By all accounts, Kiev, Ukraine, is not the easiest city to adopt. It is a big city, 308 square miles, of which 135 miles is the business district. It is also an old city, founded 1,500 ago.
Perhaps because of its age and location, at the crossroads between western Europe and eastern Russia, Ukraine has been ruled by the Mongols, the Vikings, the Russians, the Swedes, and the Swiss, and the locals may not be as trusting as in other locales of foreigners and foreign governments. But if you are willing to get away from the growing ex-pat community in Kiev, you will discover a warm, friendly people whose activities center around family life.
Despite its age, Kiev is like the Wild West of 150 years ago, with a massive amount of growth, says Peter Harrison, CEO of product development company GlobalLogic. "The Ukraine is very European with a far lower cost of living. But maybe it's like North Carolina, not Manhattan," Harrison says. It's also not an E.U. member.
What's hot: The Ukrainian psyche does not believe it needs help, not even in IT, says Phil Hatch, CEO of Ventoro, a small advisory and research firm that was retained by the government to put together an economic package to grow the country's outsourcing business.
What is needed are project and senior mangers. "There is no need for those with pure technology skills," Hatch says.
Still, there are some technical skills that Ukraine needs, such as people strong in Microsoft technologies such as .Net, says Dimitry Kushnir, head of software development at Luxoft, an IT services company. Also, Java skills as well as embedded software development are a plus. "The culture of Ukraine is to solve engineering problems," Kushnir says.
U.S. and multinational tech companies: There are not many large foreign firms in Kiev at the moment due to its still-emerging economy. According to Hatch, Kiev is the place to watch in the next 12 months, when he predicts the majors will start to move in.
IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Siemens, and Sun are there now. Consultancies include Deloitte and McKinsey.
Red tape: The best way to find a job in Kiev is through the sponsorship of a multinational operating inside the Ukraine. "The challenge is they think they have everything they need. They don’t see the value of having outside workers," Hatch says.
Of course, like many eastern European countries, there is also a shadow economy where people are paid off the books. There is a sizeable number of ex-pats working that way, say some.
Up until recently, a work visa was good for 90 days. If you went away to another country for the weekend, you could then renew the 90-day permit for another 90 days. That has changed. Citizens of the U.S. and Canada can stay for as long as 90 days within a 180-day period without any visa. But a work visa is still required if you plan to stay more than three months. To obtain one, you must register your passport, but the requirement for an "invitation" letter from a company has been waived.