Forty Belarusian tech companies and nearly 2,000 freelancers have moved to Ukraine since protests against the regime of self-proclaimed Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko began on Aug. 9, according to the Ukrainian Digital Transformation Ministry.
Ukraine attracts Belarusian techies with a favorable 5% revenue tax for private entrepreneurs, a visa-free regime between the two countries and a similar language and culture.
To help Belarus-based tech companies to move to Ukraine, the local government created a website with guidelines.
According to the website, Belarusians can earn over $2,300 in Ukraine and find an affordable apartment in the country. Many companies, including Kyiv-based Powercode Academy and Unicsoft, are also offering rent relief for office tenants from Belarus.
To move to Ukraine, Belarusians need insurance to cover the cost of hospitalization in case they contract the coronavirus.
Given that the Belarusian government is trying to stop tech specialists from leaving the country, Belarusians need an invitation from Ukrainian tech companies to cross the border.
Upon arrival, Belarusian citizens can register as private entrepreneurs and work even without a residence permit, paying the 18% personal income tax and the $39 single social contribution tax.
Those who work officially should also pay the 1.5% military tax and a single social contribution tax at 22%.
The simplest and most affordable way for tech specialists to work in Ukraine is to have a permanent residence permit and pay 5% revenue tax and $39 single social contribution tax.
However, Ukrainian legislation for the tech industry is complicated, and moving to the country for Belarusians can be harder than it seems at first, according to dev.by, a Belarusian media outlet about technology and startups.
For example, private entrepreneurs registered abroad cannot receive residence permits because they are not officially employed in Ukraine.
The Ukrainian government is trying to resolve this and simplify the process of moving to the country as well as receiving a work permit because Ukraine benefits when qualified tech companies from Belarus find refuge in the country. It reinforces Ukraine’s economy and increases the pool of techies, who are in high demand.
One employed programmer brings about nearly $35,000 worth of exported goods a year. Meanwhile, 15,000 tech specialists graduate from Ukrainian universities annually, while the demand on the market is for 40,000 a year, Ukrainian legal tech expert Dmytro Ovcharenko told the Kyiv Post earlier in September.
Belarusian tech companies are benefiting too, because they escape the crackdown by Lukashenko’s dictatorship.
Amid the ongoing unrest, many Belarusian techies were detained by the police. Among them were Igor Ovsyanik, the director of tech behemoth EPAM, and employees of Belarus-founded company PandaDoc, which relocated its employees to Ukraine earlier in October.
Law enforcement controlled by Lukashenko suspected them of attempts to topple the current regime.
The brain drain of qualified tech specialists is bad news for the Belarusian economy, experts say. The country relies heavily on its information technology sector that accounts for 22% of the its exports and secures 6% of gross domestic product. However, given that nothing has changed since the protests began, over 45% of startups are gearing up to move from Belarus to a more peaceful country, according to a survey by Belarusian startup hub Imaguru.
In an open letter to Lukashenko signed on Aug. 12, over 2,500 Belarusian tech specialists said that “startups do not thrive amid fear and torture.”
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