In April 2018, developer Chiara Sammarco got the opportunity to work in Belarus without a visa. She was the first to enter the country “at the request of the HTP”.
Belarusian online magazine Dev.by found out the reasons behind Chiara’s choice, what she thinks about Belarusian developers, and what is the “real Belarus” for her. Belarus Expat Reporter translated the interview.
I didn’t speak Russian, and it was so cold
I have always wanted to learn about other cultures and languages. In my homeland I met with children from Belarus at an international school – they told me about their country, about the fact that you can learn Russian here. I googled: language courses at MGLU cost less than in Moscow universities.
In February 2016, I paid for 10 months of study in Minsk. Then I took another course – for the same duration. At first, I had to receive help from friends, since I did not understand Russian at all. I did not understand the signs and inscriptions on the streets.
I remember what struck me in Minsk – how cold it is here!
I was born and raised in Southern Italy: in winter we have an average of +10 degrees – I was not ready for the Belarusian frosts. At first, I was cold all the time, dressed like cabbage. And now everything turned fine: I am not afraid of the cold, and I go out into the streets in the same down jacket.
But I was never able to get used to the fact that it is always dark in Minsk: I leave the house, I come back – twilight.
I did not plan to work in Belarus after graduation
But all of a sudden I thought why not. By that time I already knew that there are a lot of IT companies here. I am a telecommunications engineer by education: within our university program, we studied programming in PHP, Java, C ++, and other languages. I worked as a PHP developer, first in Florence and in Rome, and then in Switzerland.
At first I did everything wrong: I updated my LinkedIn profile, sent out a resume – and nothing
And then I posted a resume on dev.by and jobs.tut.by, and proposals from companies came.
I went to two interviews. What conclusions I made on them: your developer should know everything. My level of knowledge was not enough for Java (after all, I am a telecommunications engineer, not a pure programmer). And subsequently, I decided to look for projects on PHP, because I already had considerable experience with it.
All interviews began with: “Why do you want to work here?” I answered: “I want to learn from you!”
The interviews were mostly in English – it’s easier for me. Although several times I switched to Russian.
I did not send a resume to VironIT (Chiara’s present employer in Belarus – note BelarusFeed). They themselves came to me. The interview was very long, but I liked it. For you, too, it happens: you go somewhere, and you realize that it’s your place.
Italian border guards called to Minsk to make sure that my name is on a special list
Everything could have been much more complicated, but on March 28 of the previous year, the Decree on the HTP 2.0 (the decree has introduced requirements for foreign employees of HTP residents –note BelarusFeed) just came to be enforced. And on the 27th, we met with a future employer.
We discussed everything, and I was told that it might be possible to solve everything (bureaucratic procedures – note BelarusFeed) in Minsk. And I don’t even have to leave the country.
Nevertheless, I returned to Italy for a couple of weeks, since my visa expired on the 28th.
It was new, not only for me but for everyone. Imagine, in Italy, they did not want to let me out of the country, because I did not have a visa. At my request, the border guards called Minsk, to the airport, because I said that my name is on a special list – “They will confirm with you that I do not need a visa.”
But in Minsk, there was no problem. After a couple of days, we went with HRV VironIT to the Citizenship and Migration Department to register me.
It took about two weeks to prepare all the documents.
Less money, less travel, more personal investment
I earn less now than I did in Italy or Switzerland. But for Belarus, mine is a fairly high salary, especially compared to the income of people outside IT.
In Europe, I could travel. Now it is an expensive pleasure. But I wanted to live in Belarus, learn from local developers – I see it as an investment for my personal cultivation.
I really learned a lot from my colleagues, watched how they were fighting for the quality of the code, how they solved the problems. In Belarus, there are very cool programers, in a meticulous but positive way. Thanks to them, I seriously grew. I pestered my colleagues with questions, asked them to criticize my work.
At the very beginning y’all are a bit introverted. Now I have many friends in Minsk, and I cannot say that you are all the same.
Among my Belarusian friends, there are funny guys with whom you can laugh for the whole evening. In the subway, you also see gloomy faces. But I know that these are kind, peace-loving people: they are simply tired, thinking or sad.
Small towns are the real Belarus. It was there where I found your roots
I traveled [around Belarus] a bit. I was in Postavy several times – my friends invited me. And also in Gantsevichi and Lyakhovichi. Once or twice I went to Pinsk, was in Nesvizh and other places.
Minsk is a beautiful city, you can immediately see – it’s the capital. But still, with the pace of life and character, Minsk resembles other European capitals.
The provincial towns are completely different – this is the real Belarus, I think. Over there I found your roots
In Lyakhovichi I first visited the “dacha” (a country house in Belarus – note BelarusFeed). In other languages, there isn’t even an equivalent to this word, right?
I also made a pilgrimage to Budslav. For me, this was the first one. A group of guys and I traveled on bicycles – we rode for 3 days. I did not believe that I could cover the distance to Budslav, but the guys told me: “Do not worry! Everybody can even the children go with us.” And indeed there was a boy with us, he rode on a children’s bicycle, and mastered the way along with everyone.
We slept under the open sky. And there was another moment that touched my soul. When we arrived at the cathedral in Budslav, people knelt down and went to the temple on their knees. I have never seen such a thing! It made a strong impression on me.
And I also paid attention to the children playing in the streets. Now in Italy, children mostly play with gadgets and therefore do not know how to build relationships with their peers. I also saw a grandfather playing with his grandchildren, and he didn’t have a smartphone in his hands.
How to hire a foreigner to work in Belarus – a guide from VironIT
Prior to the enforcement of Decree No. 8, the process of employing a foreigner to work in Belarus HTP (High-Tech Park – note BelarusFeed) resident company could take several months and still result in nothing. In comparison: from the moment of the offer until the start of work for Chiara, an Italian citizen, has only lasted 18 days, VironIT shared with dev.by.
Here’s what they do it.
First, they send a copy of a passport and a letter to the HTP with a request to include the future employee in the list of persons whose movement across the state border of Belarus is allowed without a visa. The HTP then notifies the State Border Committee of the foreigner’s data – the whole process takes around 10 days.
The next step is to sign a contract with an employee, translate it, and notify the Department of Citizenship and Migration at the place of residence of the employee about entering into an employment contract.
Finally, the foreign employee gets registered and can require a temporary residence permit for Belarus.