Pomerania, due to its unique location has always been a melting pot. Foreigners have always been a part of our community, enriching our culture by bringing in bits of their culture and food. Between 2014-2019 the number of residence permits (of different types) granted increased by almost 2.5 times and continue to grow. The Office for Foreigners reports that 73% of applications for residence submitted in 2019 were related to work opportunities. The growing number of immigrants and migrants has created a need for strategies and solutions to help them legalise and integrate. This is especially true for migrants who are here or are looking at coming to Pomerania because it provides them with a safe haven and socio-economic opportunities.
The Poland. Business Harbor program
Launched in September 2020, the Poland. Business Harbor program is a government initiative to facilitate the relocation of Belarusian companies and IT specialists (and their families) to Poland. On one hand, the initiative supports Belarusians who are looking to move to a more politically and economically stable environment and on the other, it is a valuable contribution to the development of the Polish ICT industry. The program offers a set of services including, among others, visa support, legal assistance, connecting entrepreneurs with investors and information about various R&D related grants. It also connects Polish companies looking for IT specialists, for a full list, look here. The program is coordinated by the Ministry of Development and the Polish Investment and Trade Agency (PAiH).
“The Poland. The Business Harbor program is very popular among Belarusians. PAiH receives an average of 15 e-mail applications a day, in total over 2,000 of them have been received so far. We have already received over 1,250 telephone requests, an average of 5-8 a day. Moreover, the agency has already accepted 55 projects submitted by Belarusian companies. At the moment, we have 39 active projects and 4 projects with the “first contact” status, 12 projects have already been successfully completed. Additionally, about 50 innovative startups have benefited from dedicated support programs. The agency has already issued 2,000 visa recommendations for supported companies” – summarizes, Ms. Monika Grzelak from the Polish Investment and Trade Agency. Belarusian IT specialists would be happy to welcome many other countries. The effects that the Poland. Business Harbor program is already bringing gives hope that many of them will decide to stay in Poland.
Quite a few local governments have participated in this program, including Warsaw, Łódz, Lublin and Pomerania voivodships, which stand out from the rest, perfectly complementing it with their activities.
Welcome to Pomerania - because #Wecaremore
The Invest in Pomerania (IiP) initiative has been successfully operating in the Pomeranian Voivodeship for a decade, attracting foreign investors and helping them set up and grow in the region. Acting as a one-stop-shop single-window service provider for Investors for over a decade, the initiative has successfully attracted, embedded and grown over 122 businesses in the region which have created more than 17,000 jobs including global giants such Amazon, Bayer, Intel or LEO Pharma to name a few. Invest in Pomerania also provides dedicated investor spokesperson services to help investors with their legalization and work permit issues.
The influx of investors resulted in a constantly growing demand for qualified staff, especially in the ICT industry. The needs exceeded the resources of the local labour market, and employees migrated between companies, limiting the possibilities of business development in Pomerania. To help resolve this, IiP launches, Live more. Pomerania. A project aimed at showcasing Pomerania as the best place to work, live and study – addressed to everyone from outside the region who would like to move and pursue their personal and professional goals in the region. Over the next couple of years, the team realised that It is very easy to see the attractiveness of Tricity and Pomerania but to decide to move and stay permanently, it’s necessary to provide access to the job market. This conclusion prompted the IiP team to create Jobs@Pomerania, Poland’s first market-driven, profile led recruitment platform that was aimed at everyone currently not working in the region. Driven by market demand from Pomeranian employers, the platform showcases the most wanted profiles in the region. Applicants apply once and get noticed by all the companies looking for people with their skills, while companies get free access to a pre-screened talent pipeline of people waiting to grow their career in the region. The job profiles change every 6 months based on a recruitment needs survey. Currently, the platform is used by over 70 companies and has more than 3000 resumes. The tool perfectly supports the acquisition of talents in developing and strategic industries for the region.
When the humanitarian crisis started in Belarus, IiP worked fast to create its Come2Pomerania program. This initiative perfectly complemented Poland. Business Harbor program and was launched in September 2020.
“Come2Pomerania was created as a comprehensive source of information on incentives and support offered to Belarusian companies and IT professionals, both by government institutions and the region’s authorities. The project combined information from Live more. Pomerania and the support offered by Invest in Pomerania, including access to the labour market, becoming a perfect complement to the Poland Business Harbor program. During the first few months of the project, we successfully facilitated the relocation of the first startup – Digiteum – and entered into talks with several others. At the same time, we started receiving inquiries from companies outside Belarus. When we met with the regional government and exchanged experiences, we decided to join the work on a comprehensive model of migrant integration in our voivodeship. So we are expanding Come2Pomerania to become a source of information for all migrants in Pomerania” – explains Nazeen Koonda, Brand PR & Marketing Manager from Invest in Pomerania.
The first company that benefited from the support under the Come2Pomerania project is Digiteum, a Belarusian company from the ICT industry dealing with comprehensive software development. “Thinking about opening a new development centre in Europe, we considered Poland to be one of the most obvious choices due to its well-developed infrastructure and location advantages. We took into account various ICT centres, such as Kraków and Wrocław. In the end, Pomerania came up top, largely thanks to the Invest in Pomerania team, which showed us exceptional hospitality and assistance in such key issues as recruitment, law, accounting, office space, understanding the specifics of running a business in Poland and navigating the available forms of incentives and programs support that local government and government provide investors in the region. One of the programs we used was Poland. Business Harbor. In total, it took us about a month to register and open a company in Gdańsk and it cost less than we expected. It would not have been so smooth if it had not been for the enormous support we have received from institutions such as PAIH and Invest in Pomerania” – says Katherine Lazarevich co-founder, Co-CEO Digiteum. Invest in Pomerania is already talking to other companies from Belarus.
A wider view + effective actions = Integration policy of the Pomeranian Voivodeship
Pomerania is leveraging its experience with migrants to lead the development of an integration policy – the only strategy of this type at the regional level in Poland at the moment. Its basic assumption is to include the issue of immigrant integration in all policies and activities addressed to the inhabitants of the region in various sectors such as education, culture, security, health and others. The first stage of the strategy implementation is planned for the period: March 2021 – March 2022.
„The integration policy is necessary for us to ensure that migrants have a chance to settle in Pomerania in a permanent manner and to include them in the local community. In the annual Action Plan, we focus on the priorities – availability of offices, improving the situation of migrants on the labour market and preparing schools. These are the foundations that build trust and good relations between migrants and Poles, help fight the lack of information for foreigners and thus affect their independence. Migrants constitute nearly 10% of the Pomeranian community. We want to build a good common future, in mutual understanding and respect.” – explains Marta Siciarek, Main Specialist for Migration and Integration of the Regional Center for Social Policy of the Marshal’s Office of the Pomorskie Voivodeship.
It began with the preparation of communes and cities to provide immigrants with all necessary information – as residents. Training and experience exchange of officials from the service offices of residents from the entire voivodeship are underway. The leader is the Gdańsk Department of Civil Affairs, which has prepared translations of many documents into English, Russian and Ukrainian and supports other offices in improving their competences. Among the many simple and practical solutions, it is planned to use cultural institutions, including libraries, as places where Polish language courses will be organized. Parents of school children will be covered first. Since work is an important factor of successful integration, facilities for direct and long-term employment of immigrants with Pomeranian employers are planned, such as access to job offers and assistance in legalizing employment. It is also planned to improve the availability of legal aid for immigrants in order to support those who find themselves with a dishonest employer or intermediary. The key tools integrated with the policy objectives are the Come2Pomerania, Live more. Pomerania and Jobs @ Pomerania. Large scale support is also planned for schools – more than ten students with migration experience study in almost one hundred schools. Overcoming linguistic, cultural and curricular differences can ensure a good future for children and their parents in Pomerania.
Pomeranian solidarity - a perfect place to live, study, work and business
The interest in the Poland. Business Harbor and Invest in Pomerania projects confirm that the approach to immigration, which combines the needs of our country and foreigners, makes it easier for foreigners to decide to stay and use their potential in Poland. The “Declaration of Values in business and everyday life in the Tricity and Pomeranian Voivodeship” signed in January 2021 emphasizes that solidarity, equality, cooperation and integration are the directions of development of our region. Solutions based on these principles are a sure way to make Pomerania a perfect place to live, study, work and business for everyone, regardless of the country of origin.