Moving to São Paulo
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What to know if you're moving to São Paulo
Read our Relocation Guide on moving to São Paulo to get an overview of visa requirements, neighborhoods, accommodation in the city, and other topics of vital importance. With our help you will not plunge into the unknown after making the decision of relocating to São Paulo.
All about Brazil
Relocating to São Paulo
Moving to São Paulo remains immensely popular among those seeking new adventures and opportunities abroad. Brazil’s economic growth engine and most international city attracts plenty of expats and international students every year. Those who have dared to make the move agree that you either love your decision to move to São Paulo, or hate it. Many foreigners adore the Brazilian lifestyle, laidback attitude, and cultural diversity. However, the long daily commute, the air pollution, as well as the lack of free space in the city, and worries about safety issues can put a damper on expat life in São Paulo.
Visa Requirements for São Paulo
Familiarizing yourself with visa requirements is one of the first steps for expats moving to São Paulo. Brazil’s authorities distinguish between short-term visas, for vacations and short business trips, and long-term visas, for expats moving to São Paulo.
While policies regarding long-term visas are rather strict, permanent visas are even more difficult to come by. Applicants need to convince authorities that they possess highly specialized skills which will benefit the Brazilian economy. If you are moving to São Paulo as part of an intra-company transfer, you will find that bureaucratic hurdles are usually much lower.
Types of Visa
There are two types of long-term visas which enable the holder to take up work. The first is a visto temporário, a temporary visa (VITERM), which allows foreigners to move to São Paulo for a specific job. To get such a temporary visa, the applicant needs to sign a work contract before moving to São Paulo. The visa expires when the holder leaves that specified employment position. Other types of temporary visas are available, among others, for students, volunteer workers, and media correspondents.
A permanent visa (VIPER), or visto permanente, is much more popular with expats in São Paulo. It allows the holder to stay in the city indefinitely and to change jobs without running the risk of losing their work permit.
Where to Live in São Paulo
Once you have taken care of your visa and other necessary formalities, it is time to give some thought to accommodation. There are some aspects you should take into account when deciding where you’d like to live after moving to São Paulo:
- the location of your place of work and average commuting time
- the schools where you would like to enroll your kids
- availability of public transportation
- safety issues
- traffic and noise levels
- possible flooding during the rainy season
Depending on personal needs and preferences, different areas and neighborhoods may attract expats moving to São Paulo. Mainly, the choice is between wealthy, expat-only residential areas and those with a mixed population and a more Brazilian lifestyle.
Areas and Accommodation in São Paulo
Expat Residential Areas
Expats whose main concerns are high-class accommodation, a safe environment, and international schools often opt for neighborhoods such as Morumbi or Chácara Flora. Morumbi, in the southwestern part of the metropolis, is mostly a quiet middle-class residential area, greener and less polluted than the city center, although it also includes an infamous favela (shanty town). The American Graded School is also located here.
Chácara Flora and Vila Olimpia are exclusive residential areas in the upper-class district of Santo Amaro, the Brazilian “Manhattan”. Santo Amaro is close to Congonhas Airport and is home to the Catholic Chapel School, an American-style IB world school. While these are certainly among the nicest areas in São Paulo, they are also among the most expensive. Also, many homes in these neighborhoods are fenced off, and maids and security guards are the only contact with average Brazilians. This is why many expats choose to the neighboring districts like Campo Belo or Moema instead.
Two urban engineers took this development a step further in the 1970s when they built a gated community about 20 km outside of São Paulo. Alphaville has developed into a small city of its own, with about 30,000 residents, 11 schools, a shopping mall, and a medical center. On the downside, commuting to São Paulo for work can be extremely stressful since even the expanded Castelo Branco Highway cannot quite cope with all the traffic to and from downtown.
Other Residential Areas in São Paulo
Expats who prefer Brazilian daily life to expat-only communities often go house-hunting in other areas in the city’s south, such as Jardins or Itaim Bibi. Both are very popular with expats and considered generally safe. Jardins is the umbrella term for several neighborhoods in the sub-prefecture of Pinheiros, all located near the Avenida Paulista, the financial heart of the nation as well as an avenue popular for its cultural attractions and entertainment venues.
Pinheiros – the district within the sub-prefecture of the same name – is also a popular upper-middle-class area with a very mixed population and ample shopping opportunities. Vila Madalena borders Pinheiros to the north and is in demand with artists and musicians. Due to its active nightlife and bohemian lifestyle, it may also attract younger expats and international students.
Types of Accommodation
Normally, rental apartments in Brazil are unfurnished: Most don’t even have fitted lights and other necessities. Many of the real estate agencies catering to São Paulo’s international community, however, provide a range of fully furnished apartments for long-term lease.
Most apartments in São Paulo are located in 10 to 30 storey buildings, so-called prédios. Condomínios are a common phenomenon in upper-class and middle-class areas of São Paulo. These are fenced-off housing blocks with their own security staff and shared facilities such as a swimming pool or gym. Single family houses – though rare in urban São Paulo – often have their own swimming pool as well as a barbeque area.
Expats who stay in São Paulo for less than a year may have a hard time finding a regular apartment. For them serviced apartments, also called “flats”, might be the right choice. These can be rented on a month-by-month basis and are usually available on short notice.
While finding appropriate accommodation in the neighborhood of your choice may be a tedious task, it is not quite as difficult as in other megacities. When you are looking for a place to live, especially if you are unfamiliar with the city, your best bet is usually a real estate agency. Another popular option is searching through the classifieds in São Paulo’s largest newspapers and on dedicated websites. Here are some you might want to take a look at:
- Folha de São Paulo
- Estadão de São Paulo
- Classificados Brasil
- Zap imóveis
- São Paulo OLX
- AlugueTemporada (for weekly rentals)
- São Paulo Flat (for serviced apartments)
São Paulo has a decent supply of vacation and short-term rentals, most of which are fully furnished and serviced. These can serve as temporary accommodation for newly-arrived expats still looking for their ideal home.
Rent in São Paulo depends heavily on the neighborhood and the condition of the building. Although São Paulo is still cheaper than Rio, the Brazilian real estate market in general is currently suffering from rental costs and property prices soaring to astronomical heights. An upscale two-bedroom apartamento for expatriates in São Paulo may set you back around 2,000 USD every month. If you opt for your own family house, expect to pay anything up to a good 10,000 USD, depending on the amenities included. If you decide on a serviced apartment for the duration of your stay, you will pay about 1,300 USD for a furnished studio and about 1,000 USD for an unfurnished one, depending on the area.
In a condomínio, i.e. a compound area, there are additional charges for security and other extras, such as a concierge service or swimming pool. For all rental properties, there is a real estate tax (Imposto sobre Propriedade Predial e Territorial Urbana – IPTU) which, depending on the contract, may have to be paid by the tenant. The regular contract term for rental agreements is 30 months, but if an agency caters heavily to expatriates, they may have offers with other terms of lease available.