Getting a Work Visa in Brazil

By Mira Olson, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO – For foreigners who visit Rio and fall in love, finding a way to support oneself here can be a discouraging challenge. While amnesty for illegal immigrants was offered last year, many were not eligible and are still looking to understand their options for employment.

A passport valid for at least six months from the estimated date of arrival in Brazil and with at least two blank visa pages is required to apply for a work visa, photo by swimparallel/Flickr Creative Common License.

Like a lot of countries, Brazil requires all foreigners to have a work visa to be employed by a Brazilian business here. New Zealand is the only exception; Brazil offers “Working Holidays” or temporary work visas to citizens of New Zealand as part of a reciprocal political agreement in place. (See the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs for further information.)

To obtain a work visa, a long list of requirements must be met, including in-person submission of paper application forms, proof of residency for the last twelve months within the jurisdiction of the Consulate where the application is submitted.

Also a non-criminal record from the police department of the applicant’s city of residence, the equivalent of a US$100 application fee (US citizens pay an additional US$130 reciprocity fee), and some form of proof of the applicant’s affiliation with the hiring entity/organization.

Once all materials have been gathered, and everything has been submitted to the Consulate, with luck the application procedure takes the estimated five business days. Nevertheless, the Consulate reserves the right to ask for any additional information deemed necessary and to demand a personal interview, which can prolong the process.

The easiest way to obtain a work visa is to be hired by a company that is either of Brazilian ownership or that has an official branch of operation in Brazil. In this situation, the company serves as a sponsor and generally takes care of the visa process. Such is the case of American citizen Mark Bures.

Bures came to Brazil on a work visa in 1999. Just out of business school, he was offered a job in the Brazilian office of the global consulting giant Boston Consulting Group. In terms of acquiring the necessary work visa and permit, Bures recalls, “The company took care of it – they had a standard list of documents they needed from me. I just had to deliver them and they took it from there. The only real problem was the wait time – back then it was several months.”

The process took roughly five months, during which time the Bures had to make trips back and forth between Brazil and the US because of the lack of clarity regarding paperwork needed. And while this was going on, his belongings sat trapped at the Brazilian port for months, as he was unable to claim them until his visa situation was resolved.

Outside the Brazilian Embassy in London, photo by Mark Hillary/Flickr Creative Common License.

The benefit of having a contract in place at the time of application is that in order for the Brazilian Consulate to begin processing a work visa, the Consulate must first receive approval from the Ministry of Labor.

In other words, applications must be presented in Brazil to the Ministry of Labor by the entity or organization that will hire the individual. If the applicant already has a contract, the hiring company presents the visa request to the Ministry of Labor directly, facilitating the rest of the process.

A work visa can also be issued to foreigners who invest in a Brazilian company, but US$50,000 is the minimum investment amount. And if the deal is not properly managed through official channels, the investment will not yield a visa.

A nearly mystical “volunteer” work visa also exists for those individuals wishing to provide services or technical assistance to charitable or religious organizations without a contract or employment relationship.

This type of visa requires additional materials, such as proof of health insurance valid in Brazil and multiple letters from the hosting organization in which they prove their official status and registration with the Brazilian Regulatory Agency, describe what type of work the volunteer will undertake, where and for how long, and take full responsibility for the volunteer’s daily expenses and departure from the country. In Rio at least, acquiring such documentation can seem like a nearly impossible feat.

Unfortunately, there is no way to transition from a tourist visa to a work visa while remaining in Brazil. An authorized individual may submit materials on behalf of the applicant, but the latter must return to his/her home country and re-enter using the new visa.

14 Responses to "Getting a Work Visa in Brazil"

  1. michael royster  April 21, 2010 at 9:34 AM

    Excellent article, one small point. Since early 2009 the investor visa requires investing the foreign currency equivalent of at least R$150.000 in a Brazilian company, around US$85,000 at today’s rates.
    Although the investor visa is “permanent” it now has to be renewed every three years, by showing that the company has actually conducted business.

  2. Melissa  April 26, 2010 at 10:11 PM

    Agreed, a great article. Looks like not much has changed over the past 10 years since Mr. Bures went through the experience. I moved to Rio in 2008 when I was hired by a large international NGO and had the same experience he did, my visa process took 5 months (January – May) and when I got here my stuff was stuck in customs until October. The good news – the renewal process seems to be much easier!

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  13. Rich  July 19, 2013 at 6:46 PM

    A great summary article. I hope more people read this! Brazil is a beautiful and exciting place and getting to live there, rightly, is a challenge.

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