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Work at a Ski Area
As popular as you might think working at a ski resort is, nearly every American ski resort depends on foreign workers to complement their American workforce. Resorts will hire workers from other countries for a number of reasons that include difficulty with finding an adequate number of domestic workers and enhancing the quality of guest experiences with foreign-certified employees. An example is the ski school instructor. Large American ski resorts depend on a minimum number of fully certified instructors to fill their staff requirements. Faced with a shortage of certified American instructors, resorts hire from Europe, South America and Australia. A number of American resorts even have reciprocal relationships with other ski resorts in the southern hemisphere, allowing ski instructors to teach almost all year round.
According to current standards, all American companies (and not just ski resorts) can employ up to 66,000 foreign workers per year. Broken down into two six month periods of 33,000 each, workers qualify for American employment through a number of programs and typically enter the United States on either H-2B or J-1 visas.
People interested in working at American resorts must adhere to the following basic prerequisites:
The most common type of visa used by foreign ski resort workers is the H-2B visa. H-2B visas are issued to foreign workers who come into the United States to work a specific job. The visa process is usually initiated by the sponsoring resort. They file all of the applications and necessary paperwork, saving the applicant thousands of dollars. And, because of the urgency of seasonal work, the resort may also pay for "premium" processing services that enable a company to complete nearly all of the requirements in just a few weeks time instead of months.
Foreign workers entering the United States to work can stay in the United States for up to 10 months - usually 6 months for work and an additional 3 or 4 months for travel before returning to their home country. Unlike other types of visas, workers with H-2B visas may change jobs without penalty, as long as they stay employed.
Workers entering the United States on H-2B visas may also bring their significant others and dependents. However, the dependents and children cannot work while in the United States. Now, regarding pay and benefits there's good news and bad news.
The good news is that workers hired by American resorts with H-2B visas are guaranteed a minimum amount of work throughout the season at the same rate of pay as their American counterparts. If they have advanced certifications or other specific qualifications, they are compensated for them the same as an American employee. Sponsoring resorts will usually assist the foreign worker with employee housing, healthcare benefits, transportation and other help designed to make the transition easier. The bad news is that foreign workers must pay income taxes at the same rate as American workers even though they are not permanent residents of the United States.
A smaller number of foreign workers enter the United States to work with a J-1 visa. J-1 visas are often called "student visas" and are designed to offer foreign students the opportunity to work in the United States during academic breaks to acquire unique employment experiences that they wouldn't otherwise get in their home country. Students entering the United States with J-1 visas are limited to a 4 month stay, cannot change jobs and are required to return to their academic institution at the end of the 4 month period. Most American ski resorts are reluctant to hire students with J-1 visas because they are required to return to school for classes at a time when the American resort needs them the most - during Spring breaks and the Easter holidays.
The best way to qualify for either an H-2B or J-1 visa is to start early - usually 6 to 9 months before the season you want to work. Contact the Human Resources department of the resort that interests you or visit their website for information about how to complete the visa application process. If the resort is interested in hiring you, they will complete all of the paperwork and contact you when the appropriate time comes. After you arrive, they will assist you with all of the requisite documents, including a social security card and help you find a place to live before starting work.
Living in a Ski Town >>> (A Day in the Life)