Belarus provides extensive business opportunities that remain largely unexplored. Foreign investors are granted privileges, including customs and tax exemptions and benefits, as well as export and import privileges.
In Belarus, the investors are guaranteed protection of rights and legitimate interests. The country created an effective legal framework that regulates foreign investment in Belarus.
Belarus has signed five basic intergovernmental documents regarding investments, about 60 international agreements on assistance in investment implementation and protection, and more than 60 international agreements on double taxation avoidance. The Belarusian Government has signed and ratified all the necessary documents to join the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), a member of the World Bank Group. In 2012, Belarus has become a full-fledged member of MIGA.
The National Agency of Investment and Privatization is a state organization established to attract foreign direct investments (FDI) to Belarus. The aim of the Agency is to improve investment awareness of Belarus abroad, promote foreign investment projects and encourage potential investors to invest in privatization projects that are carried out with the World Bank. Note that FDI is prohibited in the areas of defense and security issues and the production and distribution of narcotic, dangerous and toxic substances.
Human Resources Perspective
Foreign citizens must obtain a visa (entry visa: short term or long term; temporary residency permit; and/or multiple-entry visa) to enter Belarus. Foreigners arriving in Belarus are required to register with the Belarusian Foreign Ministry, the local police station, their place of temporary stay within five days of the entry date, excluding Sundays and public holidays.
In Belarus, the labour law is codified and regulated by the Belarusian Labour Code. It establishes procedures for the hiring and dismissal of employees, as well as regulations concerning working time, vacations, business trips, salary payment, etc. Both Belarusian and foreigners working in Belarus are covered by the Labour Code, provided that the employment agreement is entered into in Belarus.
Hiring a foreigner to perform work in Belarus is possible providing that both the employer and the future employee follow the procedures:
The employer must seek government approval to hire foreign workers. If granted, a permit will be issued;
The employer concludes an employment agreement with the employee and registers it with the proper authority;
The employee applies for the Belarusian entry visa;
The employee must register with the local bodies of internal affairs upon arrival in Belarus. Subsequently, the employee may obtain a permanent residence permit.
Note that an employer and its employee can enter into a civil law agreement instead of an employment agreement, in which case the Labor Code would not apply. The Civil Code and Presidential Decree No. 314 of 6 July 2005 regulate civil law agreements and the legal relations arising from them. Certain guarantees provided under the Labor Code, including paid leave, do not apply to relations that arise from civil law agreements.
Do you need to register a company in Belarus?
This depends on the kind of business you want to run. If you want to trade with Belarus then there is no need to register a company, although there are now many international companies in Belarus that have done so. Indeed, if you are serious about the market and intend to stay for the long term, then having a presence in Belarus can help build relationships and contacts and establish trust between you and your partners.
Business etiquette – quick tips
- Business meetings tend to be low key but formal, so dress smartly.
- Personal relationships are very important – establishing a partnership based on trust is essential to doing business successfully.
- Be patient. If you have a good product and a fair price you are likely to succeed, though the process may take longer than in other countries.
- Older people in Belarus will introduce themselves using their first name and patronymic (the name from their father) and you should use this when addressing them.
- Before you travel to Belarus get some business cards printed with English on one side and Russian on the other. Give these out to everyone in the room at the start of the meeting.
- Employ a good local interpreter.
- It’s considered poor form to criticise the host country.
- Have an open mind to try any food or drink offered to you.
- Don’t adopt an overly rigid approach to prices and agreements: be prepared to negotiate and make concessions.