Brazilian immigration law upgrades are well intended but poorly executed

Brazilian immigration law has changed drastically in the last five years. However, even with several improvements, a lack of a uniform system complicates requests for lawyers and visa approvals.


Several improvements are worthy to mention: visa requests are now filed online, with a digital certificate. Visa requests take an average of 30 days to be analyzed and approved. The online filing system is user friendly and notifies requesting party, via e-mail, of any additional document request immigration authorities require to approve the visa. The process is becoming less document oriented and more focused on content provided by companies regarding the reasons to file for a visa request.


However, Brazil suffers com a serious immigration competence problem: Two differente government agencies are responsible for the immigration process. Visa requests are analyzed and approved by the Ministry of Labor, while visa registrations, visa renewals and permanent residency requests are analyzed by the Ministry of Justice. Since two entities are responsible for the immigration process as a whole, system upgrades and legislation updates need to occur in both, which, unfortunately, is not the case.


Practical improvements and upgrades were only made in the Ministry of Labor’s system. Thus, filing a visa could be done online, but visa renewals must be done physically before the Federal Police, which are subject to network instabilities, strikes, backlogs and the agent’s discretional powers. While analysis of a visa by the Ministry of labor takes 4 to 6 weeks, the analysis of a visa renewal by the Ministry of Justice could take from 8 months up to 2 years. Most of the 1-year visa renewals expire before they are even analyzed. The Ministry of Justice’s online tracking tool is outdated, unreliable and provides little information about the status of the immigration process.


Thus, the majority of foreign companies, candidates and HR personnel that work with Brazilian immigration, even with all upgrades and system improvements made by one agency, are affected by the lack of infrastructure and upgrades of another agency, since the overall process for obtaining visas remains bureaucratic and confusing.


Improvements made by the government are welcome and necessary, but solving only half the problem is not enough. In order to realistically change the situation, immigration authorities would have to make a systemic change, improving and upgrading all systems related to the immigration process. If the Brazilian government creates a unified database, encompassing all immigration procedures, including visa requests, renewals and registrations, all parties involved in the immigration process would benefit.


The Brazilian federal government is currently implementing the “e-social”, an online system that integrates labor, tax and social security information. It unifies and shares information from several government entities and agencies in Brazil, but the end user only uses one system to feed information, which avoids several bureaucratic procedures of the past. If a similar system could be created for immigration, processes would improve considerably, for all parties involved. Moreover, by implementing a unified immigration system, authorities could avoid bureaucracy and allocate efforts only where they are required. Consequently, it would optimize the bureaucratic process by bringing tax, social and financial benefits to companies and their foreign employees, as well as to the country’s own government.


Brazil has matured considerably its immigration legislation and procedures. Now would be a perfect time to focus efforts in improving the practicality of Brazilian immigration, especially with commerce partner countries, such as India, China and European Union members who seek to implement their respective labor force in the Brazilian market. That is, it would be a good time to implement streamline visas and/or fast track visas for candidates that fill out the requirements from legislation, which would facilitate the entire process and bring less burden to both sending company and receiving company.


In summary, despite some efforts made by the Brazilian government to facilitate the process of granting visas to foreign nationals, it still is a procedure that requires the monitoring of lawyers who have technical knowledge of the subject, considering the peculiarities of Brazilian law and procedural bureaucracy.


Breno Torquato, lawyer at BM ADVOGADOS, specialist in immigration law


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