Your U.S. Arrival: What to Expect and How to Prepare

May 2, 2022

Below is a recap of our recent Facebook Live event, where we met with 7 of our global ambassadors and asked them questions about the logistics of starting work in a new country.

Our Global Ambassador program is comprised of PassportUSA healthcare professionals who are passionate about helping other international nurses in their journey to the U.S., while ensuring they have a great experience with the PassportUSA program.

Pre-Deployment Travel

What are the essentials to bring from home country and what should they just buy upon arrival?

According to the global ambassadors, one of the most important things they tried to bring from home was their favorite food. While they will obviously have access to grocery stores during their time in the US, bringing some selections of food native to their own regions helped them ward off homesickness. This is especially important if traveling with children, who will no doubt be pickier eaters and may have a hard time adjusting to U.S. food products.

However, it’s important to remember that U.S. Customs has strict requirements in terms of bringing in food from oversees. For example, meat products are typically restricted, whether they are packaged or not. Additionally, you must declare all food products before going through customs, or risk fines up to $10,000.

Apart from food, there was a consensus amongst the global ambassadors to bring all prescription and over-the-counter medications. Typically, you are allowed to bring 3-month’s worth of prescription medications, with the intention being that you would connect with a healthcare practice here and resume your prescriptions with a U.S based doctor.

Connecting with your arrival ambassador before departing your home country is always encouraged, as they can tell you what the average climate is and what attire would be most appropriate.

For those with dependents, spouses and children, what are the most important things to prepare for the move?

One of the most important things that all the global ambassadors agreed upon was school-related documentation for their children. It’s especially important to have your child’s transcript ready to present to their new U.S, based school, in addition to their vaccine records.

All U.S. schools will require these documents before your child will be able to enroll, so it’s imperative to come prepared. Staying organized and coordinating with your travel ambassador was also mentioned by the group, as this will help you stay accountable and ensure you don’t forget anything.

Ensuring that they had enough over-the-counter medications that their children were comfortable taking was also at the top of everyone’s list. Many children are sensitive to weather and climate-related changes, which could sometimes cause colds and allergies.

In addition to the above, the panel of global ambassadors agreed that practicing mask-wearing with their children was helpful. Many countries are not as strict with mast-wearing as the U.S. is, so it’s important to get your child prepared.

How much luggage did you bring for each dependent?

While this answer varied amongst the global ambassadors, the overwhelming consensus was to check with the airline first. The last thing anybody wants is to pay for overweight luggage or too many bags, so each ambassador expressed the need to check that airline’s specific policy.

Another piece of advice was to make a list beforehand and ensure you have what you need for 5 days without going to any stores. This will help limit the amount of things you try and pack, freeing up space for the essentials.

One of the ambassadors who had lived in the Philippines was placed in South Dakota, a U.S. state that sees cold temperatures and snow for a large portion of the year. In order to make some money and buy appropriate clothing upon arrival in the U.S., this ambassador held a garage sale before leaving. Not only did she generate some income, but she freed up space in her luggage.

What are some items you brought that you found to be cheaper to buy in the US?

All of the ambassadors agreed that food items are actually cheaper here, and there is much more variety. While they did bring some of their authentic food from back home, grocery stores are abundant in the US. When considering to bring food, it’s important to review the U.S. Transportation Security Administration’s rules and regulations on how to declare food products and what is completely off-limits.

Did anyone travel with a pet? What was it like?

Many of the ambassadors did not travel with a pet, mainly because it was too expensive and an extra worry that they did not want to take on. Moving to a new country and relocating is difficult in and of itself, so adding a pet to that equation proved to be too much.

However, if you are planning on traveling with a pet, PassportUSA will work with pet shipping companies on your behalf. It’s important to make sure the pet is up-to-date on all vaccinations, and you need to accept the fact that some apartment buildings will not allow pets. This may limit your housing search, or cause you to increase the amount of rent you are paying.  

Did you find researching the weather prior was helpful to prepare?

The answer to this was a resounding “yes” amongst the global ambassadors. The average climate and temperature of their new home guided what types of clothes they should pack. Many of the global ambassadors are coming from the Philippines or Saudi Arabi, climates that much warmer than what they will experience in the U.S. Selling some of their clothes and buying more winter attire was needed.

It will definitely take a full year to build up your new wardrobe. Understanding how the temperature and climate fluctuates with each season will guide you as you add pieces to your closet.

How far in advance did you convert your currency into US dollars?

Many of the global ambassadors converted their currency a month prior to departing their home country. While it does depend on how much are you bringing, the consensus was to plan this out early.

They also raised a good point that credit and debit cards are more secure than case (if it is a card that is internationally accepted). However, it’s important to let the credit card companies know that you are going to the US, so your card won’t be blocked for suspected fraudulent spending.


• Was it difficult to get a driver’s license?

While the process itself wasn’t necessarily difficult, all of the global ambassadors agreed that driving in the US is very different than driving in their home country. It’s important to read up on the US-specific rules before taking the exams.

Firstly, a written exam is required, followed by a driving exam. PassportUSA will give you $400 through your IDA that you can use to schedule driving lessons. It’s also important to plan ahead and learn of the different state requirements for getting a license.

As a word of caution, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, driving lessons and exam appointments are a bit more difficult to schedule. Keep that in mind and plan accordingly, perhaps relying more on public transportation before you can get your own car.

Timeline for the payment for the IAS car purchase – when will this start?

Although this largely depends on the type of car you get and when, the global ambassadors noted that they had plenty of time to make their first installment. One of the ambassadors had to wait 5 months for the car to actually get delivered, largely due to supply chain issues related to COVID. However, her first payment wasn’t due until 6 weeks after it was delivered, giving enough time to save up.

• Do you feel like it is important to have your own vehicle in the US?

The overwhelming answer: YES. The US is a driving country, and many things are not walking distance. Although major cities like New York and Los Angeles have robust public transportation systems, some of the more rural areas do not. It’s a necessity to have a car and license upon arriving to the US.

Clinical Preparedness

What’s a good place to get scrubs if not provided?

Many of the ambassadors purchased their scrubs from Walmart, Amazon or Scrubs and Beyond. PassportUSA also gives you $400 for scrubs and uniform related clothing. All the ambassadors agreed that you shouldn’t go for the cheap materials either. You are going to be in your scrubs for most of the day, so its important that you feel comfortable and confident.

Your arrivals team will send you specific information about your hospital or healthcare facility before you arrive as it relates to this, because many places require specific color scrubs. However, it is still encouraged to never skimp on your daily attire, including your shoes and compression socks.

• Is the pace of work similar to your hospital from your home country?

Many of the global ambassadors had to readjust the way that they may normally work so that they were following US hospital procedure. While this wasn’t a drastic contrast to how they worked before, it definitely took some adapting.

Additionally, there is an overwhelming sense of pressure when you first start. Everything and everyone is new, most of the information you need is digitized, and some of the medical tools are different. However, all of the ambassadors agreed that the orientation was excellent and there would always be people there to help you. While it may take some time to adjust, once you do, it feels like business as normal.

• How was your experience during the orientation? Did you use the full 8 weeks or more for orientation? Did you feel prepared enough after orientation?

All of the global ambassadors agreed that you need to use the full 8 weeks of orientation, despite how much experience you may have from your home country. The orientation can only help, and it’s important to take advantage of it.

Once orientation is over, they also noted that you are still never by yourself and just thrust into a new work environment. You will have a support system to guide you through the next few weeks, as you transition our of orientation. It’s also important to ask for help when you need it. Eventually, you will learn how everything works and what is needed, but asking for help is most certainly encouraged.

• What clinical tips do you have for adjusting to work as a US RN?

While this largely depends on the hospital and your prior experience, all of the global ambassadors agreed that utilizing the resources available to you is a necessity for providing efficient care. A point was also made that the basics of nursing do not change just because you changed location. While the hospital setting may be different, relying on your own knowledge and asking for help when needed are the most important things necessary to adjusting to life as a US RN.

Family Members

• For kids was it difficult to get them enrolled into school?

While it wasn’t difficult to enroll their children into school, the global ambassadors did note that you need to be cognizant of your house/apartment search as it relates to school districts. You want to make sure your child is in a good district that offers school buses, as transporting a child to and from school will be nearly impossible given work schedules.

It’s also important to plan early and ensure you have all the necessary vaccine and school transcript records. These will be needed before you child can enroll.

All of the ambassadors agreed that schooling is excellent in the US, whether it be public or private. While starting a new life in the US is a scary thing, it’s comforting to know that your child will be looked out for and given an exceptional education.

Meet the PassportUSA Global Ambassadors:

Aida, RN -
  • Country of Origin: Belize
  • Improving Lives In: North Carolina
Alta Grace, RN -
  • Country of Origin: Philippines
  • Improving Lives In: Oklahoma
Ambika, RN -
  • Country of Origin: Nepal
  • Improving Lives In: Texas
Cathrene, RN -
  • Country of Origin: Zimbabwe
  • Improving Lives In: Minnesota
Guada, RN -
  • Country of Origin: Philippines
  • Improving Lives In: South Dakota
Mary, RN -
  • Country of Origin: Philippines
  • Improving Lives In: North Dakota
Ron, RN -
  • Country of Origin: Philippines
  • Improving Lives In: South Carolina

Our Global Ambassadors preparing to go LIVE on Facebook with the support of our CEO, John Sebastian, Board Chairman, Bill DeVille and COO, Erik Schumann
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