SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – As the world starts to consider Brazil as the new hotspot of the coronavirus pandemic, the United States, through its embassy and consulates, has been trying to aid its citizens still present in the country.
“Due to the uncertainty associated with commercial air service, we advise U.S. citizens who live in the United States to consider an immediate return to the United States unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period,” Scott Hamilton, the Consul General of the U.S. Consulate General in Rio de Janeiro, told the Rio Times.
As of Tuesday May 5th, Brazil registered more than 114,700 confirmed cases and almost 8,000 deaths from Covid-19 contamination in all 26 states and the capital, Brasilia. With lockdowns in major cities starting to occur and health systems reaching their capacity, foreigners are finding it harder and harder to leave the country.
According to the U.S. diplomat there is currently no repatriation service from Brazil to the U.S. for American citizens, “U.S. citizens who wish to return to the United States should reach out to airlines directly to book their travel home,” said Hamilton.
At the beginning of April, the consulates reported that U.S.-bound flights from Brazil decreased to 11 per week, mainly from Sao Paulo (Guarulhos – GRU) and Campinas (Viracopos – VCP). This week, a month later, commercial flights from Brazil to the U.S. are expected to increase to 13 per week.
And while it is getting more and more difficult to leave the country, it is impossible to enter Brazil if you are a foreign tourist. Brazil’s government has implemented a ban on all foreigners entering Brazil by air until the end of May.
Although there is no exact number of how many people have reached out to the consulates and embassy since the pandemic was declared in late March, the consulate says the U.S. Mission in Brazil has registered a 16 percent increase in the number of U.S. citizens enrolled in its Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).
The registration in STEP is not mandatory; however, U.S. consulate officials encourage its citizens to enroll so that they will receive the latest updates from the nearest embassy or consulate, ‘including how to register interest in a return flight home’ and how to book tickets on commercial flights.
“Through STEP, we also share updates about the current situation in Brazil, including border closures, mask requirements, personal security, and health resources available, as well as changes in U.S. policy that might affect American citizens,” says the consul.
The U.S. mission in Brazil also stated that it will help Americans who want to return to the U.S. but are facing financial hardships to do so. “The U.S. government is committed to helping destitute Americans return directly to the United States and has done so during the COVID-19 crisis.”
U.S. citizens who need assistance should send an e-mail to [email protected] or call +55 (21) 3823-2000,” says the consul general.
Hamilton also noted that U.S. citizens who live abroad and do not intend to return to the United States at this time should avoid all international travel. Those who decide to remain in Brazil should follow all health and safety regulations established by Brazilian authorities, says the official.
Consular services such as document notarization and passport renewal are not being scheduled at this time unless the American citizen can prove imminent travel. As of March 17th the U.S. Embassy and consulates in Brazil are offering emergency services to U.S. citizens only
For those who remain in Brazil, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security warns individuals to remain vigilant for scams related to COVID-19. “Cyber actors may send emails with malicious attachments or fraudulent websites.”
U.S. officials also inform citizens living overseas that they can cast absentee votes in their state’s upcoming election, no matter where they are.
Foreigners who are lawful permanent residents and those holding valid immigrant visas will not be barred from entering the United States. On April 22nd day President Trump signed a proclamation suspending the entry into the United States of certain immigrants, but according to officials no valid visas will be revoked under this Proclamation. Routine visa services, however, have been suspended at U.S. diplomatic posts worldwide.