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A Comprehensive Guide on Moving to Brazil

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  • Francois Bertrand

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Relocating to Brazil

Within recent memory, Brazil has emerged as a new and significant global player, both economically and politically. Although Brazil had enjoyed a period of perpetual economic growth, which, combined with its laidback lifestyle and favorable climate, have caused ever increasing numbers of expat from various fields to consider a move to Brazil, this could be in the process of changing. In 2014, Brazil experienced an economic contraction for two consecutive quarters, marking the first technical recession in five years. However, despite the third quarter ending the recession with a minuscule growth of 0.1%, both governmental and independent economists have decreased projections for growth in the upcoming years.

Although this turbulence in the economy shouldn’t worry expats too much, it is important to realize that settling down in Brazil and finding a job there has always required a considerable amount of dedication and perseverance, not to mention a bit of good luck. Nevertheless, many who now enjoy their lives in a bustling metropolis or a scenic coastal city say that getting a visa and moving to Brazil was well worth the effort.

The Economic Situation

Brazil boasts the dynamic business climate of one of the world’s fastest growing economies. Despite recent contraction, Brazil remains the 7th largest economy on the globe, becoming such in early 2012. Although economists believed the FIFA World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016 would provide further stimulus to the booming economy, this expectation has since come under review. The former is thought to have had a negative impact on the economy, as municipal holidays during local games and staff truancy from work to watch the competition decreased production rates and played a role in the aforementioned technical recession. The results of the Olympic Games on the Brazilian economy have yet to be seen.

Nevertheless, Brazil’s reputation as a growing economy continues to be a magnet for both foreign investment and skilled workers from abroad temporarily moving to Brazil. For foreign experts, the country’s pioneering fields of ethanol production – recently flagging, but still firmly supported by the government – and deep water oil research offer attractive career opportunities.

The Political Situation

One of the other reasons why moving to Brazil is popular among expats is its reliable political situation. After the abolishment of military rule in 1985, the state has gradually established a stable democratic system. As those moving to Brazil may know, the Brazilians elected their first ever female president in January 2011: Dilma Rousseff, former chief of staff of retiring ex-president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. After facing intense criticism and eruptions of protest concerning accusations of corruption and poor public services in the face of the FIFA World Cup, Rousseff narrowly won reelection in 2015, with just 51.6% of the vote.

You will soon notice the highly unequal distribution of income. While over the past few decades there has been significant upwards social mobility, creating a new middleclass, poverty remains one of the country’s major socio-political problems. The crime rate, feared by many who consider a move to Brazil, is relatively high. Although, according to reports, crime has been decreasing in urban areas like São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, expatriates should still be careful. Some expats moving to Brazil, however, report that it is less noticeable in their daily life, provided they adhere to some basic safety rules, e.g. be vigilant at night, rent accommodation in safe compounds, and never try to resist any thief, mugger, or robber. Furthermore, corruption, despite efforts of the government to tackle it, is still considered one of the country’s biggest issues, both by locals and expats moving to Brazil.

Brazil’s Main Cities

São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, is by far the most popular expat destination in the state. Apart from its sheer size – São Paulo’s metropolitan area is home to nearly 20 million people – it is also Brazil’s economic and financial center, housing the São Paulo Stock Exchange. In 2011, it was estimated to have generated over 17% of the country’s GDP. Plenty of multinational headquarters are located there, and expatriates moving to Brazil will find that São Paulo has more to offer than any other place in the country.

Brazil’s most famous and notorious metropolis of Rio de Janeiro is lagging slightly behind São Paulo in terms of expat popularity. However, this is definitely not due to a lack of attractiveness – Rio holds the title for the most visited city in the Southern Hemisphere – but rather the lower number of employment opportunities for foreigners. Most commonly, expats moving to Brazil to work in Rio are employed as specialists in Brazil’s petrochemical sector and other important industries, or they scrape a living by teaching English.

Expat Info Brazil: Destinations, Jobs, Visas

Other Expat Destinations

Unlike São Paulo and Rio, the nation’s capital, Brasília, is purely the country’s political center. Its sizeable expat community consists mainly of diplomatic staff, journalists, and foreign correspondents. With 2.6 million residents, Brasília seems almost small when compared to São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. In fact, life tends to be a lot less hectic and chaotic there than in other Brazilian cities.

Macaé, the center of the country’s offshore petroleum industry, located around 180 km northeast of Rio de Janeiro, also has a consistent demand for foreign experts. Consequently, the city has a sizeable, mainly English-speaking expat community and quite a decent expat infrastructure, including international schools. Other expat destinations may include some of Brazil’s coastal cities, such as Fortaleza, Recife, and Porto Alegre.

Expat Job Market

The large majority of expats working in Brazil are transferees from foreign companies and multinationals that operate local branches in São Paulo or other Brazilian cities. The job market for self-made expats in Brazil is extremely competitive, and it is difficult to come by a well-paid position without the backing of an influential HR department or extensive networking ties.

Experience shows that it is unwise to move to Brazil unless you have managed to secure a job. Many hopeful expats eventually return to their home countries a lot sooner than they had anticipated. Those with hard skills in areas such as engineering, high-tech, finance, or management do, however, stand a chance.

Teaching English as a second language (ESL) is a popular alternative for those who cannot find a job in their original profession. Native English speakers are indeed sought after by language schools and corporate offices. Nevertheless, teaching positions are not that well-paid, and expats find it difficult to maintain their previous standard of living. Sufficient knowledge of Portuguese is usually a prerequisite for finding employment in Brazil.

Visa Requirements

The Brazilian Foreigners’ Statute distinguishes between a variety of short-term visas for different categories and permanent visas for those intending to move to Brazil indefinitely. Short-term visas include tourist and business visas.

While tourists from certain countries, such as many other South American states and European Union states, may enter the country for a maximum of 90 days without a visa; all other short-term visitors must apply for a visa beforehand. So-called business visas are intended for short-term business trips only and do not permit the holder to take up work in Brazil. Additionally, there are other types of temporary visas for researchers, artists, exchange students, volunteers, and religious missionaries, which may be issued for a longer period.

Temporary Visa

Those planning to live and work in Brazil may apply for a category V temporary visa (VITERM) or a permanent visa (VIPER). Temporary visas in category V are intended for those who have already signed a temporary employment contract with a Brazilian employer. As work contracts have to be examined and approved by the Ministry of Labor before the visa application is processed, the success rate remains relatively low. The obvious exceptions are intra-company transfers, where the appropriate visas are rarely denied.

The visa is valid for up to two years, and it can be extended only once. However, as of November 2011, the extension is no longer limited to another two years. The work visa can thus be extended for an undetermined, albeit not permanent period of time. Temporary work visas are limited to the position specified in the visa: The holder is not permitted to change jobs while in the country or to remain in Brazil after the employment contract has expired.

Permanent Visa

Many expats planning to move to Brazil apply for a permanent visa instead. This allows them to change jobs without losing their residence permit and to avoid applying for a visa renewal. Permanent visas for Brazil can be granted to expats with specific qualifications and a working contract in Brazil, to those seeking to start a business in Brazil, provided they bring a certain minimum amount of financial capital, and retirees with a monthly pension of at least $2,250 USD.

To be considered for a permanent visa, the applicant needs to have a police certificate showing no criminal record. If they seek employment in Brazil, they must also prove that they possess special skills of benefit to the Brazilian economy.

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  • Francois Bertrand

    What a thrilling city São Paulo is. With a great international expat community that keeps in touch on InterNations.

  • Elin Gustavson

    As I already met several expat women on InterNations online, it was great to meet offline and get to know each other in real life.

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