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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Fears German Visa Scheme

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Days after the German government launched a Green Card project to bring some 20,000 foreign computer experts to Germany, Russia’s communications minister expressed concern over the possibility of a new wave of "computer brain drain" from Russia.

Due to the dramatic lack of domestic information technology specialists, Germany has simplified the procedure for obtaining a work permit for foreign IT professionals, designed to ease access into a country known for its tough immigration laws.

Under the new scheme, work visas valid for five years will be speedily issued to some 20,000 foreign IT experts this year. Applicants must have a university degree or an assurance of a salary of at least $50,000 a year.

Over the past decade, Russian computer brains have been an attractive import for Western companies, with tens of thousands of Russian IT specialists employed abroad.

In an interview broadcast Thursday on Ekho Moskvy radio, Communications Minister Leonid Reiman warned of a new brain drain from Russia.

"A lot of talented programmers who create unique software products work in Russia now," Reiman said, adding that salaries and working conditions in the West are still far more attractive than in Russia. This led significant numbers of talented Russian programmers to seek employment abroad, he said.

But a spokesman for the German Labor and Social Issues Ministry said the "loss" of IT specialists should not be too dramatic for Russia. Germany’s Green Card project has led to thousands of applications from China, India, Singapore and Eastern European countries, he said.

"There are only 20,000 IT jobs opening this year, so Russia will not lose more than 20,000 computer experts, although, since a large number of applications comes from other countries, it is highly unlikely that the majority of experts hired will be from Russia," Holger Fabig said from Berlin in a telephone interview.

He added that companies have no quotas for specific nationalities to be hired; the only requirement for Green Card is that they be highly skilled.

"We do not seek any specific nationalities, every IT expert is welcome," Fabig added.

Ute Neumann of the Online Job Fair recruitment agency said from Bonn that only 176 applications have been sent from Russia so far.

Moscow-based IT sector officials contacted for this article were unanimous in saying the IT job market in Moscow, St. Petersburg and some other major cities is big enough to provide jobs to the majority of local computer experts.

"We certainly face a computer brain drain and it promises us nothing good, but big money is being invested in local Internet projects now," said Yevgeny Kaspersky, founder and chief developer of Kaspersky Lab, the largest domestic developer of anti-virus software programs.

"What is being offered on the local IT job market is far more favorable. One must have no initiative or motivation at all to seek employment in Germany these days," Kaspersky said, adding that all local IT managers are constantly looking for talent.

Igor Anokhin, general director of ComTel Personnel, a Moscow-based company recruiting IT specialists for Russian and Western companies with offices in Russia, said the demand for well-qualified IT personnel in Moscow is as high as in the West, while salary packages are close to the ones offered to foreign IT specialists abroad.

Salaries offered to programmers in Moscow and St. Petersburg vary from $800 to $2,000, while some companies pay those working in the Java programming language a premium, Anokhin added.

Konstantin Murenin, a 15-year-old student at the Physical-Technical Lyceum in Saratov, Central Russia, said he has no plans to go abroad and he would be happy to get a job with a Moscow-based Internet project.