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Q&A: Kelvin Kettelsen discusses international recruitment and the TN visa in the United States 

Kelvin Kettelsen is an entrepreneur and consultant focused on helping international talent find employment and secure a TN Visa in the United States.
Kelvin Kettlesen is an expert on global hiring and the TN Visa in the United States

We recently had the chance to speak with Kelvin Kettelsen, an entrepreneur and consultant with extensive experience in international recruiting, immigration, and staffing in the United States.

After spending several years working with major corporations, with a heavy focus on business development and operations, Kettelsen began his entrepreneurial journey and today occupies senior roles with three companies he helped found.

They include TN Visa Advisors, a company dedicated to supporting professionals during the application process for a TN Visa in the United States, for which he is currently a partner and consultant.

He also serves as president of Panyeah, a company dedicated to providing employer of record (EOR) services in the United States, and also runs his own consulting firm Kettlesen Consulting, focused on helping companies improve their business operations.

Here’s what he had to say: 

1) How did you end up as an entrepreneur working in the international hiring space? 

My path was both intentional and serendipitous. Working in prestigious firms like EY, J.P. Morgan, Accuity/Fircosoft, and Mastercard, I had the opportunity to immerse myself in various financial and business roles while also experiencing firsthand the challenges and processes related to work visas as a non-U.S. citizen. Engaging with these bureaucratic intricacies made me aware of the hurdles international professionals face in securing employment in the United States. 

This recognition was coupled with my observation of the disparate ways companies managed their HR and payroll for international employees. Witnessing these challenges and armed with a solid understanding of both the corporate and immigration landscapes, I identified a significant gap in the market for specialized services facilitating international hiring and immigration. 

With my educational foundation and practical exposure, the decision to start my own venture seemed both logical and exciting. I believed there was a need for a service that could streamline and demystify the immigration and hiring process for both employers and prospective employees from around the world. This laid the groundwork for my entrepreneurial journey, leading to the inception of companies dedicated to immigration, recruiting, and staffing solutions designed to support and guide individuals and corporations through the labyrinth of international employment. 

2) What are the main differences between the TN visa and other common work visas? 

The TN visa is specifically designed for citizens of Canada and Mexico under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), previously known as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Here are the primary distinctions between the TN and other common work visas: 

Kettelsen is a partner at TN Visa Advisors

Eligibility: The TN is exclusively available to Canadian and Mexican citizens, while other visas, like the H-1B, are open to nationals from any country. 

Professions list: Applicants for the TN visa must work in a profession listed under the USMCA, which primarily includes jobs in the sciences, arts, and business. In contrast, the H-1B visa is available for specialized occupations that require at least a bachelor’s degree. 

Application process: Canadians can apply for the TN visa at the border or a pre-flight inspection station, receiving immediate approval. Mexicans and other visa applicants typically must go through consulates or embassies, which can be a longer process. 

Duration & Extensions: For Mexican citizens (designated TN2), the TN visa can possess a validity of either one or four years, with the option for indefinite extensions in three-year increments, provided the applicant persistently satisfies the requisite criteria. In contrast, Canadian citizens (designated TN1) can obtain the TN visa with up to three years of initial validity, also extendable indefinitely in three-year increments under continued compliance with requirements. This structure contrasts with other visas such as the H-1B, which comes with an inherent six-year cap, albeit with possibilities for extension under particular conditions. 

Dual intent: TN visas are non-immigrant visas and do not recognize “dual intent,” meaning holders should intend to seek permanent residency while on a TN visa. In contrast, some other visas, like the H-1B, do allow for dual intent. 

3) Are there any emerging industries or job roles that are particularly suitable for the TN visa category? 

Absolutely! With the burgeoning technological and health sectors, several professions within these industries have found an excellent match with the TN visa category. 

Technology and IT: With the rapid advancements and a growing need for skilled professionals, roles such as software engineers, data scientists, and IT consultants are in high demand. The TN visa is becoming increasingly popular among individuals with expertise in these areas as it facilitates smoother entry into the US market. 

Healthcare: Given ths ever-growing industry, there’s a consistent demand for healthcare professionals, including registered nurses, pharmacists, and medical technologists. The TN visa supports qualified individuals from Canada and Mexico in these roles, who are willing to contribute to the U.S. healthcare system. 

Consulting: Management and strategy consultants, particularly those with a focus on emerging fields like digital transformation, sustainability, and healthcare, also find the TN visa to be well-suited for their career paths. 

Agriculture and farming: The agriculture sector is fundamental to the economy, and there is a continual need for expertise in agronomy, soil science, and plant breeding. Professionals such as agricultural scientists, agronomists, and agricultural consultants from Mexico and Canada can leverage the TN visa to explore opportunities within the dynamic and diverse U.S. agricultural sector. 

Hospitality and hotel management: With the U.S. being a prime destination for tourism and business, the hospitality industry is robust. Positions like hotel managers, event coordinators, and food and beverage managers are crucial. Individuals with a background in hospitality management from accredited institutions and relevant work experience can consider the TN visa as a viable entry point into the U.S. hospitality landscape. 

Engineering: The U.S. has always been at the forefront of engineering innovation, offering a wide array of opportunities across various engineering disciplines. Whether it’s civil, mechanical, electrical, or chemical engineering, professionals with degrees and experience in these fields can utilize the TN visa to engage with cutting-edge projects and initiatives in the American engineering sector. 

It’s imperative to align one’s qualifications and experience with the professions listed under the USMCA to successfully apply for the TN visa. For individuals in farming, hospitality, and engineering looking to carve a niche for themselves in the U.S. market, the TN visa can be an excellent facilitator, and my companies are here to assist in making this transition as seamless as possible. 

4) What common problems do workers face in requesting visas and how can they overcome these? 

Applicants frequently encounter several challenges during the visa application process. One prevalent issue, especially for Mexican applicants, is the significant amount of time it takes to secure immigration appointments. The long wait times can be daunting and often hinder the timely progression of individuals’ plans to work in the U.S.  

Another common obstacle is visa denial. It’s disconcerting for applicants when immigration officers deny their visa applications without providing clear and detailed explanations for the rejection. There are instances where applicants, despite having the requisite education and qualifications, find themselves facing visa denials, often with little understanding of the reasons behind the immigration officer’s decision. 

“Professional guidance can provide clarity on eligibility, required documentation, and the application process, significantly enhancing the likelihood of a successful application.” 

– Kelvin Kettelsen

Additionally, the inherent limitations associated with each visa type also pose challenges. While it’s evident that the U.S. market has a demand for international talent and labor, the stringent and sometimes rigid immigration rules and specifications can act as substantial barriers. The U.S. economy requires a diverse talent pool to thrive, and while immigration can be a viable solution to meet labor market needs, the strict stipulations surrounding various visas can often make this process more complicated and inaccessible than it needs to be. 

Navigating through these challenges can be tough, but understanding and anticipating them can help applicants be better prepared for the complexities of the visa application process. With the right guidance and support, like the services offered by my companies, applicants can better navigate these challenges, making their journey through the U.S. immigration system smoother and more predictable. 

5) What advice would you give to anyone out there who is interested in applying for a TN Visa but doesn’t know if they would be eligible? 

For individuals contemplating applying for a TN visa but uncertain about their eligibility, I would advise taking the following crucial steps: 

Review the USMCA list: Begin by examining the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) professions list. The TN visa is exclusively designed for specific professions; hence it’s pivotal to ascertain that your occupation is recognized under the agreement. 

Understand qualification requirements: Each listed profession under the USMCA has distinct qualification criteria, often necessitating a particular educational background or equivalent professional experience. Familiarize yourself with these prerequisites and evaluate how your credentials align. 

Evaluate job offer: A prerequisite for the application is having a job offer from a U.S.-based employer. The offer should be for a position that corresponds with the professions listed under the USMCA, so ensure the job you’re considering is compliant. 

Online eligibility quiz: To facilitate a smoother understanding of your eligibility, we’ve developed an online quiz. This interactive tool is designed to offer preliminary insights into whether you might be a suitable candidate for a TN visa. Take the quiz on our website to get started.

Professional consultation: Immigration policies and regulations can be intricate and daunting. It’s advisable to schedule a consultation with immigration attorneys, consultants, or expert services like those offered by my companies after taking the quiz for more detailed and personalized advice. Professional guidance can provide clarity on eligibility, required documentation, and the application process, significantly enhancing the likelihood of a successful application. 

Prepare for scrutiny: The application process can be stringent, with immigration officers meticulously evaluating your credentials, job offer, and overall eligibility. Engage in meticulous preparation and be ready to convincingly demonstrate how you meet the TN Visa requirements. 

Stay updated: Immigration policies are subject to change, and staying informed is crucial. Regularly check for updates on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website or consult with immigration professionals to ensure you have the most current information. 

Embarking on the TN Visa application journey with an informed and strategic approach, coupled with the use of our online quiz and professional advice and support, significantly enhances the prospects of not just understanding your eligibility but also successfully securing the TN Visa.  

6) You launched your EOR company within a year of starting your visa project. How did you find yourself moving into EOR after working in visas? 

The transition was a natural and strategic progression. The inception of my first company in 2016 marked the beginning of a journey in providing adept staffing solutions. Through years of engaging with the staffing domain, a profound understanding of the market dynamics and client needs was developed. 

As we provided specialized visa facilitation services through the TN visa company, it became increasingly evident that our corporate clients required more comprehensive solutions. The process didn’t just end at recruiting and securing visas for international professionals; there was a distinct need for continued support in managing HR-related matters for these individuals once they were on board. 

In recognizing this, the idea to formalize and offer EOR services in 2023 was conceived. This was not merely an expansion but a response to the evident market need. The EOR services were designed to seamlessly integrate with our visa facilitation, providing a holistic solution that covered recruitment, visa processing, and ongoing HR management. By doing so, we were able to offer an unparalleled value proposition to our corporate clients. 

This integrated approach also created a supportive environment for the employees themselves. With the EOR services, we could ensure that, post-recruitment and visa processing, employees had a smooth transition and could navigate through HR procedures  with expert guidance available. 

In essence, the move into EOR was a thoughtful expansion of our service portfolio, driven by the desire to provide end-to-end solutions for international hiring needs. 

7) What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced since launching your companies? 

Here are some of the major challenges I have faced since the inception of the companies: 

Navigating regulatory changes: Immigration policies and labor laws are subject to frequent changes, often with little notice. Adapting to these shifts while ensuring compliance and minimal disruption to our clients has been a significant challenge. 

Client education: Many corporate clients were initially unfamiliar with the benefits and procedures of TN Visas and EOR services. Educating potential and existing clients about the value and logistics of our services required a concerted and ongoing effort. 

Market competition: The immigration and EOR services market is competitive. Establishing a brand presence and differentiating our services from established players demanded planning, marketing, and the delivery of consistent service quality. 

Talent acquisition and retention: As service-oriented businesses, having skilled and dedicated staff is crucial. Recruiting, training, and retaining employees who are knowledgeable and also share the company’s vision and commitment to client service is essential. 

Technology integration: Developing and integrating technology to streamline our services, improve efficiency, and enhance client experience was a complex process. Implementing tech solutions that are user-friendly and reliable required significant investment and expertise. 

Global pandemic: The COVID-19 pandemic brought unforeseen challenges, including travel restrictions and policy changes, affecting international hiring and mobility. Navigating these uncertainties while supporting our clients and maintaining business operations required agility and resilience. 

To overcome these challenges, we’ve engaged in continuous learning, proactive planning, and developed a deep understanding of the industry and our clients’ needs. Through commitment to our mission and a focus on delivering value, we have navigated through these challenges, learning and growing along the way. 

8) If you could go back and give your younger self some advice, when would you go back to and what would that advice be? 

If I could turn back time and offer advice to my younger self, I would choose the moment right before I embarked on my entrepreneurial journey in 2016. Armed with the wisdom and experience gained over the years, my advice would be as follows: 

Embrace failure: Understand that failure isn’t the opposite of success, but a part of it. Every setback is a setup for a comeback. Failures are lessons in disguise; embrace them, learn from them, and use them as stepping stones to success. 

Patience and persistence: Success rarely happens overnight. It’s the result of continuous effort, even when there seems to be no progress. Be patient and stay committed to your goals, understanding that persistence is key. 

 Invest in relationships: Business is not just about transactions; it’s about building and nurturing relationships. Invest time and effort in building relationships with clients, employees, and partners. The trust and rapport you develop will be invaluable assets. 

Continuous learning: The business landscape is ever evolving, and lifelong learning is non-negotiable. Stay curious, keep updating your knowledge, and always be open to new ideas and perspectives. 

Celebrate small wins: While it’s important to have big goals, celebrating small victories along the way is crucial. These moments of celebration will keep you motivated and help you enjoy the journey. 

Listen actively: Whether it’s feedback from clients or advice from mentors, active listening is a skill that will serve you well. Not all advice will be applicable, but being open to input and considering different viewpoints is vital. 

Taking this advice to heart would undoubtedly smooth out some of the bumps in the road ahead and perhaps accelerate the learning curve that every entrepreneur must navigate. Each piece of advice represents a lesson learned through experience. 

9) Do you have any additional comments you would like to share with our community? 

Certainly, there’s always more to share! One aspect I would like to highlight is the importance of maintaining a client-centric approach in every facet of the business. In the fields of immigration, recruiting, and staffing, we deal with individuals’ lives and careers, and it’s crucial to handle these matters with the utmost care, empathy, and professionalism. 

Client-centric approach: Navigating immigration and employment processes can be stressful and confusing, and we aim to provide support that is expert, reliable, compassionate, and personalized. The positive feedback and success stories from our clients are immensely rewarding and validate our commitment to delivering service excellence. 

Continuous improvement: I would advise budding entrepreneurs to foster a culture of continuous improvement and innovation within their organizations. The business environment is dynamic, and staying relevant requires adaptability and a willingness to evolve. At our companies, we consistently seek feedback, assess our performance, and explore ways to enhance our services. 

In closing, embarking on an entrepreneurial journey in the immigration and staffing industry has been challenging but deeply fulfilling. Every professional we assist, and every company we help, represents a step towards creating a more inclusive and accessible employment landscape.  

For aspiring entrepreneurs, my story illustrates that with passion, resilience, and a commitment to serving others, it’s possible to build businesses that are not only successful but also meaningful and impactful. 

Kelvin Kettelsen is an entrepreneur and consultant based in Florida, United States. He was speaking to Rafael Sens. 

Serviap Global supports international hiring 

At Serviap Global, we help companies with global hiring solutions in over 100 countries worldwide, including international PEO / EOR services, contractor hiring, and recruitment.

Contact us for more information.

Serviap Global provides global hiring solutions

Contact us

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