Jobs in hospitality are ideal for those wishing to work away for a few months over the summer. University students can spend their long summer holiday working in the US on the J1 Work and Travel visa, and seasonal resorts are great places to look for short-term jobs. If you find your own job, you will have to go through an agency such as BUNAC or CCUSA to get your visa. However, these agencies can also help you find the summer job of your dreams. Each year BUNAC produces a Job Directory which lists hundreds of available positions, and most of these jobs are hospitality-based. If you think Disney is the epitome of American hospitality and you want to spend your summer there, then Yummy Jobs, a working partner for The Walt Disney World Company, are the people to talk to!
Tom Matthews, a student from Leicester, applied to BUNAC’s Work America Programme. He spent his summer working at Morey’s Piers, a large resort in New Jersey which has water parks and amusement piers. Working as a family activities coordinator, he spent 6 days a week organising games and activities. Tom says he loved living so close to the beach and getting free entrance to all of the parks. In contrast, James Cranshaw took a break from his studies at Lancaster University to work at a high-class Country Club in Peoria. Initially hired as a server in the Club’s dining rooms, over the course of the summer he was able to gain experience in a whole range of areas of hospitality, including events management.
It is also possible to work in the USA on an H2B Visa. This is specifically for seasonal employment, so obviously works for fixed-term hospitality jobs. The company needs government approval to hire international workers, but most larger resorts or hotel chains have this. Each will probably have their own visa filing agency, and costs are likely to be around $500. However, H2B visas are much more difficult to obtain than J1 visas. The US government puts a cap on the number of these visas issued each year, and priority will go to those already in the country trying to extend or renew their existing visa, so availability is very limited.
When applying for a job, one of the most important things to know is how much you will get paid! Entry-level positions tend to pay around $8-9 per hour, but this can vary according to the cost of living and the minimum wage in each state. It is typical to work 40 hours per week, but in peak seasons you may be able to work overtime as well. Jobs where you normally receive tips (such as bellmen or servers) or sale commissions (such as retail or reservations) will often pay less to reflect this. Housekeeping can be one of the more highly paid jobs available, as you could get an hourly wage as well as money for the piecework you do.
However, when working in hospitality, money is not necessarily the only thing you earn! Other perks are often included to sweeten the deal: you could have access to pools and fitness centres or discounted food and merchandise; if working in a restaurant, you could have meals provided; in a hotel, discounted rooms for friends and family to visit; at a ski resort, free or discounted lift passes; or at a summer resort, entry to amusements or water parks. The list is endless!
Getting paid to spend time abroad and take advantage of lots of benefits is great, but do not forget that getting a visa is not cheap, and you will have to pay an agency to help process it for you. As well as agency fees, other expenses stack up. Flight costs, insurance (usually a requirement before you can apply for a visa), US Embassy interview fees (currently around $131), SEVIS fees for any J1 visa (the amount will depend on the type of J1), and you should budget to have enough money to support yourself before your first pay cheque. Housing will always be a major expense, but many employers will provide discounted employee housing. When choosing which recruiter or agency to apply through, it is a good idea to check exactly what, if any, costs are included in their fees. It is also crucial to allow plenty of time for your visa to be processed to avoid having to change your start date because of tiresome paperwork delays.
When choosing where to work in America, it is important to consider what kind of experience you are looking for. Many people think that Disney-esque amusement parks are about as American as you get, but cities offer a different taste of life in the USA. Many more rural locations can give you a unique American experience: James said he chose to work in Peoria as it prides itself on being “the most average town in America.” Jamie Hamp said: “The people living in more rural areas will still have that pioneering spirit and passion for the outdoors, so if you are looking for a real Western adventure, the mountains of Montana are ideal.”