Interested in moving to Brazil? This is our simple Brazil Immigration Guide, containing all the info you need to get started. From getting a visa to finding work and (eventual) citizenship – it’s all here. Read on!
Brazil: Quick Facts
- Taking up nearly half of the South American continent (by land area), Brazil is the largest country in Latin America and the fifth largest country in the world.
- Has a population of almost 210 million.
- Currently ranked as having the 7th largest economy in the world by the World Bank, and has a steady annual growth rate of around 5%. Known as one of the four BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) that are currently exhibiting high rates of economic growth and development.
- Nearly two-thirds of the Amazon rainforest is found within its borders.
- Was the host of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and set to host the summer Olympic Games in 2016.
- Currency: Brazilian real (BRL).
- Spoken languages: the official language is Portuguese. A good number of Brazilians also speak Spanish.
- Major religions: Roman Catholic (~64.6%), Protestant (~22.2%).
- Largest cities: São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Brasília, Fortaleza, and Belo Horizonte.
Why move to Brazil
- Brazil is beautiful. Its lengthy coastline boasts some of the best beaches in the world. Hundreds of thousands of tourists flock to the coast each year to enjoy the sparkling seas and warm sands. The Amazon rainforest is another famous attraction – the exotic flora and fauna within create a magical landscape that is perfect for adventure and exploration.
- Brazil has a stable and growing economy. Its industrial capacity, resource independence, technological capabilities, and consumer market strength make it ideal for investments and business opportunities.
- Fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and seafood are readily available in all parts of the country. Additionally, due to less use of GMO and preservatives (relative to western nations), foods are much healthier than those available in more developed countries.
- The cost of living in Brazil is significantly lower than in some first-world countries. Utilities and food generally cost about half of what they would be in the United States.
- Even though medical costs in Brazil are quite high, healthcare insurance is affordable and provides excellent coverage. Pharmacies are plentiful, and prescription requirements are more relaxed than in North America and Europe.
- Brazil is a melting pot of cultures – racial diversity is not a new development here, but rather the norm. Chances are, you won’t stand out in Brazil by your looks alone. This makes it much easier to assimilate into the local culture.
- Brazilians are very friendly, warm, open, and out-going (even towards strangers and visitors). Brazilians know how to have a good time and enjoy life. The country is known for its outlandish festivals (e.g. Carnival) that bring whole cities together in celebration.
- If you’re into football (soccer), you’ve come to the right place – futebol is not just a sport, but a way of life in Brazil. Brazil is crazy about the game, and consistently produces players that make their mark on the world stage.
Reasons not to move to Brazil
Note: these are common expat complaints, and may not apply to you.
- Many expats dislike the “mañana” mentality (i.e. to arrive on time for an appointment or meeting is incredibly rare). Do not expect to receive a call letting you know that someone will be late (or won’t be there at all), and don’t be surprised when people show up a half hour late without batting an eye.
- Safety is a major issue. Most of Brazil’s major cities have a high rate of crime. Theft is one of the most common offenses, and prevails in urban centers and around popular beaches. Violent crimes are not uncommon, and instances of murder are four-times as high as in the United States.
- As is the case in many developing countries, there is a high rate of corruption (both in government and in the business sector). Bureaucracy cannot be avoided, bribery is commonplace. In many cases, getting things done depends more on who you know.
- Many expats find that Portuguese is a very difficult language to speak. There are many sounds (e.g. the rolled “r” and nasalized vowels) that are not common in English. Many foreigners run into trouble when natives don’t understand their Portuguese. For many, Portuguese grammar is more confusing than that of Spanish.
- The weather in many parts of Brazil is extremely hot and humid, which can be hard for some people to handle. Very few places have air-conditioning or proper ventilation, making it hard to escape from the heat. Heating is equally as scarce, and is sorely missed in regions that experience chilly winters.
Getting a Visa and Finding Work
In order to enter Brazil, you must hold a valid passport that will not expire in the next 6 months. A visa is required for most foreign nationals. Tourist and business visas are usually issued on arrival (to most nationalities), and are valid for 90 days. Most other visa applications are typically done through a Brazilian embassy or consulate abroad.
Note: certain neighboring countries (such as Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay) have bilateral agreements with Brazil – nationals from these countries are not required to obtain a visa to enter Brazil. Many European residents can also enter without a visa, though a valid passport is required.
The most common visa types are:
- Tourist visa (VITUR): allows for multiple entries into the country for a period lasting 90 days from issue.
- Business visa (usually VITEM-II): for professionals visiting Brazilian offices of existing companies, looking to establish contacts, attending conferences, or investigating investment opportunities to enter the country for 3 months (and in some cases may be extended up to a year).
- Work visa (usually VITEM-V): any foreigner looking to work in Brazil must have a work visa or Brazilian residency. In most cases, you should have a job secured before planning to move. The employing company must submit a work permit application to its local Ministry of Labor & Employment – this is the first step to meet the requirements in the work visa application process. After the application is approved, the approval is published in one of the local legal newspapers and sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. After this, the Ministry will contact the Consulate or Embassy, which will then start the visa process.
- Permanent visa (VIPER): issued to individuals who invest a minimum of $150,000 BRL (roughly $65,000 USD) in Brazil, or to those who are seeking residency or looking to retire here.
Permanent Residency and Citizenship
In order to become a permanent resident of Brazil, foreigners must complete the following requirements:
- Applicants must have a valid passport that is over 6 months away from expiration and has two blank visa pages. A completed visa application, recent passport photo, proof of jurisdiction, certified birth certificate, and police clearance should be included in the application packet.
- Those who are transferring retirement pensions need to provide a notarized letter that verifies the applicant’s retirement, documented proof that the monthly pension stipend is at least $6,000 BRL, and a notarized statement from the issuing financial institution showing that the funds can be transferred to Brazil each month.
- Those obtaining a residency visa through investment must prove that their $150,000 BRL investment will help to create jobs and produce revenue in Brazil.
- Anyone planning on permanently residing in Brazil is required to register with the Foreign National Register (RNE). Once this process is completed, you will be issued an identification card. This step is mandatory for anyone residing in Brazil for longer than 90 days.
- Residency is permanent (except for investment visas) and does not expire. You will never need to renew your VIPER or re-apply, unless you have been out of the country for more than two years.
Citizenship: foreigners who have lived in Brazil for an uninterrupted period of 15 years can apply for Brazilian citizenship, provided that they have no criminal record. However, foreigners who (1) have permanent residence in Brazil, (2) have lived in Brazil for an uninterrupted period of 4 years, (3) are able to speak and write Portuguese, and (4) can prove they have the resources necessary to support themselves may apply after 4 years. Those who have a Brazilian spouse, parent, or child, or who are nationals of a Portuguese-speaking country may apply after just one year of residency. Children born in Brazil to foreign parents are automatically awarded Brazilian citizenship.
Starting a Business in Brazil
Brazil has developed a reputation for being a difficult place to start a business (especially for for individuals and foreigners). If you have your permanent visa, this process might be a little easier. The following is a (basic) list of requirements for starting a business in Brazil:
- The individual owner or partners of the business must be clearly identified. Because the business director or administrator must be a resident of Brazil, you must have a permanent visa to maintain control of the company. Otherwise, you can only be a shareholder.
- There are various categories of incorporation, including civil, mercantile, and individual firm.
- You must prove a minimum investment of $150,000 BRL in the business, and open a Brazilian bank account.
- The business has to be accredited by the Central Bank and properly registered.
This process generally takes at least 60 days. You will have to retain a Brazilian lawyer, who should be able to help you choose the best structure for your business and identify the legal documents required. In any case, it is recommended that foreigners employ the services of a professional experienced in assisting entrepreneurs in business setup.
Recommended Reading & Resources
- Argentina Immigration Guide
- Chile Immigration Guide
- Colombia Immigration Guide
- Ecuador Immigration Guide
- Uruguay Immigration Guide