Working in Brazil
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Find out how to get a job and work in Brazil
Don’t let working in Brazil remain an escapist dream! InterNations GO! offers essential info on job opportunities, visa and language requirements, social security, and more. Numerous expats from around the world have made working in Brazil the reality of their professional lives. Why don’t you too?
Employment in Brazil
Brazil’s economic success and relatively steady growth make working in Brazil an attractive option for expats from all over the globe. For instance, the oil and gas industry as well as the booming financial sector in cities such as São Paulo hold interesting opportunities for expats.
Expat Jobs in Brazil
Nevertheless, those who consider working in Brazil should have a thorough plan before leaving their home country. The market is highly competitive for self-made expats, and every year a number of expats return home early because their employment in Brazil did not turn out to be what they expected. You should be especially aware of the fact that working in Brazil is usually possible only with sufficient knowledge of Portuguese.
Expats in Brazil are typically transferees from foreign and multinational companies which operate local branches in the country. Finding a job without the backing of an HR department can prove very difficult, and self-made expats are rather rare. Most of the foreign expatriates working in Brazil are employed in areas such as engineering or the high-tech sector. The petrochemical industry, based mainly in Rio de Janeiro and the Cidade do Petróleo (city of petroleum) Macaé, is also a popular employer for foreign nationals.
There are two types of visa which enable foreign nationals to start working in Brazil. The first is a category V visa, which is valid for working in a specific position for a limited period of time. With a category V visa, expats are not permitted to change jobs throughout their stay in Brazil. Dependent family members may accompany the visa holder, although they are not automatically allowed to start a job in Brazil themselves.
Even though these temporary visas are readily issued for intra-company transfers, they are significantly harder to come by for expats seeking job opportunities independently. In order to be considered for such a visa, the applicant needs to have a signed contract with a Brazilian employer. Only after this contract has been examined and approved by the Brazilian Ministry of Labor will the visa application be further processed by the immigration authorities.
Long-Term Visa for Brazil
Self-made expats planning to take up employment in Brazil often try to apply for a permanent visa instead of the temporary one described above. This has the definite advantage that it does not only allow the holder to stay in Brazil indefinitely, but also to change jobs without running the risk of losing their work permit.
On the other hand, acquiring a permanent visa is even more difficult than receiving a temporary permit for working in Brazil. Most importantly, applicants need to convince the Brazilian authorities that they possess highly specialized skills which would benefit the Brazilian economy.
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Social Security and Etiquette in Brazil
Social Security System
Brazil has an extensive social security system to which everyone working in Brazil is obligated to contribute, including expats. Social security contributions are paid by both employee and employer. Between 8 and 11% of the employee’s pre-tax salary is deducted for social security by the Ministry of Social Affairs (Ministério da Previdência Social).
With a small number of countries, such as Chile, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain, and Portugal, Brazil has entered into specific social security agreements. The government has also signed such agreements with Belgium, Germany, and Japan, but these have not been ratified yet. Although nationals from these countries usually have to contribute to the Brazilian social security system, their contributions may be taken into account when calculating benefits in their home country after their return.
Benefits and Eligibility
Social security benefits, such as pensions, sick pay and invalidity benefits are paid by the National Institute of Social Security, the Instituto Nacional do Seguro Social (INSS). To be eligible for a public old-age pension, workers have to contribute to the fund for a minimum of 15 years while invalidity benefits require a minimum of 12 months’ contributions to the scheme. Furthermore, the amounts paid are rather low, especially when compared to international standards.
In addition to the INSS funds, every employer in Brazil is required by law to establish a so-called Fundo de Garantia do Tempo de Serviço (FGTS) for each employee. The FGTS is a specific type of frozen account into which the employer pays a certain percentage of the employee’s monthly salary. In the case of specific events, such as termination without cause or serious disease, the employee receives the money from their account.
As opposed to all other Latin American countries, Brazil’s main language is Portuguese – spoken by as much as 97% of the country’s population. Although the written language more or less resembles the Portuguese used in Portugal, there are considerable differences in the spoken language. Picture the challenges in communication between a Brazilian and a Portuguese similar to those a Brit and an American might have in everyday conversation. Apart from moderate regional variations in both vocabulary and accent, there are no distinct dialects within Brazil.
For everyone planning a longer stay in Brazil, an adequate knowledge of Portuguese is indispensable. English as a second language is not as widely spoken as it might be in other countries – even in the bigger cities, you cannot necessarily expect people to understand or speak English. In the Brazilian business world, English will only get you so far, and chances are that only people from upper management speak English.
Although business etiquette in Brazil is considerably more relaxed than elsewhere, there are a couple of things expats in Brazil should be aware of to avoid serious misunderstandings. First and foremost, it is generally very important to build up individual relationships before actually doing business together. It is therefore advisable not to rush anything but wait for your counterpart to bring up the subject of a business deal.
Secondly, business meetings tend to be rather informal. Generally speaking, everyone chips in with their opinion. It is also acceptable to interrupt others, even though you should carefully avoid criticizing others too bluntly.
Third (which is often hardest to understand for some foreigners), being late for an appointment is both common and perfectly acceptable. In Brazil, it is generally considered far more impolite to abruptly cut off a conversation or leave early from an unexpected invitation than to be late for subsequent appointments.