Foreign workers frustrated with job search 

Work visa process, paperwork scares off Whistler employers

By Vivian Moreau

You would think Whistler hoteliers would be lining up to hire Jorge Mendoza, a bilingual UBC commerce grad with marketing and international business specializations. But of the 150 applications he made to Whistler employers between April and June this year Mendoza received only one job offer.

Mendoza, 23, a citizen of Mexico, does not have a work visa. But as a recent graduate from a Canadian university he can apply for a post-graduation work permit, a process that takes 54 days but one for which Whistler hoteliers didn’t seem willing to wait.

“When I went for interviews at the major hotels they asked me if I had a work visa and when I said no they said our policy is not to sponsor anyone. Or, we’re not going to be able to wait for you,” he said.

Mendoza said interviewers wouldn’t give him a chance to explain that with a letter of support he could be working for them in under two months.

Oregon resident Rain Amrais didn’t even get as far as applying. Housesitting her brother’s Whistler home this year, the university grad, who has worked primarily in the semi-conductor industry, thought she could support herself with part-time housekeeping work in Whistler.

“Everywhere there were help wanted signs and I thought how hard can it be to get a work permit if there is that much need?”

But when she looked at regulations for working holiday visas she discovered the age limit is 30. Amrais is 37.

Applying for a regular work permit from Immigration Canada involves receiving an offer of employment with documentation from the employer that the offer is not taking work from Canadians.

“None of the employers that I talked to were willing to do that. They were looking for kids that came in on a work program,” she said.

Amrais is coming back to Whistler this weekend to experience her first real winter in 14 years. She won’t look for work but will instead live off savings.

Westin spokesperson Monica Hayes says sponsoring out of country applicants for work visas involves a mountain of paperwork.

“For us to help them get a work permit, even with a letter of support, we have to then go and say we have no one to fulfill that position who’s currently Canadian, and the paperwork to do that doesn’t make sense to expend that kind of energy,” Hayes said. She contends that it’s better to focus on lobbying the government to extend work visas from one year to 18 or 24 months to keep staff and maintain continuity.

Whistler businessman Scott Carrel echoes her opinion.

“I don’t know of anyone (in Whistler) that has been successful being sponsored. It’s quite a bureaucratic process to actually sponsor somebody. Seems to me the only way in at this point is to nanny or marry.”

Mendoza didn’t have to do either — he found work as a front desk customer agent with ResortQuest, who were willing to offer a letter of support and wait for bureaucratic wheels to turn.

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