Living In The U.S.

Get familiar with some challenges you may face during your time in the U.S. - from Social Security info to traveling home for Christmas.

After applying for an internship in late April, the day has finally come for me to relocate to California for the next year. The last weeks and months have been a back and forth with the host company and the sponsor, filling out documents and waiting, a lot of waiting. The waiting part was a little stressful, as my timeline was a little tight. I finished my studies of interior architecture the end of last September and thus was only eligible for the exchange Programm until end of September.

My starting date at the architectural firm Woods + Dangaran is now set for September 19th and I am overly excited about it. However, I am also a little anxious. I spent the last 12 months travelling, surfing and skating through Central and North America, just going with the flow and living in the moment. What will it feel like to have a 9-6 schedule and hold responsibility for more than myself?

I took this break intentionally after completing my degree in interior architecture. The three years of study were fun and fulfilling, but also quite stressful. By taking a break for travelling I was hoping to get some new perspectives, become more independent and develop my personality. Before adding a masters degree to my studies, I am now excited to gain some more practical experience and further develop my taste and skills as an interior designer by completing this internship in Los Angeles.

I am very grateful for the support Architecht-US has provided me with during this process. However, there have also been some challenges along the way. I found the document names and numbers quite confusing, some are very similar, but not the same. Thankfully Sonia was always there to help me and is quick to respond :-) There is quite a bit of differing information out there on the internet, for example regarding what documents to bring to the embassy interview. I was worried about missing something and brought more documents than I needed to the interview. So in retrospect, I would say „Just trust Sonia and bring everything that’s shipped to you via FedEx before the appointment. The interview itself was so quick, I couldn’t believe it. I was so happy to get my visa stamp and immediately booked my flight to LA. I wish I had been more patient, though. The officer at the embassy told me it would take one week for me to get my passport back. As I am writing this blog post, it has been two weeks already and I am waiting for UPS to deliver it today. Fingers crossed, that I can fly to LA tomorrow to start my adventure ;-) [activecampaign form=266]
Having medical care and insurance is very important when it comes to living in the United States. As some of you may or may not know, any sort of procedure or medical appointment during your stay can come out to be costly. So, it is important that you have the necessary insurance that will cover you during your work period abroad.  In the case that you were wondering, Architect-US provides accident and sickness insurance for the entire length of the program with the Global Benefits Group. While some host companies may provide you with an insurance of their own, you can rest assured that we will provide you with one as well. Helping you avoid having to pay extra for basic coverages that may end up being very expensive. Our program has been specifically designed to help you as much as possible during your stay and to meet the criteria that will give you a safe and rewarding experience. As such, you will be provided with 24/7 medical support available in different languages in the case of any medical emergency. The US requires that all J1 Visa holders have medical insurance. That also applies to your accompanying spouses and/or children. Also, as a requirement by the US Department of State, the minimum j1 Visa health insurance plan must meet medical benefits of at least $100,000 per accident or illness and a deductible not to exceed $500 per accident or illness. In the case that you have any  other questions about your Health Insurance you can always reach out to one of our team members or take a look at the GBG website for more in depth detail. You can also take a look at their brochure that explains the key benefits or their health coverage plan. [activecampaign form=274]
As architects and designers, we know just how important it is to have a desktop or laptop that can handle the software that we use on a daily basis. It can be very stressful to be working on a render or any type of project and your computer gets stuck, or even worse, is not capable to handle the model at all. Nowadays, probably one of the preferred computers for architects is a laptop.  It gives us the ability to take all of the hardware with us and allows us to move instantly from home or the studio and get right back to working on the project. There is of course that compromise of mobility and the computer’s capacity, which is something that you have to think about, but you should also know that most laptops out there are just as powerful as desktops. If you find yourself working in the studio all the time, a desktop will work just fine, but if you are one of the architects that have to move around a lot you might have to consider a laptop. Our team at Architect-US has put together a list of some of the best laptops out there in the market that you should look into when buying your next workstation. 1. HP ZBKOOK 17 G5. This computer has been described as the most powerful laptop. It has just as much power as any desktop out there and it is able to run multiple high-demand programs at once. It includes professional graphics by NVDIA P5200 and will give you the necessary power to work and present architectural models with incredible clarity and outstanding rendering qualities. 2. Levono ThinkPadP1. A great choice for architects on the go. This laptop is know for its thin and light design and will work with the software you need just as well as its competition. It has 32GB of RAM, NVDIA Quadro P2000 graphics and 2TB of storage, giving you the juice you need as a designer. 3. MSI WS65 Mobile Workstation. A great choice for any architect looking for a computer with a balance in power and weight. While this specific laptop may be slightly heavier than some of the competition, they have added superior graphics and a 8th Generation Intel Core I9 Processor to give you that edge. This computer has also been optimized to run different applications by Autodesk and Adobe. 4. Microsoft Surface Laptop 2. If you are someone that enjoys having a touchscreen then this is the laptop for you. The Microsoft Surface 2 Laptop allows you to use the interactive touchscreen display for intuitive control in your design applications. Equipped with 16GB of RAM, an 8th Gen Intel Core i5 or i7 processor and up to 1TB SSD, this laptop is built to handle demanding architectural software like Revit, 3ds Max and Rhino. 5. Lenovo Thinkpad P50. If you decide to go for this particular one you should know that its best feature is that it is designed to deliver for architects that are specializing in architectural visualization. It has a bigger cache size for faster modeling and drafting and it includes a error correcting tool that benefits complicated renderings. 6. ASUS VivoBook S. The good thing about this laptop is that if you are looking to spend a little less money in your computer while still getting all the necessary power you need to run the software, you will also get a quality computer that is low in weight and thickness. It has VivoBook S’s Intel Core i7 7500U CPU and it certainly lives up to the expectations of the higher-end competitors. We have received questions from architects in the past on our opinion for the best computer out there. While these are some of the most powerful and “up to the task” computers out there at the moment, there are several others that will also handle the work that you need. It is just important that you take into consideration the investment that you want to make in your computer, and also that you think about the different specs that you need to get the most out of your workstation. Make sure that you read up on what the CPU, GPU, RAM, and the different types of screen sizes and resolutions. [activecampaign form=260]
The Architect-US J1 and Job+J1 Visa programs are a great opportunity for international architects to pursue an internship or trainee position in some of the top architectural firms in the United States. If you have been dreaming about an opportunity to work in the U.S., this program is a great opportunity for you to do so in the least amount possible and with all the help you can get so that all of the aspects of a difficult visa process essentially become stress-free and easy to accomplish. The team at Architect-US will guide you along the way, and in this post has outlined just five of the many ways in which they know you will benefit from this exchange program: 1. Learn about U.S. history and culture Possibly one of the most important aspects of this program -apart from the offered position- is that it will give you the opportunity to integrate yourself into the local culture of that city. You will be able to experience first hand what people in the city are like, the vast variety of cultures in metropolitan cities of the U.S., local and international foods, and learn from the different cultures activities that will teach you all about the history of the city and the U.S. 2. Wage All positions offered to candidates participating in the Architect-US program are compensated according to the set minimum wages of each State and according to your academic background and years of experience. It will also give you an opportunity to earn money that you will be able to save for your future endeavors and travels. 3. Friendships and Networking Big cities in the U.S. are heavily populated and have a wide variety of different cultures and people that you can learn from. During this experience you will be able to meet locals and people from different parts of the world giving you the opportunity to form strong bonds and hopefully future career opportunities. You will be able to attend different networking events offered by your Host Company and ones organized by the city that will grow your personal and professional connections. 4. Professional and Personal Development This opportunity will boost your career in many ways as it will give you a platform to enhance your Portfolio and CV. You will also be able to learn from some of the world’s most prestigious organizations and top leading companies and apply that knowledge into your future in the profession. As you will go to the U.S on your own, you will also have to find ways to tackle daily aspects of your life independently, helping you build self-confidence and self-esteem. Architect-US offers you access to one of the most competitive markets out there and will provide you with an experience and values that will impulse your international career. This will become a truly memorable, and life changing experience, so what are you waiting for? [activecampaign form=258]
Most of us believe that dreams don't exactly come true. Especially when we start adulting... It is easy to let go and see them exactly as they are: just dreams. During lockdown, I was faced with employment and a big crisis in the construction sector in Portugal. Which made me wake up an old dream of mine: to live in the US. I am going to be very honest, after passing my 30s I was feeling too old to go on an adventure like that. But why not try? After a quick search, I found a post on Archdaily talking about Architect-US and how they help, not only with the visa but also with finding a suitable studio to work in. It made me excited and relieved knowing I had this help. Understanding it was possible, I took a year and a half doing architecture competitions, learning Revit and BIM methodologies, and working on my portfolio before applying. I am very focused on what I wanted! So, it took me a while to find a place to work. Not because of Architect-US, I am just a very stubborn person. I wanted to go to LA and work as an interior designer or do housing projects. Which I knew would be difficult but not impossible, especially when I was not in a rush! I didn’t do many interviews, but I was always successful! It never took me much time to prepare, I mainly studied their projects and wrote down some questions that pop-up in my head, and that's all. Started every interview just by being myself, I wasn’t even taking them too seriously, for me was like an interesting conversation. (maybe not the best advice, but it worked out for me) Now, I actually made my dream into reality! Can't find words to express all the support I got from Architect-US and how understanding they were of what I wanted for my future. Soon I am leaving for this new adventure. I am afraid, and that's ok, but I am also super excited! [activecampaign form=266]
This are some examples of projects I was working here in the US: HOSPITALITY: I worked on the Hyatt Hotel, a big project , all the architecture part and interior design part of 2 building with 8 floors.Is one of the bigger projects I was working on in the US. At the beginning I was doing the design part for all the common spaces. All the concepts and ideas for the host desk, business center, restaurant, bar, meeting and gathering room. The theme of the concept was Seattle/ pacific northwest/ Natural beauty. I worked also in the carpet design, really interesting too!   COMMERCIAL: Dong Ting Chun Restaurant, is a Chinese restaurant. I worked on all the design of the restaurant. The design reflects the love of good design and passion for food. Took cue for their interiors from the Dongting Lake landscape, colors and textures from a fishing zone.Casual noodle shop that specializes in traditional Hunan noodles cuisine with industrial style.
The industrial metal look and concrete finish allows the restaurant to blend harmoniously with its surrounding neighborhood.
RESIDENCIAL Cascade Key 88 house
Color and texture inspirations are taken from NORTHWEST REGIONAL STYLE, intentional design choices that best suit the environment of the house being constructed to taking advantage of phenomenal views of all of the natural beauty that the this property offer. Use of locally harvested wood, stone, natural materials and soft color palette helps the
home meld into its environment.
On the website of the Studio 19 you can see the projects!
We encourage you to live out your American Dream to the fullest, but ending the program is not a problem as long as you have a good reason for doing so. You will have to sign a early program termination letter (which we will send you) and you have to let your Host Company know of your decision at least two weeks in advance.
The participants need to contact straight away their national embassy or consulate in the U.S. to request scheduling an appointment in order to get issued a new passport. The J1 Visa stamp has to be renewed only if the participant will travel internationally and will need to re-enter the United States of America. Please contact us if this is the case, so we can help you.
The Intern / Trainee has to apply for the Social Security Number at the nearest Social Security Office with their passport, DS-2019 form  and an the Employer Letter (which we will send you). However you will get more detailed information on the steps to doing it right before going to the U.S. in the Pre-Departure Orientation Session by Architect-US and ASSE.
Yes. If you have taken part in a J1 Visa program before (or have an SSN from before for another reason), the Social Security Number you were was issued has a lifetime validity. Therefore, there is no need to apply for a new card.
There is no issue to change addresses during the Program but you must report any change of address within 3 days. Further instructions will be included in the Pre-Departure Orientation Session that we will provide you with before your arrival in the USA.
It is mandatory to keep your contact information up-to-date and accurate as this is Department of State law and you risk immediate repatriation and other penalties if you do not comply. Therefore, it is a requirement for all participants to complete a monthly check-in every 30 days during the Program.
One of the biggest challenges finding an affordable place to live in U.S., but it is not imposible. You can search on the Internet, you can ask your Host Company for suggestions or you can contact an Agency. We will add you to the Architect-US participants chat so the rest of the community can give you some advise as well. Either way, you need to take into consideration factors such as safety, price, convenient transportation to the office and distance from it. We provide helpful information on this and other topics in our BLOG.
If you wish to travel outside of the U.S., Mexico, and Canada during your Internship / Training, you must obtain a travel validation through our partner ASSE and you cannot be out of the country for more than two weeks (in total) for the duration of the Program. For more information, please write your Program Advisor.
Yes, if your Host Company proposes you stay longer than the originally established end date, you may apply for J1 visa extension, which will be approved up to the maximum length permitted for your category (J1 Intern - 12 months, J1 Trainee - 18 months). For example, if you are a YTainee and got an offer from an American company for a 6-month program but after starting there they like you and ask you to stay for as long as possible, you could extend the program for an additional year (so the final program length is 18 months).
You must leave the U.S. within 30 days of the end of your Internship / Training  Exchange Visitor Program. It is not recommended to travel outside of US (including Mexico and Canada) during the 30-day Grace Period (read more about it HERE).
No, you are forbidden to have any other source of income in the USA while on your J1 Exchange Visitor Program. The J1 Visa is issued only and specifically for your approved Internship / Training Program. If you have any other working activities besides your sponsored Internship / Training, you are violating the visa regulations, which means immediate visa and program termination, along with other penalties applied.
We do not encourage Host Company Transfers and allow them only in extreme cases. You may change Host Company only if there are serious reasons for it (if you are not getting paid as established in the Training/Internship Placement Plan, the environment is unsafe, the agreed learn goals are violated, etc). In this case, the participant must contact their Program Advisor at Architect-US immediately, and the case will be reviewed in detail.