By Ciara Long, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Last Thursday, April 6th, Brazil’s federal Committee on Foreign Relations and National Defense (CRE) approved a bill that would allow foreigners with an ‘irregular’ immigration status to apply for residency in Brazil.
The bill, which would allow thousands of foreigners to remain in Brazil, will now advance to the Brazilian Senate for discussion.
The proposed legislation is part of the Nova Lei das Migrações (New Migration Law), and includes an article that would grant amnesty to people of any nationality currently in Brazil with an irregular or illegal immigration status.
Permanent residency could potentially be granted to applicants if the bill passes the next legislative hurdles, regardless of their previous migratory situation. In its current form, those who entered Brazil on or before July 6, 2016, would be eligible to apply for residency.
Few changes were made to the proposed law by the CRE. According to Senator Tasso Jereissati, who led the CRE’s changes to the bill, it aims to encompass immigrants, emigrants and visitors from all over the world, staying consistent with Brazil’s track record of welcoming immigrants from across the globe.
Dr Grove Calderón, president of the body proposing the law, the National Association of Foreigners and Immigrants in Brazil (ANEIB), praised the CRE for its quick decisions.
Speaking to local media, Dr Calderón thanked the CRE for “the friendly gesture of the Senate Foreign Relations Commission”.
He extended a specific thank you to the CRE’s president, Tasso Jereissati and his fellow senator Cristovam Buarque, “who did not put any obstacles to the project that brings In his heart the so-called amnesty, pass without further interference by the commission.”
The bill will replace the country’s Foreigner Statute, adopted during the military regime. Its overall aims are to regulate the entry and stay of foreigners in Brazil, establish the rights and duties of migrants and visitors, and put in place rules for protection of Brazilians abroad.
It would also grant displaced people currently in Brazil with temporary refugee status, winning the project praise from the UN and Amnesty International in December for its potential to safeguard refugees and victims of labor trafficking.
Amnesty International anticipates that the law would allow refugees and migrants the full exercise of political rights. Speaking to local media, Amnesty’s human rights advisor Marina Motta said, “Brazil finally has the possibility to carry out human rights-based legislation and to be consistent with all international treaties with which Brazil has committed itself.”
According to lawyer Grover Calderon, president of the ANEIB – Associação Nacional de Estrangeiros e Imigrantes no Brasil (National Association of Foreigners and Immigrants in Brazil), there are approximately 60,000 foreigners in Brazil today who will benefit from the law’s amnesty clause and who cannot be considered a refugee.
Also not included in the amnesty would be nationals from Mercosur countries, with the exception of Venezuela, (Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Suriname) who are automatically granted authorization to live in Brazil.
For American expatriate in Rio, Mike Smith, who was able to qualify for the 2009 immigration amnesty, the opportunity to gain residency in Brazil was an important factor in being able to launch a small business here, without the expensive process of attaining a Business Visa.
He shares, “It took a couple years but it saved me a lot of money, not just the amount needed to bring into the country, but the legal and accounting fees to maintain the entity to the extent required. With the RNE card, I was able to open an individual entrepreneurship, called MEI.”