A Gringo's Survival Guide to Brazil Gringo’s Survival Guide to Brazil (or everything you ever wanted to know about life in Brazil and couldn’t find out)

Note: This article was edited on 04/05/2012 to include a much needed section on Driving Safety Information.

I’ve lost count of the many times I have seen postings asking about crime, violence and security here in Brazil... so I am submitting this posting in order to answer the questions that many of you seem to have and hopefully allay many of your fears by giving practical tips and information on how to stay safe.

Crime and violence are everywhere, not just here in Brazil. I have lived in São Paulo and several other cities here in Brazil. Despite the fact that it is the fourth largest city in the world and largest in South America it is certainly nowhere near as bad as the situation in Rio de Janeiro. In fact, I have never had any problem in the years that I have lived in São Paulo, unlike other places where I´ve lived. I don’t mean to offend those of you who think Rio is “God’s gift to the world”, I respect you opinion, you can love Rio all you want, but you will never find me there… just to scary, unsafe for gringos and Brazilians alike.

Certainly, you need to take precautions anywhere in Brazil in order not to MAKE yourself a target. To be truthful, most of the crimes here in Brazil are crimes of opportunity, careless victims making themselves stand out or look vulnerable. Follow the advice below and I´m sure you will, like me, be able to say 10 years from now that you too have never had a problem with crime and violence.


Learn and use only the Portuguese language in public... you will not stand out that way. Some people see foreigners either as hated invaders while others see them as easy marks. In most places if you speak Portuguese you will generally not get quoted the higher (exploitative) prices everyone here has for foreign tourists,

Dress down / Dress Brazilian - shorts (baggies), sandals or flip-flops, T-shirts, tank tops, etc. are the ORDER OF THE DAY here. Do not wear expensive watches or other jewelry; don't carry expensive cameras out in the open.

Get to know the city you will be living in, find out what areas you can frequent in safety any time day or night (these still exist) and which areas to avoid at night unless you are part of a group. Favelas, generally speaking gringos are not too welcome in nor would they venture into favelas unless they are accompanied by a Brazilian who either resides in, or has family in, the favela. If you do go into a favela NEVER TAKE A PHOTOGRAPH IN PUBLIC, this could be extremely dangerous.

Avoid walking alone. Be it day or night you are always much safer if you are accompanied by others. You should avoid going out alone at night at all costs.

Try always to walk on the left side of the street.  Walk on the side of the street closest to oncoming traffic, not with your back to it. This affords you clear vision traffic movement and anything that might be suspicious. Remember that the vast majority of crimes are committed by those on motorcycles, so steer clear of motorcycles as much as possible. If one stops or slows down near you move quickly to a place of safety. It may be that a person is just looking for directions but you cannot afford to take that chance.

Backpacks/Wallets - When in public crowded areas especially, turn your backpack around so that it is on your chest. Street thieves can open your backpack and remove its contents without you ever knowing it if you keep it on your back. Wallets should not be carried in the hip pocket of your pants for the same reason, if at all possible carry it in the front pocket or use a moneybelt. I have seen some interesting money pouches that look like a shoulder holster and are made to be worn under your shirt. If you  have no other option than to carry your wallet in your hip pocket tightly wrap several large elastic bands around it, this will make it almost impossible for a pickpocket to remove it. You also may want to carry a "dummy wallet", one that contains copies of documents and a very small amount of cash, if someone wants to try and rob you turn over the "dummy" immediately and never resist. (Please try not to laugh too hard as the thief runs off with a couple of Brazilan Reais and a bunch of photocopies).

Money - carry only as much money with you as you will need for what you plan doing, never carry large amounts of cash. Never take your wallet out and count your money in public, which is inviting trouble. If you are making a purchase have a bit more that you anticipate the price in your pocket, use that to pay for the purchase. Separate the cash you do carry, some in your wallet, some in your pocket, some inside your sock, etc. For large transactions/purchases use cash transfers, ATM or online deposits to the individual's account or banker'a checks (cheque administrativo). NEVER CARRY LARGE SUMS OF CASH IN PUBLIC. If you need to make large cash withdrawls at a bank do not use the ATM, go to the manager, explain the situation and arrange to have the money counted out and turned over to you either in a private area or at the very least in a plain envelope so not to attract attention.

ATM transactions and credit/debit card transactions - NEVER use an ATM in an isolated area at night, if you need to make an ATM withdrawal at night look for a machine in a busy location such as a major gas station/convenience store. Avoid using ATMs in bank branches after normal banking hours and on weekends when organized groups of criminals tend to practice their frauds. During banking hours on weekdays most ATM transactions are safe, but you must take certain precautions. When you are keying in your PIN code ALWAYS hide the numbers you are entering (using your other hand), many machines have fake fronts installed that skim the magnetic info on your card when you put it in the card slot and a micro-camera positioned to see the keys you press when entering your PIN. If the ATM looks at all unusual or has anything you don't like the look of DON'T USE IT. Make sure there is nobody hanging around either outside or inside the bank watching those making transactions. When paying for anything by credit card, never let the card out of your sight. If a waiter or service station attendant has to swipe your card for the transaction and doesn't have a portable/wireless terminal then go with him or her to process the transaction. There are card readers that record your information and your card gets cloned. If the transaction is on the old paper forms, make sure to ask for the carbon paper and not leave it behind for somebody to read. If you are using an ATM at a bank branch and have the time it is always best to observe for a while first. Make sure there is nobody hanging around outside the bank or in the area around the ATMs. If there is somebody just hanging around in the lobby area and not actually waiting to use one of the machines he/she could be a spotter for somebody on the outside waiting to rob someone who withdraws a large amount of cash. Don't take any chances, in this case I would recommend finding an ATM in some other location. If someone seems really suspicious don't be afraid to call the police in order to have the individual checked out.

Documents - make certified copies (at any Cartório) of all your important documents, passport, visa, birth certificate, etc. and carry only the certified copies around with you... your CPF or RNE and if you drive here in Brazil your license are about the only original documents you will need to carry with you. I have lived here for ten years now and never had any problems relating to using copies of documents. Remember that a lost or stolen passport can be a real big problem so leave it in a safe place. You may get hassled by an airline using a certified copy of your passport for national flights, like I was once, but you are only required to produce the original if you are flying internationally. Don’t let them b___ s_____ you into thinking otherwise. Any form of inter-city or interstate transportation requires that you produce ID, the law does not specify that it must be original, therefore a certified copy is acceptable. When I threatened to call the police in order to register a complaint which I would follow up with a claim against the airline for damages if I missed my plane, the certified copy of my passport suddenly became worth its weight in gold and I was allowed to board my flight without any further hassles.

REMEMBER ONE CARDINAL RULE - NOTHING THAT YOU OWN IS MORE VALUABLE THAN YOUR LIFE AND HEALTH. If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of being face-to-face with someone intent on robbing you do not react in any way. Comply immediately with whatever demand is made without any resistance or delay. Remain calm, talk in a calm manner and do not make any quick moves. Obviously this supposes you speak at least some Portuguese, but keep your hands in plain view and explain to the robber exactly what you are going to do before you do it... example: Ok, I'm going to reach into my back pocket and slowly take out my wallet. Remember that the robber will probably be even more nerveous than you are, you have to take control of the situation as best you can by remaining calm and making absolutely no noise or acting in any way that will startle or anger the robber. Lots of people are injured or killed because they delayed in doing what a thief wanted or because the made some sudden move which frightened or startled the robber. Don't make that mistake yourself.

Dating and Sex in Brazil - Finding your "significant other" or just casual dating is not the problem here in Brazil. In fact, the only way you will not hook up with somebody is IF YOU DON'T WANT TO. The problem is to find the right people to date. While you are spending lots of money everybody loves you. I rarely drink and never go to bars, but it stands to reason that one would tend to meet a better class of people at church than in a bar. So think about where you meet a person and not just the person before you enter into any kind of relationship. Casual sex is something that is common in Brazil, especially between Brazilians and foreign tourists during Carnaval. Here it is even called "Amor de Carnaval" (summer love). Just remember, NEVER HAVE UNPROTECTED SEX WITH ANYONE. I don't know about your moral beliefs, but speaking for myself when I entered into a long-term exclusive relationship I went and had HIV and STD tests, I then gave the printout of the test results to my partner. Having done this I also had no problem in asking for the same consideration. It is important to note that having sexual relations with anyone under the age of 18 years is a serious crime in Brazil, regardless of the circumstances. Prostitution is common place and it is especially important in tourist destinations on the coast not to become involved with anyone under the age of majority for two simple reasons - first the minor is immune from any criminal proceedings and may turn around and threaten to call the police in order to extort money out of you, and secondly if you get caught in a sweep or for any other reason you go straight to jail without passing GO while the minor gets a pat on the head and walks out the door. I've lived here in Brazil long enough to see that not all of those involved in juvenile prostitution have been forced into the life. Many enter the lifestyle by choice or because of lack of education/opportunity or financial need. I have lived in a number of tourist destinations and have seen this with my own eyes, unfortunately. This is the sad reality of Brazil and unfortunately "sexual tourism" is a constantly growing problem. If you are approached by someone who looks obviously too young it is much better to keep your distance and not take stupid chances.

Follow these simple rules and you will be just fine and you'll love Brazil as much as I do.


Documents – aside from the foregoing information you must remember that this is a police state, you are required to carry photo identification and travel documents at all times (certified copies are sufficient). Unlike in other countries police in Brazil have the right to compel you to identify yourself whenever they wish. Don’t refuse to do so or you will find yourself in serious trouble.


(Edit of Sept. 14/2014)
Dealing with Brazilian Police - First of all remember that YOU AREN'T BACK HOME. While you certainly do have some rights, you do not have all the same rights and protections that you enjoy in your home country when it comes to encounters with Brazilian police. Brazilian police have the right to stop you anytime and anywhere without probable cause, demand you to identify yourself by producing documents and they have the right to ask you where you're going, what you're doing, why you're in that particular place... almost whatever they please, even if you are not detained or under arrest. THE CONCEPT OF PROBABLE CAUSE DOES NOT EXIST IN BRAZIL.

Never under any circumstances argue with a police officer or refuse to comply with a direct order (whether it is a "legal" order or not), engage in name calling, etc., this will automatically be the likely cause of an arrest for "Desacato de Autoridade" (essentially contempt) or "Resistência" (resisting arrest). You need not be under investigation for any crime or even involved in any wrongdoing. Police in Brazil will often resort to provocations in order to elicit some reaction so they can then arrest you on a charge of "Desacato a Autoridade", be aware of this and simply never react in any way, not even if you are physically assaulted by a police officer. The proper action in this case would be to lodge a formal complaint with the Corregedoria da Policia and request to be taken to the Instituto Médico Legal to undergo a physical examination (Exame de corpo de delito).

For example, if you're in a bar and a fight breaks out, the police will often detain everyone in the establishment and demand identification from all of them. OR If you're a passenger in a vehicle which the police stop for any reason, expect to be demanded to produce identification and questioned.

They may also demand that you make a statement, however you do have the right to remain silent. If you're not involved and have done nothing wrong, I would personally recommend that you freely make the statement and not refuse to speak, this will often have very negative results as it will only convince the police here that you have something to hide.

You do not have any protection against being physically searched by police and if you are operating a vehicle they will even search your vehicle. Don't try and interfere in any way.

If arrested, you have the right to remain silent and the right to speak to a lawyer (not necessarily for free) and if you're a foreign national you have the right to have your Embassy/Consulate informed of your arrest. The police ARE NOT required to inform you of your rights, so don't think that just because they haven't done so that any statements you make or evidence they may gather will be inadmissable in court, you'd be thinking wrong.

Police may not enter your home without either an Arrest Warrant (Mandado de Prisão) or a Search and Seizure Warrant (Mandado de Busca e Apreensão), unless they actually witness a crime taking place. They'll try and intimidate and bluff their way in anyway. Either way, if you let them in voluntarily or if you refuse, you're cooked. Any statements made and any evidence found will be used against you in court even absent any warrant and even resulting from an "illegal" search. If you refuse to let the police enter, you can also count on them simply surrounding your residence until they can obtain some kind of warrant. So, you're damned if you do and damned if you don't.

If you're in the unfortunate situation of having overstayed your visa and the police identify you for any reason at all, regardless of the fact that you've done nothing wrong and perhaps were only a witness; they are required to take you into custody and deliver you immediately to the Federal Police. This will certainly mean that you'll very shortly be on your way back home (at your own expense).

(Edit of June 19, 2015)


Roadblocks for checking documentation or breathalyzer tests are omnipresent all over Brazil. If you are waved over by an official or police officer at one of these roadblocks you MUST stop. Failing to do so will result in a police chase and the high risk of shots being fired. No matter what the circumstances are, no matter what you're doing, and even if it will result in arrest for the commission of some crime (like drinking or smoking marijuana while driving) STOP and take the consequences. It's far better to end up in custody than on an autopsy table, and the latter is a real possibility. Traffic Stops:  With the alarming rise in the number of false/cloned police vehicles (both marked and unmarked), there is NO GUARANTEE that the person trying to stop you is really a police officer. While such vehicles are generally being used to rob trucks carrying cargo, they are also sometimes used in carjackings and lightning kidnappings (sequestro relâmpago). What to do if what appears to be a police vehicle wants you to stop? At night or in areas without lots of movement, activate your hazard lights (to advise police that you intend to stop), pull as far to the right side of the road as possible, reduce your speed to a crawl, but do not stop until you are somewhere well lit and with plenty of witnesses around. By slowing down police can't say that you initiated a chase, and if you drive on slowly to a service station for example, they would find it impossible to claim you were attempting to flee. Unfortunately there is absolutely no control over the sale of police equipment, uniforms and other police parafrenalia in this country which makes it virtually impossible to believe what you see. Trust your gut instincts, if something seems the least bit "off" use the above tactic. I have seen photos of marked police vehicles in this country that even fool the police themselves. This photo is of a cloned unmarked car used in various crimes. In my time in Brazil I've seen false marked police vehicles which replicate exactly vehicles used by the Federal Police, Military Police and Civil Police. Scary, but all too common.


Tourist Visas
A tourist visa permits a stay of 90 days in Brazil, this may be extended (prorrogação de estado) for a further period of 90 days at the headquarters of the Federal police nearest where you live without having to first leave the country.

A tourist visa thus permits a maximum stay of 180 days (6 months). This is now calculated on a rolling year (i.e. the 365 days previous to one's present entry into Brazil).

Most tourist visas permit multiple entries in any given year. What happens in this case, the number of days of your previous stay(s), including both day of arrival and day of departure, is subtracted from 180 to determine the maximum stay for the current entry.

If you are coming to Brazil for tourism or business purposes the citizens of many countries are exempt from the requirement to obtain a Brazilian visa. Check the link below; if you hold a passport from one of the countries on the list you do not need a visa. However, the time of your stay in Brazil is still the same as if you are traveling on a visa.

(Please note that while this link is to the Brazilian Embassy in Malaysia, the list of countries exempt from visas is OFFICIAL)

Permanent Visas – Permanent visas may be requested for various reasons, most commonly are:
-    based on having a Brazilian spouse (legally married)
-    based on a stable relationship (common law relationship – heterosexual or same-sex)
-    based on having a Brazilian child (biological or legally adopted)
-    retired persons who meet financial requirements

Each of these categories has their own requirements; an internet search will give you the most current information for each one. Be aware that the permanency process is full of bureaucracy and takes forever to complete. Periods of up to two years or more are not uncommon.

NOTE: You will need a healthy dose of patience whenever dealing with the Federal Police regarding any aspect of the permanency process since there is no single source of accurate information regarding the documents required or step-by-step instructions about any process. Due to the fact that most of the people that deal directly with the public (especially with foreigners) are not members of the Federal Police, but rather contracted employees from outside companies, they themselves do not have a clear understanding of the various procedured. Misinformation is commonplace, if you talk to ten different staff members you will get ten different versions of what you need or need to do. There is never a definite list of ALL of the documents you will require. (It seems they make it up as they go along.) Just when you think you have all the paperwork in order and go in and submit it you will most likely here, "Oh yes, and you will also need a ...... and also a ......, when you have it come back". This is extremely frustrating especially for those coming from countries that don't have a lot of bureaucracy. One thing to be very careful about, when they tell you that the signature on any document must be notarized (reconhecimento da firma) make sure to ask if it is to be notarized for authenticity (reconhecimento da firma por autenticidade) or just for likeness (reconhecimento da firma por semelhança) this is information that they will never just OFFER, you need to pry it out of them. In almost all cases when the Federal Police want a signature notarized it should be "reconhecimento da firma por autenticidade".

RNE and Carteira de Identidade Estrangeiro
You apply for these at the Regional Headquarters of the Federal Police, you may reserve a time and date in person or on the internet. Once you have entered the permanency process and applied for your RNE and CIE you will be issued a document called a SINCRE, this will allow you to apply for such things as your work book (Carteira de Trabalho) and to open a bank account. Without permanent status you cannot hold a bank account in Brazil.

CPF (Cadastro de Pessoa Fisica)
This document is like a Social Security number; however it is used for everything including your credit information. IT IS NOT PRIVILEGED INFORMATION IN ANY WAY. You can apply for your CPF at the post office, your passport will be sufficient identification for your application. You will be told that you have to go to the Receita Federal to finish the process, because you do not have a Brazilian Voter’s Card. This is absolutely one of the most important documents you will need to have… without a CPF you simply do not exist. At least the Invisible Man could wrap himself up like a mummy and be seen. Without a CPF even all the gauze in the world wouldn’t help.

Work Book (Carteira de Trabalho) can only apply for their Carteira de Trabalho at the Regional Headquarters of the Ministry of Labor (in São Paulo it is located at Rua Martins Fontes, No. 109 – Centro). It is issued free of charge, you must supply a 3X4 photo and provide a copy of your SINCRE. Issue time varies from one location to another and depends on the daily demand. Mine was issued on the spot, however it can take up to ten days to get it.

SUS Card (Sistema Único de Saúde)
Whether or not you work for a company which provides you with a healthcare plan or have a private plan of your own, you will want to also have a SUS Card. Go to the nearest public health clinic (Posto da Saúde) or Prefeitura/Sub-Prefeitura office and inquire where to obtain it. You need only a document of identification (with photo) and proof of address such as a light/water/phone bill. If you are treated in an Emergency Ward, AMA Clinic or Posto da Saúde  the card will also allow you to receive certain medications at their pharmacy free of charge.

Brazilian Driver's Licence (Carteira Nacional de Habilitação CNH) 05/09/2013)If you plan on staying in Brazil you will need driver's licence after 180 days from arrival. Obtaining a Brazilian licence is a dificult procedure and takes time, involves classes at a driving school, medical exam, practical exam and road test. If you come from North America, Central or South America you may be able to apply for an Inter-Americas Driving Permit (IADP) which is valid in Brazil for 180 days along with your valid foreign licence. Check at your local offices of the Automobile Association. These are usually valid for a period of one year from issue and your foreign licence must be valid for longer than one year at the time you apply. See following link to Wikipedia. … ing_Permit

If you hold a valid driver's licence from another country that has a reciprocal agreement with Brazil for driving (check with Brazilian Consulate in your country) then you will be permitted to drive in Brazil for up to 180 days using an International Driver's Permit (IDP).

NOTE: Regardless of having a validity period of one year, you cannot drive in Brazil using either an IDP or IADP after 180 days from your arrival date. Brazilian laws require everyone to obtain a Brazilian Carteira Nacional de Habilitação if in the country beyond the 180 day limit.


Driving at night – If you look at North American statistics that 40% of all car accidents occur at night (frightening since the vast majority of people don’t drive after the first 3 or 4 hours after darkness sets in) you can imagine how much worse the statistics are here in Brazil. Even though the drunk driving laws have recently been toughened they are not respected at all. Drowsy drivers are also responsible for a great number of accidents here, truckers are among the worst offenders since they take medications to prevent sleep in order to cope with their excessively long working hours. The drugs do not give any warning when they are wearing off and truckers fall asleep at the steering wheel with disastrous results.

The risk of carjacking or armed robbery of motorists increases at night, so in many Brazilian cities motorists do not stop for red lights after dark. This has been responsible for many horrific accidents since you cannot predict if the oncoming motorists are drunk or drowsy and may not be able to see you much less react to your maneuver should you adopt the habit of running or jumping traffic signals. It is much safer to learn how to judge the timing of traffic signals you frequently pass through. That way at night when approaching a red light you can slow down enough that you will never need to stop completely before the light changes to green, thus depriving would-be robbers or carjackers the opportunity of picking on a stationary and therefore vulnerable target. It works, they just move on to easier prey.

Road Rage – Incidents of road rage have rocketed over the past few years. Many people have been killed as the result of violent altercations over some insignificant “violation” of the other motorist’s personal rights (real or perceived). You must be aware that here, while carrying a weapon is a crime, many people carry guns or other weapons on their person at all times. If the other motorist is not armed he or she can always use some convenient object as a weapon if provoked. No matter how tempted you may be to give some other motorist the finger or shout some obscenity NEVER DO SO under any circumstances. Such things result in death here in Brazil with alarming frequency. Brazilians are exceptionally offended by remarks and gestures, so much so that they often lose all control. In fact, Brazilians are almost without exception unable to handle any kind of criticism without flying off the handle. If you are not a patient driver and you cannot control your own reactions you should really think about not driving in this country or alternatively taking out extra life insurance to ease the burden on those loved ones you leave behind.

Driving Without Headlights – In São Paulo and many other Brazilian cities motorists have the curious habit of driving with their headlights turned off or with only their parking lights turned on. They use their headlights as a “visible horn” by flashing them instead of blowing the horn. Be extremely aware of this when driving at night and be extra alert when approaching uncontrolled intersections.

Horns – Brazilians have a passionate love affair with car horns. It sometimes appears that all Brazilians are born with a car horn in their hot little hands and wait until they reach driving age in order to use them… and oh, how they use them. Don’t be surprised when you delay for a split second to react to a traffic signal changing to green and suddenly there are 50 impatient motorists behind you laying on their horn. Don’t let it get to you, just stay calm and do not react to the provocation.

Aggressive Drivers – Drivers all over Brazil are becoming much more aggressive (if that is humanly possible). If you find some motorist glued to your back bumper, flashing his headlights because he thinks you are going to slow don’t be surprised. Never react by slamming on your brakes since chances are this could provoke a fatal reaction on his part (see road rage) or a serious accident. In some cases if you slow down even more the other motorist will finally get the message and pass you. If not, you had better speed up a little and change routes to get as far away as possible. It’s funny because the vast majority of drivers who tailgate, blow their horns and flash their lights do so when they have a clear lane and ample opportunity to pass. It must be some kind of character flaw!


Electric / Water / Telephone accounts – Depending on where you reside in Brazil these are either easy or impossible to arrange in your name. There are NO uniform rules regarding such things here in Brazil, it seems that every state and every utility company can make their own rules. In São Paulo you cannot arrange for an account in your name for electricity with Eletropaulo unless you already have your RNE. I never had this problem in any other state where I have lived. You will need at the very least your CPF and passport to arrange for your water and telephone, cellular phone accounts, etc.

Bank Accounts – The Brazilian banking system is one of the most complex and bureaucratic in the civilized world. You cannot hold a bank account in this country unless you have permanency (i.e. your RNE and CPF), you will need to produce proof of residence, proof of income and other documents in order to open an account.

NOTE: When you apply for your permanent visa and Carteira de Identidade Estrangeiro you will be issued a document called a Protocolo, this bears your photograph and all your personal information and is stamped by the Federal Police. If you examine the document you will find that on the right hand side, below the barcode there is a box entitled Tipo de Pedido. This MUST say "Permanente - Valido como documento oficial de identidade". This is the document you need in order to open a bank account if you don't already have the plastic ID card. If your status is anything less than permanent you're out of luck.

It is a frustrating process and may not be instantly successful. It may take several tries to get it right. I personally recommend opening an account with an international bank such as Citibank, HSBC or others that may also operate in your home country. This may facilitate transfers of funds you may have in your country of origin. If you are coming to Brazil and can’t open an account here then your best bet is open an HSBC account in your home country. If you have an HSBC account then you can perform international ATM transactions at any HSBC or affiliated network machine in the country. Otherwise, you can only perform international transactions at Banco do Brasil’s main branches and only at specific ATMs at that location. Trust me, this one is a real pain in the butt.

If you want to know just how complicated it really is to open a bank account read the article at this link........ it was written rather tongue in cheek, but it is TRUE … ?page=full

Marrying a Brazilian – Also bureaucratic, depending on the state you may be required to produce different documents. In São Paulo you will require an original of your birth certificate (long form bearing the full name of your parents) and have it authenticated by your embassy or consulate, this must also be accompanied by a certified translation into Portuguese. Also required will be certified copies of your passport and entry card. If you are divorced you will also require an original of your Certificate of Divorce which must also be accompanied by a certified translation. Also all documents must have been issued within the previous six months or they are no longer considered valid here in Brazil. It is important to understand the community property rules that apply to your marriage. Generally speaking most marriages are under the "Regime de Comunhão Parcial de Bens" which is the system we are mostly familiar with. Assets owned by each party prior to marriage continue to be theirs following divorce, those aquired after the marriage are divided equally. With real estate this may not always be exactly the case since any increase in value of the property due to improvements and further construction after the date of the marriage will have to be evaluated and divided between the parties. "Regime de Separação Total de Bens" is a complete separation of assets and is extremely rare in Brazil. It is used mostly in cases where the for individuals over the age of 60 years (not sure of exact age) and generally have considerable assets. As far as I am aware this is obligatory in such cases. Prenuptial agreements are also becoming increasingly popular in Brazil and can eliminate substantially any future disputes should the union end in divorce. Worth thinking about. One other point, marriage in and of itself is no guarantee of obtaining a Permanent Visa although it will help. In most cases the Federal Police will view all marriages as one of "convenience" and check things out thouroughly, including a surprise visit to your home and chatting with neighbors to confirm that a couple actually exists.

Divorcing a Brazilian - A judicial divorce in Brazil is a complex and very drawn out process, which in most cases can only be granted following a judicial separation (Separação de Corpo e Partilha de Bens) has taken place. Each situation is different too. It is possible, in cases where there are no children of the marriage and no dispute over division of assets (or they have already been divided by legal agreement) to divorce in the cartório (registry). In cases where there has been a defacto or judicial separation of at least one year you may then go direct to divorce. You will require two witnesses to swear that the separation is of at least one year. If the separation is less than that you can not do so. The laws still require that a lawyer handle a divorce in the cartório, but the same lawyer can represent both parties if they so choose. The fees are quite reasonable. The "Escritura de Divorcio" is issued the same day, however it must be registered in the cartório where the marriage actually took place afterwards. So, it is much easier if possible to seek the divorce in the same cartório where you got married in the first place if this is possible. Following registration in the original cartório you will not be free to re-marry (if this is the case) until a period of 30 days has elapsed.

Having a child in Brazil - If you are a foreign national and have a child born in Brazil your child automatically is a Brazilian citizen by virtue of birth. You must register the child's birth at the cartório (registry) in the judicial area in which you reside. This can be done by either parent and you need to (in the case of a hospital birth) provide the cartório with the copy of the DNV (Declaração de Nascimento Vivo) you were given by the hospital and in the case where only one parent is making the registration you must have the identity documents of the other parent with you. For births that take place other than in a hospital you will need to take with you two witnesses to testify that they were present and have knowledge of the birth and declare your statements to be true and accurate. Depending on your country of origin your child may also have the right to citizenship in your home country. Check with your Embassy or Consulate before the date of birth about this entitlement and how to proceed. It may be necessary to register the birth with your Embassy or Consulate in Brazil or like in my case being a Canadian while not necessary to register the birth I must apply for a Certificate of Citizenship for my child, fill out the appropriate forms and provide documents to prove the details. Brazil is a country that permits dual citizenship, some other countries do not so your Brazilian born child may not qualify for citizenship in your home country in some cases. It is also important to note that regardless of any additional citizenship your child may hold, while here in Brazil he or she will be considered Brazilian (first and foremost) for all intents and purposes of law, this also includes the compulsory military service at age 18.

Brazilian Citizenship and Dual Citizenship - Brazil is one of the countries that recognizes dual citizenship, but your home country may not. Be sure to check the citizenship requirements for your home country if you plan on becoming a naturalized citizen in Brazil. You may find that at home you will automatically lose your citizenship if you become a citizen of another country. Brazil's nationality laws are based on "Jus Soli" in common law, that is to say that with some very limited exceptions (children born to foreign diplomats in Brazil, etc.) anyone born in Brazilian territory is a Brazilian citizen by reason of birth. If you have a child while in Brazil he/she may automatically have citizenship in your home country as well. If not you generally may apply for citizenship on behalf of your child or simply need to register the birth with your Embassy or Consulate in Brazil. Check with them to be sure about the procedure. The nationality laws are also based on "Jus Parentis" in common law, therefore any child born abroad who has a Brazilian parent is considered a Brazilian citizen here in Brazil regardless of any other citizenship gained by virtue of birth.

Last Will and Testament - Foreign made Wills, even though written in a language other than Portuguese, continue to be valid here. They are however executed according to Brazilian laws which govern inheritance and the transfer of assets following death. While a holograph (handwritten) Will is legal here they are rare and subject to very formal rules. It is much better if you plan on drawing up a Will to have it done by a lawyer who knows about estate law. Having a well written and valid Will is especially important if you are married to a Brazilian citizen and continue to hold assets abroad.

Working in Brazil - Remember if you are in Brazil on a Tourist Visa you are not permitted to work (officially). If you are staying on some other type of visa the rules depend on the particular type of visa you have. Finding jobs once here in Brazil can often be very difficult for foreigners to do so you might consider searching the internet for employment consulting agencies. Make sure you have a well written and professional looking CV (resumé) which has been translated flawlessly into Portuguese. Depending on the position you are looking for you may consider sending both your English and your Portuguese CV, but in most cases you would only submit the Portuguese. You may or may not also need a cover letter to go along with the CV, this too should be in Portuguese. There is a rather formal style for this cover letter so you might want to check out one from somebody you know or ask a friend about this.

Brazilian Law - Unless you are a diplomat you are subject to all Brazilian laws while in the country. You only need to look at the television newscasts to see the horrible conditions that exist in Brazilian jails and prisons. If the thought of ending up there isn't enough to keep you on the "straight and narrow", I don't know what is. So if you use recreational drugs first ask yourself... Is it worth risking going to one of these Hell Holes just to get high? As in any country, ignorance of the law is not a legal defense. "I didn't know that..." just doesn't cut it in a courtroom. Make some effort to learn a little bit about the Brazilian Penal Code and if necessary the Civil Code too. Another important point to remember is that the Estatuto de Criança e Adolescente (ECA) Brazil's juvenile law give anyone under the age of 18 years almost absolute immunity and complete protection. So for example if some young punk tries to rob you and you turn around and kick the crap out of him it will be YOU who lands in jail, not the crook. Juveniles here all know that and that you can't lay a finger on them. This is a knowledge that they brandish like a sword (The most widly spoke phrase in the Portuguese language is "Sou de menor!") so no matter how provoked you may feel never, never lay a glove on a minor under any circumstances.  Cheers,
  James    Expat-blog Experts Team

:one wjwoodward!

You may also contribute to our participative guide life in Brazil.
It will be of a great help.;)


Great and accurate information.....good job!  Lets get together sometime....EcoTrent[at]

Cheers, Douglas

Thanks! This is a great help to newbies like me! Can I ask further about your Rio reservations? What happened or what do you know that happened that keeps you out of the city?

You should ask the Team to stick this post!

I should do the same for the Spanish forum, I´m bored of reading the same quastions over and over...

I keep telling my husband help me practice Portuguese, but he only speaks English with me! Its a losing battle, so when he speaks English to me in public, I pretend I don't hear him!

Way to go, Luasol!!! Maybe if you keep it up he will eventually get the message. If that fails, just show him the credit card bill and how much extra you paid for being spotted as a "gringa". If that doesn't convince him to speak Portuguese so you can practice nothing will. rsrsrsrsrsrsrs

By the way, where abouts in Grande BH do you live? I lived in Belo (Nova Pampulha) and in Justinópolis, Ribeirão das Neves for almost 4 years.


Hi James,

Really useful post - thanks!

Having passed through most of these issues as well whilst assisting expats in Brazil I'd like to add just one shortcut vis-a-vis CPF:

Some procedures have changed lately so a foreigner can go directly to any Receita Federal with his/her passport and get a CPF immediately.

This saves some hours.

All the best


Thank you for taking the time to write this article, it has - unfortunately - put me off moving!!

One of the main reasons for wanting to leave England is the under-18's behaviour and the fact I can't lay a finger on them, so to find Brazil has the same attitude is unwelcome information.


It is unfortunate that you would let one fact, such as this, put you off on moving to Brazil (or any other country for that matter). It truly is a wonderful country despite its many problems. You will be missing out on a lot.

I'm sure that if this is your only criterion then you possibly could shortly end up living like a hermit in a cave since most countries now have very much the same attitude toward juveniles.

On the brighter side, at least here in Brazil you get back exactly what you put out, so if you make any kind of effort to be friendly and sociable it comes back to you ten times over. The mere fact that you are an English speaker starts you off with an advantage here, Brazilians just love gringos.

I lived and worked in Goianesia for 4 months and visited Goiania a couple of times. This is why I am now considering living there for a few months of the year when I am not working.

I found the Brazilians to be fantastic people, I never encountered any criminality and loved how easy going everything was.

I will be returning to Goiania in January for 3 weeks to see how different staying in a city is compared to a town of only 50'000 residents but, yes, I have often considered living like a hermit due to the behaviour of the children in England!! :lol:

ive just read your post thankyou  or obrigado as i am now learning  ive just moved to brazil in the last 5 days as i write my papers for marriage are on there way to a translator  my girl who is fantastic at admin is taking care of everything  i came here primaraly for my girl and being sick of the uk and the peoples attitude  i have already met many kind people here and i hope by joining this site i can gather friends and information again many thanks for your time and trouble   dave scott


Thanks for your posting and welcome to Brazil. It is gratifying to know that my original posting is helping expats adjust to day-to-day life far from their homes. Have a Merry Christmas and Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year.


Ohhh man .  Thats a lot of work.  Thank god i was born in Brazil.. tho i dont have a Brazilian passport

"Some procedures have changed lately so a foreigner can go directly to any Receita Federal with his/her passport and get a CPF immediately."

This country is moving in the right direction!  Let's give them some credit.

(P.S. They only lost my CPF application twice and never issued me a card.  Total time taken: 8 months).

- Tim

Hi Tim,

Evidently they no longer issue the plastic CPF card, just the number. I think this is because one's CPF is now included on all other forms of identifications such as RG, RNE, Carteira Nacional de Habilitação, etc. This, I believe, is why it is now possible to get it directly from the Receita Federal.

Hopefully the government will move to eliminating the mountains of red tape in other areas, making it easier for foreigners and Brazilians alike.

William James Woodward

many thanks for your advice  having completed my marriage on friday with all the documentation that is required and a ceromony that really lasts minutes i am now going for my CPF  .

to anyone moving to brazil really pay attention to your personal things a CPF number should help you but in reality it does not because customs do exactly what they want including smashing your things up!!   and parcel companies still do not understand Brazil  take it from me I have learnt the hard way.

any advise do not hesitate to contact me davids995[at]

David Scott

TThanks for the great info mr. canadian..Its very useful. Iplan to visit Brazil next year..As a Filipino we are excempt from obtaining a visa. Some bilateral agreements between the two countries I think., hopefully I will enjoy my stay in Sao Paolo..
Cheers eh?

São Paulo, eh? I'm sure you'll love it. I lived there for many years it's a city that has everything.

William James Woodward - Brazil Animator, Expat-blog

hey william, ur amazing man! well done as a brazilian couldnt write something so accurately! congrats!

Thanks Diego, it's easy to write about my experiences here in Brazil, the country I love with all my heart. Despite the problems and the bureaucracy there is no place on earth I'd rather be.

William James Woodward - Brazil Animator, Expat-blog
(loucamente apaixonado pelo Brasil)

The driving safety area is spot on... the majority of these jerks have absolutely no respect for anything behind the wheel. I ride a motorcycle here and I can't count how many close encounters I've had. People blowing through red lights, oncoming drivers passing other cars only to miss me by a few feet. A box of grenades would be great. Wish the cops actually did something around here, other than drive around all day breaking more rules than anyone else(way to be the example). Really wish i could get involved in government to change things.....

Hi bmxtahoe,

Trust me, you wouldn't want to be involved in government here in Brazil. You'd be too frustrated by the fact that anything that would really work gets axed real quick! I thank God every day that I don't have to vote for this band of incompetents.

With respect to the lousy driving it really is enough to take your breath away. I'm so glad I don't drive anymore. Just the other day I took the bus from Macaé to Rio, sitting up front with a clear view of the horror show that played out in front of the bus almost the entire journey. I find it hard to believe that even knowing the first set of toll gates were just up ahead and there you could break away from the line up of semi-trucks (I think there was a convoy of six plus the bus) people were passing over the solid double line everywhere even on closed curves. One idiot even passed on the shoulder of the oncoming lanes a semi that was in the process of passing another semi - and all of this where there was a solid double line as well. These cretans don't even place any value on their own lives let alone on the lives of others. Gess that their bad driving is an effective form of population control since few Brazilian women use contraceptives. Funeral parlors and cemeteries are a growth industries here in Brazil

William James Woodward - Brazil Animator, Expat-blog

LOL1 yeah, Double lines, red lights, stop signs, speed limits.... they're all just suggestions. I remember the first day i came here.... I rode with my dad from the airport in Rio to here in Rio das Ostras. I was freaked out beyond imagination. I try to avoid going anywhere anymore... which is sad, but I get so stressed out. Macae... I think that's one of the worst places to drive. Not only do you have all the crazy drivers, but there are pot holes the size of Texas all over. People should be enraged about that and start pounding on doors. Macae's government has a ton of money, but apparently its all going towards those sleazebags bbqs and what not. Don't get me started on the people on bicycles..... lol Whew glad to get that out.... :)

Why do you always have the greatest posts!!!!!!!!!!!! HAha....seriously though....You always share great information. I cant thank you enough. Maybe when I come to visit Brazil during college we can hang out?  It would be awesome to get and insiders views, tips in person..

Hi Vlad,

Guess that my postings are good because I've been here for a very long time. This January will be 11 years for me. If you look at postings by anyone who has been here for an extended period they are always good and always full of information. Look for any postings by OldDogGyn or DouglasT and a few others, you will see they are all good postings and very well informed because they've been here a while.

Thanks for the glowing comment however, made my day! If you ever get to Brazil I will be more than happy to give you all the tips I know.

William James Woodward - Brazil Animator, Expat-blog

I have a copy of my passport with the visa page and driver licence. All this is on one page. Is this the type of document you are talking about. Will they certified copies of this at the Cartório. Thanks

Hi Vegas12,

If you take the originals with you to the cartório they MAY certify the copy, however most cartórios here prefer to make the copies themselves. Also most documents (according to the cartório) are supposed to be copied individually.

William James Woodward - Brazil Animator, Expat-blog Team

I have been living in brazil for one year  I find these posts very informative and helpful  my observations are thus   1  motorcycles in brazil are a danger to all  lack of education and intelligence ends up with many accidents   in fact traffic in general needs sorting  and this is (petrolina) a small city  2  brazillian people are jeckle and hyde either really lovely or very jealous of anyone different  i am still trying to work out if i am going to stay here or not   but for my wife I think I would have left by now   bureaucracy is a joke  and the police need a kicking  great to have guns  sad when you see them sat around reading newspapers as idiots potentially put your life at risk on the roads   sorry just my views I am sure others think differently

Hi David,

Yes, motorcycles are a problem, traffic is Third World (but where are we, anyway?), and yes, some Brazilians, especially in Rio is seems, are rather two faced.  Police have improved a lot, but get paid little, sometimes way past pay day, and there is corruption.  Everywhere has it downsides, but Brazil has far more upsides.  Concentrate on these, leave First World expectations in the First World, and you will find that life here can be good.   It takes 2 years to really understand a country different from yours, and even then it is a 80-90% understanding.  It takes 5 years to really know what is going on.   Give it time my friend, and look for the good people....there are lots of them.

Good luck!  Douglas

Thankyou Douglas  I appreciate your words and advice  yes you are correct perhaps I need more time and understanding  and yes I have also met and made some good friends here  time to re think   best wishes

Sounds good David!  Have you been to Belo Horizonte?  It is a nice city.  Plan a visit and we can catch a beer or two!

Cheers, Douglas   ecotrent[at]

sounds like a plan  will keep in touch  david

So nicely described.

I am happy to find this post.
Its very infomatic. I am sure this will help
to plan my visit to brasil.

and thanks to everyone who participated in this

Waiting for few more informatic topics about brasil

Stay in touch

Dear Mr William James Woodward

i can not thank you enough , for so informative so helpful so artistic description for all about Brazil ,
i can never find such complete record for all questions inside my head .
i was moving along websites trying to collect Portuguese lessons and any personal point of view about Brazil , and God send this blog to my road

I am a 33 years old Egyptian engineer , last year the love of my life came to Egypt and we got married and spent a 1 month in heaven , she insisted alot that i visit Brazil for her family and Re-marry in a church and all , and with the revolution going on in my country , i said why not go start a new life there .

its my first time to travel away from my country , have alot of doubts and fears , mostly about language and work , my country is as bureaucratic as i read here in your topic , sending a marriage document from Cairo to Brasilia took 28 days even i was promised 4-5 work days .

I have seen other enlightening topics for you about Portuguese learning , especially ( LEARN OVER A THOUSAND PORTUGUESE WORDS IN A FEW MINUTES ) and i need to stalk all your topics ;)
Thank you gain Mr W.J. Woodward for all the devoted effort and huge amount of help you spread , lots of light arrows you shoot darkness around me and my fellow expats .

in Arabic we have this phrase : Whoever teach me 1 letter , enslaves me .

Wishing you all the best , is enough to read others experience under what you write .

PS : do you wish for anything from Egypt ?

I second that.  I've only been using expat-blog for about a week now, but I keep coming back.  The advice on this blog, especially from William has been incredible and very valuable to me.

I'm going to contribute what I can in return.  This forum is very active and seems like a great community to share and learn about living in Brazil.

Hi meeroeng and dan001,

Thanks to both of you for your very gracious comments. It's really gratifying to know that the time I've spent here on the blog is so helpful to people and apreciated.

William James Woodward - Brazil Animator, Expat-blog Team

I wanted to post two things of interest. I just came back to Las Vegas from Brazil in February. When I got home I was sick for a week with bad headache. I talked to my wife in Belo Horizonte and she told me that there is now a epidemic in Brazil of Dengue Fever. About three days ago my step daughter had it and also her sister. I want you to be aware that this is going on all over Brazil. I did some research they say that a vaccine is close to being released. I also read that the US and Brazil are talking about dropping the Tourist Visa. This will be called the Visa Waiver Program. The US and Brazil are in discussions about this program.

Hi Vegas12,

Sorry to hear you've been sick. Yeah, Dengue continues to be a big problem in Brazil no matter what they do to try and combat it, and believe me they've tried everything. One of the biggest problems here in Brazil is that people are just not taking steps to eliminate places where they can breed by making sure there is not any exposed standing water anywhere on their property.

In a country where there are so many diseases spread by mosquitoes and other flying insects it's strange there are almost no houses in this country with window screens. By the way, have you received a diagnosis of Dengue or are you just guessing that's what it is? Get it checked, could be something else - meningitis is also back on the rise here in Brazil too.

The news about the USA and Brazil and the on-again-off-again agreement to do away with the need for tourist visas is an old story. Don't know if it's going to happen, but if it does it will be bad news for Americans. There are presently thirty or more countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program and their is also the Schengen Area Agreement in which Brazil also participates. These countries permit travel for tourism or (unpaid) travel on business without the need of a visa.

The bad news is that any given stay is limited to a maximum of three months in a six month period and it cannot be extended. So if the pact between the USA and Brazil does go through American citizens will no longer be able to stay in Brazil for 6 months (180 days) in a single consecutive visit per year. That's really going to hurt a lot of people.

William James Woodward - Brazil Animator, Expat-blog Team

Very good information

New topic