A foreign IT specialist has to go through a bureaucratic maze of collecting certificates and permits to officially move to Ukraine. How to change it?
Today, the Ukrainian IT industry is facing a serious shortage of qualified personnel. Although every third politician mentions the importance of attracting foreign specialists to this sector of the Ukrainian economy in their speeches, the actual migration procedures are still very complicated.
It is not even about the government’s August decision to ban almost all foreigners from entering Ukraine for thirty days (later, technical specialists were included in the list of exceptions).
The problem is broader: the standard process of obtaining all the necessary documents for a foreign IT specialist is more like a random game than an attractive perspective. Logically, there are not so many people wishing to move and work in Ukraine due to the complicated procedure.
For example, foreigners who have decided to immigrate to Ukraine as highly qualified specialists under the so-called immigration quota (5,000 people in certain regions of Ukraine in 2020) have the opportunity to apply both in Ukraine and in Ukrainian diplomatic offices.
However, information on the quotas used and the number of applications already submitted is not made public. That is, a person submits documents at random and may be denied because no quota is available in this particular region anymore. However, this is just the beginning.
Let’s start with the fact that Ukraine does not have a single web portal with consolidated and translated into different languages (importantly!) information about migration procedures.
Some information is available on the website of the State Migration Service and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs but, of course, this is not enough for a foreigner to understand what documents should be submitted. Secondly, there is still no procedure for electronic submission of documents. And this is in 2020.
Each region has an office where a foreigner can apply for immigration in paper form. There is only one such office in Kyiv.
For example, the capital has an annual quota of 2,500 specialists. All of them should visit a single application center in person. Can you imagine the queues there? How convenient and safe are such visits for the period of quarantine restrictions? It is quite possible to organize the submission of documents, for example, in the State Enterprise “Dokument”.
If a person decides to collect a package of documents in Ukraine, they will also face difficulties in obtaining a medical certificate.
The certificate should be issued only by medical facilities specified in a certain list. It is not any health care facility licensed for medical practice, but only a specifically defined medical facility. Such a requirement is not convenient for foreigners and contains potential corruption risks.
There are problems related not only to the submission of documents but also to the convenience of procedures. For example, foreigners who came to Ukraine visa-free or based on short-term visas and have already received a work permit here, can not just stay and work.
They should obtain this permit, leave Ukraine, and obtain a long-term Ukrainian visa to apply for a temporary residence permit. Although, technically, a visa is an entry permit and a person is already in the country.
The foreigners who do not have to obtain long-term visas to apply for a temporary residence permit should submit documents within 30 days.
If they do not have time to do so, they will also have to leave and re-enter Ukraine, because the Migration Service, referring to the law, believes that the purpose of a foreigner’s stay should be known when crossing the border and cannot change during their stay in the country. The fact is that such a provision does not exist.
Another circumstance that creates significant obstacles is the time required to consider and verify documents for obtaining an immigration permit.
The process can take up to one year. It is impossible even to imagine a highly qualified IT specialist who will wait for an answer from the Migration Service of Ukraine throughout the year.
Interestingly, such a period is required to find out whether a foreigner’s application meets the qualification requirements and whether there are any general grounds for refusing a permit (for example, committing crimes, providing inaccurate information, having certain diseases, etc.).
Such a verification procedure can be reduced to two or three months. It is just necessary to establish cooperation between the services and cancel the widespread use of the maximum period permitted for consideration of documents at each stage (this is 1 month under the law). The compliance with the qualification requirements can be verified within a few days.
Under the law, the procedure for consideration of documents of specialists’ families should begin only and exclusively after the foreigner himself has received a temporary or permanent residence permit.
Now imagine the reduction in the number of specialists who want to immigrate to Ukraine, when they realize how long their family will be kept in a state of uncertainty.
Actually, qualification requirements do not currently meet the requirements of the industry. In particular, it is about the requirement for compulsory higher education in specialty and work experience of at least seven years.
The fact is that a significant number of IT specialists do not have specialized education but this does not prevent them from being skilled and highly qualified employees.
It is the same thing when it comes to the employment period: in Ukraine, a highly qualified specialist is a person with work experience of 3 years. But for foreigners, this figure is more than twice as high. Why?
Obviously, the qualification requirements need to be updated. For example, it is necessary to introduce mandatory and additional conditions.
The mandatory conditions imply three years of work experience, which foreigners should confirm with employment record books, employment contracts, contracts for the provision of IT services, and letters of recommendation from contracting parties with a list of provided IT services.
Additional requirements may be the specialized higher education, a significant amount of income in the IT sector for the last calendar year or the availability of internationally recognized IT certificates.
There are no clearly defined requirements for documents to confirm the foreigner’s work experience as an IT specialist. The following questions remain: whether will an employment record book only or an employment contract be the only sufficient evidence? Does a contract of self-employed workers for the provision of IT services confirm the work experience? What should be the requirements for such a contract?
This problem can be solved through a simple online service for verifying documents that confirm the specialists’ work experience. This will allow a person to find out whether they meet the requirements before submitting the documents.
Due to these complicated requirements, one hundred or two foreign IT specialists per year (at best) will enter the Ukrainian labor market. Obviously, this number is not enough to accelerate the IT industry development in Ukraine.
The government should take some urgent steps to transform the attraction of intellectual potential in this sector of the economy from a conversation piece into a practical result.
It is important to introduce a mechanism for preliminary assessment of documents provided by foreigners for compliance with the law. Additionally, it is necessary to introduce the possibility to submit documents electronically and expand the list of agencies for submission of paper applications.
First, it is necessary to cancel the current list of medical facilities authorized to issue health certificates for foreigners to submit documents.
Second, it is important to allow specialists and their families to apply for immigration simultaneously.
Third, the requirement to obtain a long-term visa for a temporary residence permit for foreigners, who are already in Ukraine, should be canceled.
Fourth, it is necessary to reduce the period for consideration and verification of documents and update the qualification requirements.
In particular, canceling the additional departure-entry requirement to apply for a temporary residence permit.
However, there is a chance to improve the situation. The President has recently signed Decree No.371/2020, according to which the Cabinet of Ministers should improve the procedures for obtaining immigration permits by foreign IT specialists and obtaining a permit for the foreign labor use by IT companies acting as employers.
Experts from the Better Regulation Delivery Office (BRDO), with the participation and support of the Ministry of Digital Transformation and the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Agriculture, are already drafting legislative changes to address the shortcomings of migration procedures for foreign IT specialists.
We hope that the Government will immediately consider and approve these amendments, and this will allow the state to meet the staffing needs of Ukrainian IT companies and, as a result, increase budget revenues.