Getting a Brazilian Work Visa: A Ballad of Bureaucratic Intrigue

Uncle Google rarely fails to dig up my exact desires, but when I started my application for a Brazilian work visa, I could not find a complete, detailed description of the process. No doubt this lacuna has been elsewhere filled, but I still wanted to write down my experience and put it out there just in case someone runs across this site first. No doubt also the difficulty of finding said description also has something to do with the fact that the process requires dealing with two different ministries of the Brazilian government and a maze of websites, documents, and requirements. Still, it is possible with some perseverance! Maybe reading this will help you to not make some of the mistakes that I did and make everything go a little smoother, too.

​First, my relevant specs:

Nationality: USA
Profession: Researcher (technically it says ‘Sociologist’ on the application)
Applying for: Vitem V type visa under RN-80 14/10/2008. This is a temporary work visa for employment with a company incorporated in Brazil. I do not know how the process works with multi-nationals, but hopefully if you’re in that situation the company will be large and used to these processes, so they’ll be able to hold your hand through it.

Some additional notes on strategy: When you apply, you will designate a consulate at which you will wish to receive the visa, which can include consulates outside of the US (but NOT in Brazil). If you are moving, choose carefully, and remember that the exact amount of time things takes is highly unpredictable. Near to the end of the process, you will be either bring or mail in the final round of documentation, which includes your passport, which you will not have for a week or so (no international travel possible).

So, where to start?

  1. GET A JOB! There may be ways to get a Brazilian work visa without a job offer, but I’m not aware of them. From here on out I’m going to assume you’ve been formally offered a position, and have completed negotiating the contract. You’ll need to be in touch with someone in the company as well during the process, probably several times.
  2. DOCUMENTATION: The application requires “legalized”/”authenticated” documents, translated into Portuguese. Preparing these takes time and is probably the most complicated step of the whole process.
    • “Legalized” copies mean that they have been authenticated by a Brazilian consulate or embassy. Each consulate has a jurisdiction, so pay attention to where your documents were issued. My diploma was from Tulane in Louisiana, for instance, which meant that I had to mail the original to the Houston Consulate which can “legalize” documents produced in Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. When submitting your documents for legalization, you will have to bring or mail a number of things. The minimum processing time is 10 days in Houston, so get this step out of the way ASAP.
    • In some cases (not diplomas) you can submit copies of documents instead of the originals, but they have to be notarized by a notary public from within the jurisdiction of the Consulate doing the legalization.
    • When you get back the legalized copies, you will have to get them translated by a translator approved by the consulate. In my case, I sent the legalized copies to my company in Brazil and they had the translations done by someone in Sao Paulo. This also takes time, obviously.

3. REGISTER yourself on MigrantWeb. The first ministry you will deal with is the Brazilian Ministério de Trabalho e Emprego (MTE, Ministry of Work and Employment), and MigrantWeb is their online application platform. I also received an application form from my company which I had to complete and send back to them.

4. WAIT: Once you have registered on MigrantWeb and all of your documents have arrived at the MTE, it should take roughly a month for them to get back to you. Check MigrantWeb for changes often, because the time can vary a lot. I heard from a Portuguese guy that his application was approved in about two weeks. In my case, it took 24 days. You will also see them register it when they receive your documents (though you won’t be able to tell which ones). In the end, there are two potential outcomes:

    • “Deferido” (Approved): This actually means that the lower-down functionary who reviews applications approves that all of your documents are in order. The application then passes to a superior. In my case, it took three business days for the superior to check it out and finally the MTE website registered the status as Awaiting Publication “Aguardando Publicação.” If you’re already at this step, skip the next couple of paragraphs and go to next step.
    • “Exigência” (Requirements): If something is not right with your paperwork, or sometimes if they simply want to hassle you a little to slow things down, the MTE will issue requirements. You will have 30 days to comply with the requirements. This happened to me and my requirements were:

i. Provision of notarized copies of an official transcript and post-graduate diploma (this was awarded to me on the 18th of May and thus not included in the original application materials). Because I had not had the diploma legalized, this was the point when I had to send it to Houston, which delayed my process by several weeks. Lesson: think ahead.

ii. Modification of the work contract to say that the contract would begin “on the date of the foreigners entry into Brazil.”

iii. Notification that the firm had contracted additional Brazilian workers. My boss sent a letter confirming this including their names and tax ID numbers.

In my case, I submitted these requirements and they came back with another exigência for nitpicky changes. For instance, I had modified my contract to say that it would take effect the first work day after I arrived in Brazil, and they said that it had to begin exactly on the date of my arrival. They also changed the third requirement so that my boss had to send signed copies of the contracts of the other Brazilian workers in the firm. Lesson: given them EXACTLY what they ask for, because even then they may mess with you.

Once the MTE deems that all of your requirements have been met, you should get the go-ahead and your status on the MTE website will change to “Deferido.”

5. REGISTER: The application from here on out is fairly similar to applying for a tourist visa if you’ve done that. Your application passes on to the Ministério de Ralações Exteriores (Ministry of Foreign Relations), which includes all Brazilian consulates.

    • You will have to register on the Sistema Controle e Emissão de Documentos de Viagem (SCEDV, System for the Control and Emission of Travel Documents). Once you fill out some forms on their website, you get a pdf receipt with an application #. You don’t technically need the receipt for the application (only the application #), but it’s highly recommended.
    • Collect a few other items. The list of documents varies depending on exactly which visa type you’re applying for. In my case the list was: (1) my passport, (2) a USPS money order for $290, (3) a recent bank statement for proof of address, (4) a bank statement to prove I had necessary funds to stay at least 90 days in Brazil, (5) a state police criminal background check, and (6) my original birth certificate. NOTES: I was a bit confused as to whether these documents had to be legalized/translated/notarized as well, but when I got to the embassy they did not seem to care much and just took the originals. Also, the lady at the embassy immediately gave me back #s 3, 4, and 6, saying they were unecessary. Still, probably good to bring everything just in case.​

When I took the documents in they gave me a receipt with a pickup date, and true to the information on the consulate website, the visa was in my passport and ready for pickup within a week. Just make sure to check when the Consulate is open, because in Boston’s case they close at 12:30PM every day. (FOR MORE ON WHAT WILL BE NECESSARY UPON ARRIVAL IN BRAZIL SEE SUBSEQUENT POST)

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