Updated 12 months ago

Brazil is a huge and diverse country just waiting to be explored. But before you book your hotel and flight, check whether you'll need to apply for a visa.

Tourist visas

In general, Brazil follows a policy of reciprocity — if your country requires Brazilians to obtain a visa to enter, then probably you'll need a visa to enter Brazil. If you hold a UK, Irish Republic, or New Zealand passport, relax. You can visit Brazil as a tourist for up to 90 days without a visa. You'll just need to present a passport valid for at least six months past the date of entry. Citizens of most other western European nations also do not require visas, but you'll want to verify your situation.

If you hold a US, Canadian, Australian, or South African passport, you'll need to obtain a visa before you can board a flight to Brazil. But relax. The process is almost always a formality. No interview is required. It's just a matter of submitting the proper paperwork and fees. And once you have a tourist visa, it should be valid for ten years.

When applying for a visa, be sure to submit your application to the consulate or embassy designated to serve your area of residence. Applying to another consulate will cause your application to be returned unprocessed.

Once in Brazil, you can visit an office of the Federal Police to apply for an extension of 90 days. An extension is almost always granted. Alternatively, you can hop out of Brazil – for example, for a weekend in Buenos Aires – and then upon returning to Brazil, you'll have another 90 days.

Work visas

Work visas may be issued to persons with special skills not easily found in Brazil. Examples include oil platform workers, engineers, and some medical professionals. In practice, however, it is not easy to obtain a work visa, as the company wanting to employ you must demonstrate that they cannot find a Brazilian with the requisite skill set. Also, note that most jobs in Brazil will require a good understanding of Portuguese.

Unlike many other countries, Brazil does not operate any special program to bring native English into the country to teach English or assist in the classroom. Being a native English speaker alone is not enough to qualify you for a work visa, although some language schools may be willing to sponsor you.

If a work visa is issued, it will be valid for a maximum of two years, after which you can apply to renew it. Renewals are more easily obtained than the original visa. You may also apply to transform the work visa into a permanent visa.

Note that even if you don't qualify for a work visa, you may be granted the right to work legally in Brazil if you obtain permanent residency. Read on.

Permanent visas

There are many advantages of permanent resident status, including the ability to open a bank account, the freedom to exit and return to Brazil freely, access to the public healthcare system, and the right to work legally. There are a few types of permanent visas:

Retirement visas are available to those who are at least 60 years old – or who have a spouse who is 60 or older – and who can prove a regular monthly income of at least US$2,000. Provided that you meet these conditions and do not have a criminal record, the retirement visa is generally fairly easy to obtain.

Permanent visas are granted to individuals who marry either a Brazilian citizen or an individual with permanent residency in Brazil. Note that gay marriages are now recognized in Brazil. Also, stable civil unions with Brazilians are regarded in the same way as marriages, but what constitutes a stable union is not well defined. You'll need to satisfy a judge that your relationship qualifies.

Permanent visas are also granted to the parents of children born in Brazil. If you visit Brazil, and your child is born here, that child is a Brazilian citizen. The child's parents do not automatically become Brazilian citizens, but will be granted permanent resident status.

Those who can invest a minimum of 500,000 Brazilian Reals may apply for an investor visa. This is not a simple process, as your investment cannot be passive, but must be an enterprise which creates jobs for Brazilians. Your business plan will need to be reviewed and approved, and you will need to report periodically to a government official. And operating a business in Brazil is seldom easy. So this route is not recommended if you really just want residency.

Other types of visas

You may qualify for a student visa if you enroll at a qualified institution. Seek the school's assistance in applying. Note that a student visa will only be valid for the term of study.

Missionary visas may be granted for up to two years. Check with the Brazilian consulate serving your area for specific requirements.

Brazil does not offer visas specifically for volunteer service. Additionally, there are no programs which recruit English speakers to teach in the public schools unlike in some other countries.

Overstaying

While you should always respect the laws of any country you visit, you should be aware that the penalties for overstaying in Brazil are not severe. You'll be required to pay a fine of about 8.26 Reals (currently $2.62) for each day you've overstayed, with the fine capped at 100 days. Once the fine is paid, you will be allowed to re-enter Brazil again after the anniversary date of your arrival in Brazil.

While obtaining permanent residency in Brazil can prove challenging, it's quite easy to spend up to 180 days per year here as a tourist. Just choose a locale and the months you'd like to visit!

 Useful links:

Official Brazilian government website

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