedroom apartment: $1,664.88
3 bedroom apartment: 2,729.54
Outside the City Centre
1 bedroom apartment: 1,237.36
3 bedroom apartment: 2,156.13
Utilities (Monthly Bills)
Apartment Electricity, Water, Heating/Cooling (85 sqm apartment): $171.75
Rice (1kg): $4.01
Loaf of Bread (500g): $2.87
Chicken (1kg): $10.49
Beef (1kg): $13.49
Milk (1 litre): $0.90
Eggs (1 dozen): $2.82
Water (1.5 litres): $1.85
One-way Transport Ticket: $2.50
Monthly Pass: $70.00
Gasoline (1 lire): $1.21
Taxi (1km): $1.62
Opening a bank account in the USA
Opening a US bank account is something you need to take care of when you immigrate to the USA. Unfortunately, the American banking system is still somewhat old-school, so opening a new account can be quite tricky, especially if you’re new to the country.
Though account opening is more straightforward and smoother for American citizens, you can still open a bank account as a non-resident as long as you have a Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).
In general, here’s a complete list of documents you might be asked for when opening a bank account as a non-US resident:
- Proof of identification (e.g. passport or ID)
- Proof of address (e.g. utility bill)
- SSN or ITIN
- Minimum deposit
Some banks may also ask for a US mobile number to provide access to online banking.
It is also important to note that some banks prefer face-to-face applications. However, do your research before walking into a bank to make an application.
It is advisable to open an account with bigger banks that are more familiar with non-resident account opening applications. This helps ensure that the person processing your application understands the requirements and processes, and does not deny your application.
Finding housing in the USA
Finding accommodation is one of the things you need to prioritise when migrating to another country. If you’re moving to the USA, renting out a property first before purchasing one is advisable. Doing so would allow you to have a better feel of the place you will be living in, as almost every state in the USA has its own character and culture.
Also, given the size of America, there are plenty of accommodations to choose from – from big country houses to luxurious city condominiums. Depending on the state you’re going to move to, the sizes and prices of properties may vary significantly.
When looking for a property to rent, you must first determine your budget to narrow down your search. Make sure that the budget you’ve set is reasonable and realistic against the list of requirements you’re looking for in a property.
When you’ve found a property you would like to rent out, prepare the following documents for a smoother process:
- Proof of identification (e.g. passport)
- Proof of employment (e.g. employment contract, letter of employment, etc.)
- Proof of finances (e.g. bank statements)
- Landlord references
- Social Security Number (once obtained)
You should also be prepared to pay a deposit. Landlords tend to charge higher deposit fees to new migrants as they don’t have an established credit history for being new in the country.
Understanding the American healthcare system
One of the most important things to take note of when you immigrate to the USA is that the country does not have universal healthcare. This means that the residents and citizens do not receive public health benefits, so they would have to pay for their medical treatment.
Healthcare in America is very expensive, so make sure to obtain health insurance to avoid paying thousands of dollars on hospital bills. However, the good news is that some companies provide health insurance and offer to pay some or all of their employees’ medical bills.
If you’re getting your own private health insurance, you will have to pay regular payments, also known as “premiums”. If you don’t have health insurance, but urgently need medical treatment, you will have to pay for your hospital bills. However, some hospitals and doctors accept instalments, depending on the patient’s financial circumstances.
There are different ways on how you can get health coverage, including the following:
- Your employer or your spouse’s group coverage plan
- Your parents’ insurance plan (if you’re under 26 years old)
- Your own purchased health insurance
- Government programs (e.g. Medicare, Medicaid)
- State insurance plan (if your state provides it)
- The Veterans Health Administration or TRICARE (for military personnel)
- Continuing coverage from your former employer on a temporary basis under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA)
For more information on how to find health insurance in the USA, visit the USA gov page.
Sending money to the Philippines from the USA
Once you’ve settled down when you immigrate to the USA, you may need to send money to the Philippines once in a while for a variety of reasons. Whether it’s to support your family back home, for emergencies or to simply send gifts on special occasions.
Sending money overseas can be quite difficult in America because as mentioned above, banking in America is quite traditional. Some banks would even require remitters to physically visit the branch to create a transaction.
Money transfer services like Kabayan Remit are a better alternative to banks when making overseas remittances. Kabayan Remit will soon launch its operations in America to make money transfers to the Philippines easier for residents in the USA.
Here’s why you should join thousands of Filipinos who are already using Kabayan Remit:
- Easy online remittance through the website or mobile app
- 24/7 bilingual customer support (Filipino and English)
- Easy to contact customer service team over the phone or through social media
- Flexible payment and delivery options
For more information, visit kabayanremit.com.