By Samuel Novacich, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On July 2, 2009, Brazil’s then President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva signed into legislation Law 11961/09, better known as the Amnesty Law. The law promised temporary amnesty to foreigners living illegally in Brazil, and created a path towards permanent residency within two years. Now, after approximately 43,000 foreigners took advantage of the legislation, and as the two-year temporary amnesty runs out, many are concerned about clearing the final hurdles towards citizenship.

Deputy William Woo, a key participant in drafting the Amnesty Law, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, News
Deputy William Woo, a key participant in drafting the Amnesty Law, photo by Tiagonicastro/Wikimedia Creative Commons License.

In applying for permanent residency, the website of the Polícia Federal (Federal Police) is quite helpful, providing a list of necessary documents and even a link for making appointment reservations. Attaining the documents necessary in applying for permanent residency, though numerous, is relatively straight-forward.

The applicant requires: a declaration that the individual is not in debt, that the individual has not left Brazil for a period of more than 90 days, and that the individual has never been convicted of a crime.

Verification of a clean criminal record is provided by the Secretariat of Public Security of the individual’s state of residence; the Certidão Conjunta de Débitos (Joint Certificate of Debt, available online through Brazil’s Federal Revenue Board); proof of payment of a tax corresponding to the CIE (Carteira de Indentidade Estrangeiro, Foreigner Identity Card).

Finally a payment of $31.05; two 3×4 color photos; the individual’s original CIE; and proof of income. For most, this last requirement has been the greatest unknown in applying for permanent residency.

An Argentine, who requested to remain anonymous and was granted amnesty in 2009, had this to say regarding the process: “I went to the Federal Police without really knowing what I was doing. I took copies of my tax returns as proof of income, and my Carteira de Trabalho [Worker’s Booklet]. They didn’t really say anything about it, so I guess it was alright, and I have another appointment to go back on Thursday.”

Former President Lula in interview regarding the Amnesty Law, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, News
Former President Lula in interview regarding the Amnesty Law, image recreation.

Though according to the Argentine, officials were very helpful in her application, higher authorities have not given details as to what qualifies as “sufficient income.”

Michael Royster, an American attorney in Rio de Janeiro familiar with Immigration Law, guesses that a minimum wage salary is sufficient, as it is after all what the Brazilian government assesses is the minimum income needed by an individual to support him or herself.

Royster goes on to explain, “Self-employed persons must either set up an MEI (sole proprietorship small business) or issue formal receipts (called “RPA”) identifying the clients or customers who pay them.”

Of the over 43,000 individuals who were granted amnesty under Law 11961/09, Bolivians are believed to be the greatest beneficiaries, numbering over 17,000, mostly in the state of São Paulo. Other notable nationalities to apply for amnesty are Chinese (5,500), Peruvians (4,600), Paraguayans (4,100), and Koreans (1,100).

Approximately 2,400 Europeans are also believed to have received amnesty under the law. It is yet to be calculated however how many of these thousands will have permanent residency after their two year amnesty runs out, starting on July 2nd.


  1. Thanks for the information, but has there been any updates for those foreigners who are now illegally in the country but were not able to take advantage of the amnesty law in 2009? Is it likely that this will only come back around in another 10 years?


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