First Time In The USA – Immigrant Visa
Every year, more and more Filipinos emigrate to the USA. According to American FactFinder census data records, there are more than 4 million Filipinos in the US in 2016 where mostly 1 million Filipinos are living in California, a 44.5 percent increase from the year 2000.
Settling in the United States is a formidable start for everyone who is not a US citizen, and the road to get there can be long and full of pitfalls. The immigration rules are very strict, hence the importance of complying all the required documents by US immigration is very important, some people are being accompanied by a professional to the United States (especially if you are leaving with your family or with the prospect of looking for or holding a job in the United States).
Organization and preparation are the keywords for the success of your trip. Not only do you need to pack your bags, but you also need to find out about the entry formalities so that you are not surprised at the last minute. Here are our tips to help you organize your trip as well as possible.
No visa, no entry into the USA
Before you start planning your trip to the United States, you will need to check whether you need a visa. If you are the proud owner of a Philippines passport, the answer is definitely yes. You can apply at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate, but do not book a non-refundable flight until all your documents are in order and your visa has been issued. If you are a Filipina military spouse of US Armed Forces member stationed overseas, you still need to have a valid US Visa to enter the USA. Military spouses are eligible for expedited processing of a US visa for a maximum of 3 months. In addition, like many countries, the USA requires visitors to have a valid passport. If you comply with all these requirements, your trip should go smoothly.
Checklist for your suitcase: don’t forget anything!
Preparing your luggage is an exciting time, as it heralds the arrival of the big departure. But it’s also a headache because the weight is limited. Start by choosing the suitcase that best suits your expectations. It must be both strong and light. Don’t forget to check whether it has a lock that meets TSA standards. Be prepared customs will open your luggage for further inspections.
Also, pack your first-aid kit. It should contain your personal medications and a small amount of essential supplies for minor ailments.
Customs form when entering the USA
Either immediately upon boarding the plane or during the flight, the flight attendants will hand you a customs declaration from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. In addition to personal data such as name, date of birth and passport number, they will also ask you questions about your luggage. Do you import “commercial goods”? or certain food, animals or raw materials?
The form does not have to be filled out individually by each passenger, but can be submitted collectively as a family. People who have a common address are also considered to be a family. If you have filled out the form together with your companion, you can also go to the customs officer together on entry.
What exactly is allowed to enter the USA and what not? You can find out on the official Homeland Security website.
The queues on arrival
Expect long immigration line-ups once you arrive in the United States. The waiting time is sometimes longer and sometimes shorter depending on the capacity of the airport. When we were in Chicago last December 2019, for example, things went very fast for us since there is a special line for military member and their families.
Some airports offer U.S. pre-clearance. Therefore, if you travel via this destination, you will clear customs before you even arrive on U.S. soil, which can speed up the process considerably. It is not unusual to wait in lines for hours before being admitted.
To save yourself from stress, you should have all the documents the immigration officer might ask you to provide.
After that, you will go to the baggage claim. This applies both to passengers who have already reached their destination and to those who are continuing their journey.
Either you grab your baggage now (have you thought about the appropriate baggage claim?) and leave the airport or you check in your baggage again. This is very easy because you don’t have to check in again with the staff, you just have to put your luggage on another baggage belt, the Baggage Drop.
Once you have done this, you will be taken to the security checkpoint, which you will have to go through again. Only when you have passed it, you can go to your gate and hopefully wait deeply relaxed for your connecting flight.
There is no such thing as international transit
If you arrive at an airport in the United States and are in transit to a secondary destination, you will have to clear customs at that airport before you can board your next flight. Even if your bags are tagged for their final destination, make sure you have enough time in transit to clear customs, pick up your bags, recheck them and make it to your door.
Anyone who does not need to be named
Avoid making negative comments about the current Commander-in-Chief. If the subject of politics comes up with local Americans, listen, observe and learn, but do not seek a political debate. Be aware of and respectful of those around you, regardless of their opinions.