It ain’t easy being American. Not if you are trying to get a seasonal work permit in Canada. Kermit never wrote that song. Probably because the famous New Yorker was too content hanging out with celebrities to bother scheming ways to jump the border. But if our childhood friend had written a song about visas instead of a song about colours, I would be singing his tune a little more often.
Fact: It is harder for a “non-professional” American to get a seasonal work permit in Canada than an Aussie, Brit, or Kiwi. Need an example? Take a look around. How many young Americans do you see living the dream in Whistler? One? Maybe even two if you are lucky? We are a rare breed in this international town.
This was made especially clear to me during the Chamber of Commerce’s Spirit orientation meeting last fall, where I was the only American in a room full of more than 300 people. Most of the foreign workers at the meeting were from Australia, Britain, New Zealand and Japan. There were a couple of people from Sweden, France and even Brazil. But as far as those from the country next door, I was the only representative.
So why are there no American seasonal workers in Whistler? One explanation is that when Americans decide to go to another country, they go somewhere truly foreign. They jet set to Australia, Argentina, or Spain. Why bother going through all that paperwork to end up some place that looks eerily like home?
But I don’t think that is the full story. After all, the great American road trip from east coast to west coast is still popular, so we are definitely into travelling to nearby destinations. And we like to ski, snowboard and have fun. And, with the U.S. dollar so low, I am sure most twenty-something Americans aren't too opposed to living across the 49th parallel and earning Canadian bucks.
If you ask me, it is because getting across that border — and then staying across that border — is so damn difficult.
I speak from experience, after almost six years of trying to weasel my way into the Canadian work force. I’ve been successful (the fact that I am writing for a Canadian publication spells that out), but it has not been an easy road.
Work visas into Canada — and most countries — are generally difficult to acquire, but for those lucky Australians, English, New Zealanders and French, access to Whistler is made possible through the working holiday visa. This all-inclusive visa is available to anyone aged 18 to 30, and allows holders to work anywhere in Canada for up to two years.