Poland’s Business Visa is a vital lifeline For Belarus Tech Workers in exile: The political situation in Belarus has forced many of its citizens, including tech workers and entrepreneurs, to flee their country in search of safety and freedom. For these individuals, Poland’s Business Visa program has become a vital lifeline, providing a pathway for them to continue their work and pursue their dreams in a supportive environment.
In this article, we will explore the importance of Poland’s Business Visa program for Belarusian tech workers in exile, and how it has helped to support entrepreneurship, attract talent, and strengthen bilateral relations between Poland and other countries. We will also examine the challenges that these individuals face, and the ways in which the program can be improved to better support their needs.
Poland’s Business Visa is a vital lifeline For Belarus Tech Workers in exile
Poland’s Business Visa program has been an important lifeline for Belarusian tech workers who have been forced into exile due to political persecution in their home country.
Under the program, Belarusian citizens who have a business idea or are already running a business can apply for a long-term visa that allows them to live and work in Poland for up to a year. This visa is designed to support entrepreneurship and innovation, and to help create new economic opportunities for both Poland and Belarus.
For many Belarusian tech workers, the Business Visa program has been a crucial way to escape political repression and continue working on their projects in a safe and supportive environment. By allowing them to access Poland’s thriving tech ecosystem, these visas have enabled many entrepreneurs to keep their businesses alive and maintain their connections with customers and investors in Belarus and around the world.
With its own tax and legislative framework, Belarus had a robust Technology sector that was centred on an IT park outside of Minsk.
Strong scientific universities were also present in the nation, including the Soviet-era Belarus Technical University and Radioteknik.
The locals considered a job in technology to be a way to make a respectable income in a nation with low living expenses.
Yet in the spring and summer of 2021, tens of thousands of the nation’s brightest and greatest protested after an election that was widely criticised as being manipulated by strongman President Alexander Lukashenko.
These highly qualified individuals usually held liberal worldviews and disapproved of the regime. After decades of the same person’s dictatorship, they thought that momentum was on their side and that their nation may finally become free and democratic.
Yet, after being subjected to unspeakably vicious persecution by the security forces in the wake of the election, many individuals came to the conclusion that leaving the nation was their best course of action.
And Kirill was one of them..“It was morally challenging and terrifying to stay in Belarus, participating in activities and reading daily independent publications, knowing that you might be imprisoned for your political attitude, viewpoint, or even just for wearing [opposition colours] white-red-white socks,” he said in an interview with Euronews Next.
Kirill, who works as an IT infrastructure administrator, was born and raised in Minsk. He was aware of the Business Harbour Visa, which enables professionals from Belarus to enter Poland legitimately and travel with their immediate families.
The project, which was set up in only one week in 2020, is one way Poland has helped Belarusians escape the regime. It has also filled some of Poland’s 100,000 programming jobs vacancies and attracted about €180 million in investments.
In recent years, Poland has recognised its political potential as a bridge connecting eastern and western Europe. As a result, it has granted 55,000 business harbour visas as well as humanitarian visas to Belarusian opposition activists and election observers who are still being hunted by state security organisations..
Praiseworthy for its military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion, the nation in central Europe has also been the opposition in Belarus’ biggest single supporter, giving $53.6 million (€49.9 million) to scholarships, independent media, and civil society in 2021. Additionally, the nation provides humanitarian visas to those targeted by Lukashenko’s security services, such as election observers.
Kirill and his wife already knew some Polish when they came to Poland in 2021, and the two nations are culturally similar, so it felt like a natural decision. Yet that didn’t make things any easier.
Several firms were unaware of his immigration programme and did not consider Kirill’s job experience outside of Poland seriously at first. He had to accept a job installing fiber-optic lines to make ends meet. Yet, with a Polish firm on his CV, he soon started receiving interviews – five in one month.
“My life has changed for the better since I moved to Poland. There are a lot of possibilities, development and democracy. I am not afraid for my life here,” he said.
Though Kirill came looking for new jobs, most of the new arrivals to the country have come with companies they were already working for.
When western countries introduced sanctions on Belarus after Lukashenko’s crackdown in 2020, and later when Russia invaded Ukraine with Belarus’ cooperation, many of the international companies working with outsourced Belarusian tech workers sprang into action to help relocate them.
In the two years that the programme has been running, the Polish Investment and Trade Agency has provided services to over 140 companies that have submitted almost 49,000 relocation requests, most of these for Belarusians since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which Belarus acted as a launchpad for due to its long border with Ukraine.
Programmers earn more than doctors
*Alena, who works in app support, had always wanted to leave Belarus and move to the West, but before the stolen election, her company was only relocating to other countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States, a group of former Soviet Republics generally seen as still being in Russia’s economic sphere of influence.
A massive Rammstein fan, she had always dreamed of living in Germany. When Poland introduced the Business Harbour Visa, she was one of the very first to take advantage of the programme and relocate from Belarus to a western country, packing her bags and flying to Wrocław in southwestern Poland.
Importance of poland’s business Visa
Poland’s Business Visa program is important for several reasons:
Supporting entrepreneurship: The program is designed to support entrepreneurs who have business ideas or are already running businesses. By providing a pathway for these individuals to live and work in Poland, the program helps to foster innovation and create new economic opportunities.
Attracting talent: The Business Visa program is also an important tool for attracting talent to Poland. By offering a supportive environment for entrepreneurs and providing access to Poland’s thriving tech ecosystem, the program helps to bring in talented individuals who can contribute to the country’s economic growth.
Helping refugees: The program has been particularly important for refugees and political exiles from neighboring countries, such as Belarus. By providing a safe and supportive environment for these individuals to continue their work, the program helps to mitigate the economic and social costs of displacement.
Strengthening bilateral relations: The Business Visa program has also been an important tool for strengthening bilateral relations between Poland and other countries. By providing a pathway for entrepreneurs and investors to connect and collaborate across borders, the program helps to build stronger economic and cultural ties between Poland and other nations.
Overall, Poland’s Business Visa program is an important policy tool for promoting economic growth, fostering innovation, and supporting entrepreneurship. It has helped to attract talent to the country, support refugees and exiles, and build stronger relationships with other nations.
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