On October 4 President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a decree to facilitate the relocation of Belarusian IT professionals to Ukraine, following the example of several countries of the region.
These measures target Belarusian IT programmers and entrepreneurs as well as their families. Starting from now, the maximum duration of their stay in Ukraine without a visa is extended to 180 days per year, should their presence “meet the interests of Ukraine.”
Simultaneously, the Ukrainian government is launching a “pilot project” to simplify and accelerate the procedure of issuance of residence permits for these Belarusian citizens.
The procedures for obtaining work permits and registering individual businesses will also be “optimized.”
The decree also announces the creation of an online information resource on these matters.
From revolution to emigration
Sometimes dubbed ‘the emerging Silicon Valley of Eastern Europe,’ Belarus is home to nearly 60,000 IT professionals. They work in some 1,500 companies of all sizes, including 60% of IT service companies and several hundreds of tech startups.
Since the political unrest and repression began in mid August, the activity and survival of many IT people and their companies have come under threat — be they involved as activists, participating in demonstrations or not involved at all. It has also been reported that several IT companies were raided by the police, while Internet connections and international transactions were blocked or made difficult.
As violence and raids became common practice, many IT professionals left Belarus. One or several thousands of them came to Ukraine, according to estimates.
“Ukraine has been the main destination: it is safe, cheap and visa free,” a Belarusian tech investor told Ukraine Digital News.
Some governments reacted even faster than Ukraine, however, offering dedicated programs for the relocation of Belarusian IT programmers or startups (e.g. Poland.Business Harbour and Belarus to Latvia).
Other countries in Western Europe and the Middle East are now considering launching their own programs, Ukraine Digital News learned from local sources.