Government to Expedite Work Visas, But Will It Validate You to Work in Brazil?

Globo newspaper reported today that new policies might soon open the door to fast-track visas for skilled workers. With recessions dimming prospects for professionals in both the U.S. and Europe, it is not impossible that Brazil may be about to experience a second golden age of immigration.

Current visa and immigration restrictions reflect the sort of ‘Brazil for Brazilians’ policies emblematic of the last dictatorship (1964-85), during which time authorities drafted the current ‘Statute on Foreigners.’

A team within the President’s Office, the Secretary of Strategic Affairs, has been assigned to consider alternative visa and immigration policies. The Coordinator of that team, Ricardo Paes de Barros, ventures: “now that Brazil is an island of prosperity in the world, there are a lot of good quality people who want to come here.” Paes admits that Canada and Australia are the models that Brazil seeks to emulate.

Map of total immigrants to Brazil
Total of foreign people authorized to work in Brazil by state in 2009 (source: Wikipedia)

From January to September of 2011 – President Rousseff’s first year in office – the number of visas issued increased by a full third, or 32 percent. There were 51,353 visas issued last year. The open approach of the Rousseff administration is consistent with its approach to governing more generally.

Spaniards are currently the largest demographic of skilled workers with visas. They experience greater ease in learning the language, adapting to the culture, and suffer from a woeful dearth of opportunities at home. Unemployment in Spain hovers at an untenable 25 percent. When asked about his experience settling down to work in Brazil, one Brazil-based Spaniard said to Globo, “the bureaucracy is more complicated than I imagined.”

For someone from a Latin country to admit that the Brazilian bureaucracy is complicated signals the inexplicable and unnecessary complexity of dealing with the Brazilian state. It certainly validates my own excruciating experience. Visa requirements – filling-out an application and certifying qualifications in the Brazilian consulate (at a cost) – are only the beginning of what it can mean to work in Brazil.

My Own Experience

In my own case, a long grinding bureaucratic process to validate my Ph.D. – in order to teach – caused me such heart-wrenching desperation that I had to give my feelings regular pep-talks. In disbelief, I asked why the process seemed to tell me that I was not wanted. What type of a country, after all, makes it difficult for Ph.Ds to immigrate?

The first step I had to take was to FedEx my UT diploma, signed by the university, to the “closest Brazilian consulate” – Houston. The cost of the FedEx aside, authentication ran me about US$25 for an official looking seal on the back of my diploma. The remaining ‘validation’ of my Ph.D. took over 10 months. I required costly “official” (juramentado) translations, a heap of paper-work, certified records of everything I have ever done academic-related, a dissertation assessment committee required to vet my work, and multiple visits to notaries, federal university offices, and even an appeal to the Dean of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. The entire process cost me about US$2000 and much premature aging. I do not wish this experience on anyone.

The implication of my own Kafkaesque journey through the Brazilian bureaucracy suggests that liberalizing the issuance of visas is not enough. The ‘validation’ of qualifications will also have to be streamlined if Brazil wishes to attract and keep talent. The Globo article that inspired this post provides the example of Technip, a Brazilian engineering company. In order to avoid the vagaries of the Brazilian visa process, Technip opened up an office in Portugal – so much for creating new jobs and stimulating the economy through skilled immigration.

A few words of advice for those seeking to immigrate to Brazil:

If you can afford it, get a good lawyer, like my brother-in-law, Hugo Porto.

  • Expect to live in Brazil without working for anywhere between 6-16 months. Don’t give up your virtual job back in Europe or the U.S.
  • Get to know people who live in Brazil, before and after you arrive. Work your contacts. Many things get resolved through personal intercession in Brazil; it’s about knowing people.
  • Learn Portuguese. They just don’t speak much English here and you’d be foolish to come without any basic language skills.
  • If possible, obtain strong interest or job commitments before you arrive.

If you have other advice, I’d love to hear your comments. GM





  • couldn’t agree more. the insane process of getting “regularized” is enough to make even the most truculent RCMP cry for mercy. my experience was similarly dreadful. one year it took. but now that I’m “in” a system of sorts, thing are much easier. I would also add to your list of suggestions a willingness to go around offcial rules, because they only apply to those that choose to follow them.

  • I only have a bachelor’s degree, but I thought it might be worthwhile to have it validated so I could either try to study in Brazil or work in a decent-paying public school. I gave up when I realized how hard it was going to be. I ended up estimating up to two years of work and waiting and $1-2 thousand, which is more than any job I could get would be worth. Even after I got it validated, it might not be worth much since I don’t have the equivalent of a “licensiatura” and whatever else teachers need. And I might even be forced to take classes in Salvador to make up for whatever a professor decides my education didn’t provide me with. One effect of this is that I can’t apply for a job as a substitute English teacher at a federal high school. There is literally no one that has the qualifications to fill the position in my city – it remains vacant.

    • @jondold That’s very unfortunate to hear, John. These sorts of bureaucratic firewalls obstruct progress on all kinds of public policy priorities, such as expanding the qualified labor force, improving education (as in your case), and improving government’s image with the public more generally. It has to be addressed.

  • I just saw your blogs, and to be very honest with you, I just could tell you one thing. You are so selfish, and if you don`t like Brazil, just go back to Canada… Brazil has a several problems, I know, but if you are not happy, you still have an option to go back to your beautiful home country… Everything you wrote, sounds very very critical and racist.

    • Dear Maria, Thank you for your input, and I’m glad you reacted strongly to the blog. If I were writing about Canada I would be just as critical– criticism helps shed light on how things might be better, which is one of the principal reasons we have media. So if you don’t like, just don’t read. Best wishes,

  • I admit the bureaucracy here stills a hassle, but do not come with this speech like it is only here that this happens because in US is almost the same shit. Yes! have you checked it out? Do you know how fucking difficult is to go to your country and get a bachelor’s degree certificate validation and get a work permit? if they do not need your kind of professional in the market they will offer you a state test so outrageously difficult that is almost impossible to pass, you must be a genius with a elephant memory, to be tested in the hole range of the knowledge of your degree formation. I lived in US for 7 years and even being an engineer, worked 5 years on the Biggest Telecom company in Brazil I could pass this barrier!

    • Hi Elias, first of all- thanks for the comment. Sometimes I’m overly harsh and I can be uninformed on comparisons at times. Second of all, I’m Canadian, not American. Third, I did go to university in the US and had a very bureaucracy-free experience, but I think that’s because I’m Canadian, and they generally consider our education on par with their own. I can understand why they might make the process a little more difficult for people coming from lesser developed countries than more developed countries, although it’s certainly discriminatory not to treat all equally before the law. Yes, this is a problem all around the world, but you must admit: Brazil’s cartorio system and traduções juramentados make the system extremely onerous and expensive for just about everyone. Not to get too far into the political sociology of it, but low-trust societies and Catholic countries tend to have very onerous red-tape compared to higher-trust, protestant countries. Just look at any number of the rankings available on how easy it is to open a business in Latin America or Southern Europe compared to the protestant countries…

      • oh I sorry I didn’t realize you was canadian, I love Canada and the Canadians, they are very open minded people and not even close racist as the Americans are. about your degree experience, you didn’t feel that because you are the border welcome friend, speak the language without accent and you entered the classes to obtain a degree there. different of my case that I had an B.S. and want validate my Brazilian certificate.

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