Ukrainian software developers are taking advantage of Germany’s Blue Card program for highly skilled immigrants. The program’s fast-track system for obtaining visas is one of the main reasons why Germany is becoming the main destination for Ukrainian information technology professionals.
“They [the German embassy] only needed a work contract and a few documents with translations,” says Andrey Tkachenko, a software developer from Dnipropetrovsk who moved to Berlin in 2014 together with his wife and two children. “We brought the documents to the embassy, and the next day the visas for the whole family were waiting.”
Other Ukrainians who moved to Germany under the Blue Card program told similar stories to Tkachenko’s. It has become relatively easy to leave Ukraine over the past couple of years provided that a German company has offered a job with a yearly salary of about €38,000, or up to €48,400 for some occupations.
Other benefits of Blue Card include receiving indefinite permission to remain in Germany. Unlike the United States, where in most cases the immigrant’s spouse isn’t allowed to work, Germany gives the Blue Card recipient’s spouse a work permit right away.
“My wife is a medical doctor, and she was able to learn the language and find a job,” says Viktor Malyi, who left Ukraine in 2012 to work in Garmin’s research and development office in Würzburg.
People who left before Russia’s war against Ukraine started early in 2014 most often say they wanted to live in a European country for a while, or to find more interesting work abroad.
Tkachenko, however, bluntly says why he left: “The war.”
Other also appear to have found what they looked for.
“My work has become more interesting,” says Anton Voitovych, a software engineer at PayPal, who moved to Berlin in 2013. “I used to work on integration of payment systems in Magento (a popular e-commerce platform) and always wanted to see how it works from the inside.”
As for everyday life, Berlin appears to be the most comfortable place in Germany for Ukrainians.
“Berlin is a very easy entry point for our mentality,” says Tkachenko. “I’ve never had any issues due to not being able to speak German, but maybe I’m just lucky.”
“I definitely like Berlin,” Voitovych says. “The Germans say that Berlin is not Germany, and I agree. For me it’s the golden mean between the Germany we read about in the books, where everything is strict and no one crosses the street against a red light, and Ukraine.”
Andrey Tkachenko left Ukraine in 2014 to work at Home24, Germany’s biggest online furniture store.
The good, the bad
There’s still some things that don’t chime for some Ukrainian immigrants.
In addition to predictable issues related to house-hunting, which may take a couple of months, it’s the financial aspect. In many, if not most, cases, the after-tax salary of a software developer in Germany won’t be much higher than in Ukraine, while the cost of living is significantly more.
Moreover, trust issues are a concern. Ukrainian managers struggle to gain the same level of trust that their German counterparts receive.
There is, however, an opposite opinion as well. Alexander Korotkikh, who moved to Hamburg in 2014 to continue his work at Kreditech, has since become vice president of engineering.
“It’s a multinational company, we have employees coming from about 40 countries, including Mexico, Brazil, Poland and so on,” he says.
No burnt bridges
Despite all the benefits of working and living in Germany in comparison to Ukraine, four out of five people with whom the Kyiv Post spoke said that at least theoretically, they want to come back home at some point.
“If not for the war, I wouldn’t have moved in the first place,” says Tkachenko.
“Initially we planned to be back in Ukraine after two years but then we decided to wait,” adds Voitovych. “I wouldn’t want to go back now and put my family at risk. It’s important for us to see that the country is moving in the right direction.”
UADN editor’s note: This summer, according to the Ukrainian media, the German embassy refused to deliver a visa to a group of start-up entrepreneurs in spite of the fact that they had fulfiled exhaustively all the formal requirements. The German embassy in Kiev could not answer UADN’s questions on the matter due to confidentiality reasons. However, they specified that there is no special treatment for any start-up-entrepreneurships. The only special procedure is for single entrepreneurs (see useful tips)