Visas and Work Permits
In contrast to Mexico’s relatively flexible immigration laws that we discussed last month, Brazil’s immigration laws are much more complicated and so require more advance planning from HR and Global Mobility Managers. Most importantly – in terms of timing – the majority of people require visas before traveling to Brazil. Citizens of nearly two-thirds of the countries in the world, including the United States, require visas to enter Brazil, whether for business or work. Because of the World Cup, Brazilian Consulates have been focused on issuing World Cup and tourist visas to ensure soccer fans can make it to the games. Increased visa applications combined with intermittent labor strikes have considerably slowed visa processing times. For example, the Brazilian Consulate in Miami is taking 45 days to issue a business visa. Work permit applications, which are processed by the Ministry of Labor, are taking at least 12 weeks.
The first step in planning an employee’s business trip to Brazil is to determine whether the employee’s activities qualify as business or work. In recent years, Brazilian authorities have sought to clarify the difference between business and work. Unfortunately, Brazilian legislation does not give a definition of “business” and so employers should contact immigration counsel before deciding whether to apply for a business or work visa. Based on past practices of Brazilian authorities, the following activities generally qualify for a temporary business visa: making business contacts, holding interviews, negotiating sales and deals, and attending or speaking at seminars. It is important to note that an employee working in a technical area likely will not be permitted to enter Brazil on a business visa for training or knowledge sharing purposes. These activities are more appropriate for a work visa. In addition, temporary business visitors may not receive remuneration while in Brazil.