Maria Yarotska drove six days across Europe in a Fiat with her mother, daughter and dog to escape the war in Ukraine, ending her journey in the bitcoin-friendly Portuguese capital, Lisbon. Yet unlike the thousands of refugees who have traveled 2,500 miles by road to the westernmost country in Europe, she will still be able to keep her job. Because the 35-year-old employer – a blockchain initiative called NEAR with a Ukrainian co-founder – is expanding its presence in Portugal and has become a supporter of refugees fleeing the war.
“I have a lot of colleagues here,” Yarotska said in a telephone interview from Lisbon last week, where she had been living in makeshift homes before finding a more permanent place to live. “They will help me legalize my documents so I can stay.”
Portugal, like other Western European countries, has become a haven for refugees fleeing Russian aggression. But crypto workers in Ukraine, who have established themselves as industry hubs, may find it easier to start in Portugal than in other European destinations. One reason is that Portugal is already rapidly becoming its own hub, with zero-percent taxes on digital-currency profits, affordable living costs and mild temperatures combined to attract a cadre of cryptocurrency followers there. Another is that the country is already home to an established community of Ukrainians.
Before the Russian invasion, Ukrainians were the fifth largest group of foreign nationals in Portugal. In the last three weeks, the country has received more than 13,000 Ukrainian refugees since the government approved measures to speed up and facilitate the admission process of war fugitives. According to data compiled by the Portuguese Immigration and Borders Service or SEF, the number of refugees arriving in Portugal since 2015 is about the same. As a result, the number of Ukrainian citizens in Portugal has risen from about 27,200 to about 40,000 in 2021, making it the third largest group of former Pats in the country. The Brazilians are number one, followed by the British.
In Lisbon, authorities are providing temporary housing for hundreds of refugees in a converted sports hall at the reception center. According to Mayor Carlos Moedas, the plan to help Ukrainian refugees find housing, jobs, schools and health care has been approved by city officials.
Valentin Sotov, a software developer working on a crypto-based metaverse game called Amber, fled by car in the western Ukrainian city of Mukachev at the end of February, carrying only a backpack and a laptop, and is already looking forward to working. Office with two colleagues traveling to Lisbon with him. It wasn’t easy: after staying at Airbnb and another temporary place, they are looking for another apartment and it’s difficult. “You must have a one-year contract, and you must have a Portuguese guarantor, and you must have a tax number and a visa,” Sotov, 35, said. “We don’t know what to do yet. We’re asking our friends.”
And yet in his precarious situation, Sotov gets a chance.
“Everyone here is very open, it’s a parade of nations,” Sotov said. He sees the move to Portugal as “a great opportunity for our product, because we can work with many IT people in one place.”
Today, the presence of digital currency enthusiasts from all walks of life is evident in Lisbon, where networking opportunities abound. These annual web summits, one of the largest technology conferences in the world, lead to weekly informal gatherings at the bar to discuss the next big trends in crypto.
Portuguese entrepreneurs have managed to create a handful of unicorn startups or private companies worth over $ 1 billion. Anchorage Digital, a US-based digital asset bank headquartered in northern Portugal, is the latest in a series of unicorns, co-founded by Portuguese citizen Diego Monica.
“I am part of a group of crypto investors on Telegram who have migrated or are planning to relocate 250 foreigners to Portugal,” said Stephen Morais, managing partner and Lisbon-based venture capital firm Indico Capital, which targets Web3, Fintech and Digital . “They’re coming from all over the world.”
According to the National Statistics Institute, the number of foreigners living in Portugal has increased by 40% in the last decade to 555,299. Zero percent tax on crypto profits (Profits from the sale of cryptocurrencies are not subject to personal income tax unless they are considered commercial …