Saturday, December 28, 2019

14 Tips for People Who are Migrating to Another Country

Since moving to the United States two years ago, I have been asked for tips and reminders by friends who were also planning to push their reset buttons and start a new life outside the Philippines.

This coming 2020, I know of at least three families who are already scheduled to leave for the US. So, here’s sharing a list of tips that I have shared with them in case others may be able to find them useful as well. 

read our family's migration story, here, where we had to leave in batches 
1. Secure documents that would be very difficult to obtain once you’re no longer in the Philippines: birth certificates, transcript of records, diplomas, etc.

*Rule of thumb: Prioritize to bring things that are impossible to duplicate outside your home country, especially if you won't be able to return for a long time.

2. If you have a child with special needs like we do or a family member with chronic conditions: Bring clinical abstracts, hospitalization summaries, enough maintenance medications (at least good for 3 months) and small medical equipment (eg. nebulizer, suction machine, feeding pump, etc). Know that it takes a while to get into the medical and insurance systems and you can’t just buy a lot of medical stuff (at pharmacies or even online) without a doctor’s prescription. The files documenting your child’s condition would be helpful when you start applying for government benefits for disabled residents. 

* As per my mom-in-law’s advice, we also brought some over-the-counter (OTC) meds for fever, headaches, coughs, and colds. Those became very useful especially during our first winter here.

3. Instead of bulky and heavy photo albums, scan digital files of family pictures that you want to keep and might want to post as throwback photos in the future. Make sure to save them in a durable external hard drive. 

* I wish I knew about the HP Smart app before! It scans documents and photos quickly by just using my phone’s camera. As it was, I tried to scan as many photos as possible, especially those of my kids’ babyhood and school photos, using our bulky HP printer with scanner. 

** Plus, I brought three VHS tapes with me that contain footages of my kids’ baby and childhood years. Once here, I had them converted into digital files.

don't forget to have original copies!

4. Close extra bank accounts and retain one PH-issued credit card (for emergency purchases) and its linked savings account (so you can pay for those credit card bills and other obligations you may be leaving behind like remaining utility bills and life insurance premiums). 

* My hubby was able to use his PH-issued credit card for car repairs during the time we still don’t have a US-issued credit card. Months later, I cancelled both our credit cards on their anniversaries because the bank wouldn’t waive our annual fees anymore.

** As soon as you have extra funds, apply for a secured credit card (more about this on another blog post) to start building your credit score -- something immigrants should have as soon as they can.

5. If possible, try to arrange for your postpaid cellphone number to be discontinued a month or two after you leave the Philippines. You will still be able to receive messages but will be charged a lot if you use the text and call services. 

My advice is to just bring at least one GSM phone with a prepaid number that has roaming activated. Link it to your savings account for those transactions that need One-Time-PINs (OTPs) and for reloading just the minimum amount a month just to keep it active. 

When my family’s PH-based bank suddenly started requiring OTPs for all online transactions and all our PH-issued sims have already expired, I went through a lot of stress communicating with inefficient customer service reps for months before finding out that I needed to send a handwritten letter via snail mail (postage set me back $40 and it took a month to arrive!) to my branch in Alabang just to enroll my US-issued cellphone number to receive OTPs. Meanwhile, our life insurance policies almost lapsed from not being paid for more than half a year! 

* In the meantime, just to have something for communication purposes, it’s easy to buy a cheap phone with a prepaid sim in department stores like Walmart or Target here in case your PH phone (mine did) won’t work with US sims. You can also check if you’d qualify for a free government phone program, which is available in most states.

two of the bags we bought in Divisoria
6. Do NOT bring too many clothes! If you’re okay with shopping at thrift shops, you can find a lot of good stuff (some even have tags still attached!) for really low prices. To see if there are stores near where you’ll be living, just search online for “thrift stores (or Goodwill) in [your city of destination].” 

* After buying down jackets and some extra warm clothing for my boys, I didn't want to spend for myself anymore and just used a coat my sister gave me to travel in. Happily, in our first week in California, I found a lovely branded down jacket for just $14.99 in a thrift shop! 

7. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Avoid worrying about not bringing enough personal care items or even kitchen tools. Search Google Maps for “dollar stores in [city of destination]” and shop there for necessities once you get here.

8. If you’re trying to save money but don’t have enough bags for the whole family, don’t buy brand new and super expensive luggage from the malls. Check surplus stores first or even take a trip to Divisoria. You can buy new and better luggage here in the future when you need to take trips and already have the funds to buy good quality ones. Plus, you may have problems with storage if you have to keep all of them after the trip.

*Almost all 11 pieces of luggage we used were damaged from mishandling (hubby and two of the boys’ stopover was in China). Only three pieces survived and had minor damages. I was able to use one again two years later when I went to the East Coast to visit relatives. 

**We didn’t know that checked-in mobility equipment are not counted as luggage! Hubby only had one large suitcase because he brought James’ jogger stroller. As it was, he could have brought another checked-in bag! 

mobility equipment are not counted as checked-in bag!
9. Save the luggage space (you can only bring two big ones as checked-in baggage per person) for stuff you feel like you will miss the most from home. In our case, I packed a lot of sachet mixes for sinigang, kaldereta, and panggisa; our preferred brand of instant noodles (promise, the same ones for export that can be bought here taste bland!); plus four bottles of our favorite concentrated calamansi juice. As new migrants who are not yet financially stable, you’d initially find them quite expensive in Filipino stores as we first did.

10. Bring reusable eco-bags that can be folded into small sizes and tucked inside your pocket or shoulder bag. I regretted leaving a lot of pretty eco-bags that I got from media events. Here, grocery plastic bags cost 10 cents each if you have nothing to put your purchases in and I’ve seen people discarding them later without any second thoughts, opting to just buy another bag the next time they shop. That’s practically throwing money away!

11. Since Filipinos tend to be madiskarte or mag-Mcgyver and plumbing services here are expensive, it is better to bring some basic handyman tools (and a roll of duct tape!) for quick-fix circumstances. This would help you avoid buying pricey items from home improvement stores while you’re still looking for a job or need to save more money. My husband’s tools came in real handy during our first few months when he attached a bidet to the toilet, among other things.

actual photo of hubby's tools we brought with us to the US
12. Sell off as many of your stuff as possible so you won’t get stressed about where to store them and leaving them in storage for several years. When you get here, you’ll realize soon enough that many of things you planned to come back for someday would have been put to better use by other people. Most likely, you’ll find the same or similar items here, some even better than what you used to have.

*I used Shopee to dispose of a lot of items and earned about P30,000 in just a few months from selling already heavily discounted second hand and never-been-used products. Some of the leftovers I gave away to relatives and neighbors while some were sold by my mom and sister in garage sales.

13. Visit your dentist and have as much dental work done as much as possible. Seriously, you will be frustrated at the exorbitant prices dentists charge here even WITH insurance! Also, they almost always refuse to do tooth fillings and want to perform root canals so they can charge you $1000 for the service. And that quote still doesn’t include dental veneers, tooth jackets, or dentures!

14. Pay for your green card processing while you’re still in the Philippines so that you can receive it in as little as two weeks after arriving in the US. According to the PDOS (Pre-Departure Orientation Seminar) speaker at the CFO (Commission on Filipinos Overseas), if you pay when you’re already here, it will take two months to arrive. I am not 100% sure about that timeline but we did the former and did receive our green cards in less than a month.

my and James' arrival at LAX
Please note that everything in this post are based on my family’s own experiences and are just here as guides. Some of the tips may not be applicable to your specific circumstances but I hope you were able to find some of them helpful. 

To fellow Filipinos who also migrated to another country, please feel free to share in the comments anything else you think should be included in this list. Thank you for reading! :) 


tina said...

that is really helpful.
Im going to America in 2 weeks and Im thankful for your post.
tina wimpernverlängerung

Ruth Floresca said...

You're welcome, Tina! Wishing you well in your journey :)

NASSAH said...

Thanks a lot for the post