Expats FAQ in Brazil

Bank

Q: What documents must be submitted by expats when opening a bank account in Brazil?

A: This depends on the particular bank but generally, the requirements include a valid ID, a Cadastro de Pessoa Fisica or CPF (taxpayer's number), and proof of a Brazilian address.

Q: Do banks open on weekends in Brazil?

A: No. Banks are open only on weekdays from 10 am to 4:30 pm.

Q: Do banks in Brazil offer online services to expats?

A: Yes, online services are available to expats and may be used for paying utility bills and even taxes. However, expats should remember that most of these Internet-based services are offered in Portuguese.

Business

Q: What are the requirements for getting a business visa in Brazil?

A: The requirements for getting a business visa in Brazil are the same as those needed for a tourist visa - passport, filled out application form, photo, airline tickets as proof of departure, etc. The only addition is an official letter from the applicant's company, indicating the purpose of the trip, arrival and departure dates, and contact information. Business visas are usually valid for a maximum period of three months.

Q: How does an expat investor qualify for a permanent visa?

A: Expat investors have to be able to speak Portuguese and invest no less than 50,000 USD in a local company. The first visa is usually good for five years, and may be renewed thereafter with the condition that the applicant has created jobs for at least ten Brazilian citizens.

Q: What are the normal operating hours for business establishments in Brazil?

A: There are no fixed business or office hours in Brazil, but most establishments operate from 8am to 6pm. Desks are usually empty from 12:30pm to 2:30pm as lunch breaks, though officially one-hour long, tend to be extended.

Children

Q: Is it expensive to hire a nanny in Brazil?

A: The going rate is around 2,000 BRL monthly but note that expats are always expected to pay more.

Q: At what age is it mandatory for kids to attend school in Brazil?

A: Mandatory education in Brazil begins at the age of 6 and ends at the age of 14. This compulsory period is locally known as Ensino Fundamental or Fundamental Education.

Q: What kinds of games or sports do kids play in Brazil?

A: A traditional game played by children in Brazil is called queimada, which is basically a tag game played by two teams. Card games and jump rope are also popular among local kids. The number one sport is, of course, soccer, followed by swimming and beach volleyball.

Cost of living

Q: Is it really expensive to live in Brazil even if it's a third-world country?

A: Expats are often surprised to find that life in Brazil can be expensive, notwithstanding the fact that it is a third-world country. In fact, the country's three biggest cities, namely, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Brasilia - are all on Mercer’s 2014 list of the 50 priciest cities all over the globe.

Q: How much do things cost in Brazil?

A: Brazil is an expensive country to live in but costs tend to differ significantly across different categories. For example, transportation, manufactured products, and accommodation are on the high price range, but food can be expensive or cheap, depending on whether you're cooking at home or going out. Services are also relatively cheap, considering the low cost of labor.

Q: How much are international school fees in Brazil?

A: Annual fees range from 40,000 - 70,000 BRL, depending on the school's location and the child's age. An upfront registration fee may range from 10,000 - 30,000 BRL for one child.

Health

Q: Around how much do doctors charge for a basic consultation in Brazil?

A: Healthcare is very expensive in Brazil. For an initial consultation, an uninsured patient may pay around 200 - 250 BRL. Those who have insurance will pay much less or possibly nothing, depending on the coverage.

Q: What is the overall quality of hospitals and other medical facilities in Brazil?

A: Both locals and expats are known to complain about the generally low quality of services offered by hospitals in Brazil. Ironically, the country is now beginning to be known as a health tourism destination in the fields of cosmetic surgery and dental work.

Q: Is private medical insurance necessary for expats in Brazil?

A: Private health insurance in Brazil has been the most expensive in Latin America in recent years, but it remains vital for expats, considering the high cost of healthcare in the country. A popular insurer is Unimed, which is also Brazil's biggest health plan operator. Other big and popular insurers include Pacific Prime, Allianz, and Bupa.

Housing

Q: How much is the monthly rent for housing in Brazil?

A: It depends on the location and property size and type. For a three-bedroom property in Rio de Janeiro, the rent is around 6,500 BRL monthly, in São Paulo, it's about 5,800 BRL and in Belo Horizonte, the rate could be about 4,000 BRL. In suburbs and less urbanized areas, rentals are naturally cheaper.

Q: What does an expat need to be able to sign a lease agreement in Brazil?

A: An expat needs a Cadastro de Pessoas Fisicas (CPF). This is the Brazilian identity card which, unfortunately, tends to take so long to process (usually months). For this reason, expats who are in Brazil on a corporate assignment temporarily stay in hotels or any interim housing pending the processing of their residency. Sometimes, their employers sign the lease on their behalf.

Q: Can expats buy real estate in Brazil?

A: Yes. There are no restrictions on foreigners purchasing land in Brazil, but they should get a Cadastro de Pessoas Físicas (CPF), the Brazilian Identity card.

Leisure

Q: How’s beer and beer-drinking in Brazil?

A: Brazilians adore beer and it's good that the drink is cheap in this country. One thing about it though is that tap beer or chopp is typically served with a very thick foam on top. This is not automatically a rip off. It's just the way locals serve the drink. As expected, imported liquor brands can be expensive, but duty-free shops will obviously sell them for cheaper.

Q: What are some famous Brazilian drinks that expats should try?

A: Cachaça, which is made from stilled sugar, is the national liquor of Brazil and the number one local drink every expat must try. Another one is Caipirinha, a mixture of Cachaça, lime juice and sugar, which is known as considered the country's national cocktail.

Q: What are some of the best restaurants in Brazil?

A: Neither Rio de Janeiro nor São Paulo have their own distinct dishes, but like most modern cities in the world, they have plenty of restaurants. Some of the most recommended in Rio are Olympe, Le Pré Catalan Mok Sakebar, and Sudbrack. In São Paulo, check out Mani, DOM, Fasano and Aquarius.

Looking for a job

Q: What is a general picture of Brazil's job market today?

A: Brazil's economy is barely growing, although unemployment has remained low. Employment opportunities have decreased and the competition for jobs is stiffer than ever. This is said to be the result of corruption, unstable infrastructure and a snail-paced bureaucracy.

Q: In which industries do most Brazil expats work in?

A: Expats in Brazil usually find jobs in industries where there is an ongoing skills shortage. These include oil and gas, IT, finance, engineering and construction. Note that in the finance and engineering sectors, jobs can be extremely competitive, and years of experience may be required even for the most basic entry-level jobs.

Q: Where can expats find jobs in Brazil?

A: There are several resources expats can check out for jobs in Brazil. Cojuntura Economica, Listas OSEP, and Exame are three local publications that contain job ads across the different industries. The Internet is certainly helpful as well.

Money

Q: Are ATMs widely available in Brazil?

A: Yes, ATMs are everywhere in Brazil but one thing expats should know is that that these machines do not accept foreign cards. (Commercial establishments do accept foreign debit and credit cards, with Visa and MasterCard being the most widely accepted.}

Q: Are expats in Brazil taxed on their overseas income?

A: Expats with a residence status in Brazil have to pay taxes on their worldwide income unless they come from a country with which the government has an existing tax treaty. The rate is anywhere between 7.5-27.5%, depending on how much the income is. Non-resident expats pay a 25% tax on all income generated in Brazil only and don't have to file annual tax returns.

Q: Why are some ATMs in Brazil closed at night?

A: Because safety can be a problem, especially in remote locations. These ATMs have higher withdrawal limits though.

Moving

Q: What public IDs and documents are necessary for expats moving to Brazil?

A: Aside from a visa, expats need an Identity Card issued by the Federal Police, a Tax Identification Card from the Ministry of Finance and a Work Card from the Labour Department.

Q: Which parts of Brazil have the highest expat populations?

A: Most expats in Brazil are based in the big cities like Rio de Janeiro, which is home to many big oil companies, and São Paulo where the Brazilian stock exchange is located.

Q: Is it necessary to learn Portuguese when moving to Brazil?

A: Expats will find it wise to know some Portuguese before flying to Brazil if only to ease their transition into the local communities. Although English is largely spoken in the big cities, there are huge expat populations from various cultures across the country. This makes learning Portuguese very helpful.

Pets

Q: What vaccinations do cats need before they can be imported to Brazil?

A: There are no vaccination programs for felines in Brazil, but owners are encouraged to vaccinate their pets against rabies, rhinotracheitis, calicivirose, clamidose and panleukopenia. Because of the hot climate, cats in the country are prone to having ticks, which can bring a host of other diseases like erliquiose felina and spotted fever. Owners should take the initiative to apply the necessary measures.

Q: Where can people buy pets in Brazil?

A: Pets can be bought anywhere in Brazil, but the best places to get them are licensed pet shops where animals receive all necessary inoculations. The Animal Support Association (Associação de Amparo aos Animais) in São Paulo is a non-government organization which houses homeless animals and may offer them for adoption.

Q: Where can expats check if a vet has a license to practice in Brazil?

A: Pet owners can check with the Regional Council for Veterinary Medicine or Federal Council of Veterinary Medicine, both of which issue professional cards for vets in Brazil.

Schools

Q: What time do kids usually go to school in Brazil?

A: Private and international schools have usual classes from morning through afternoon. However, because of high student populations and a shortage of space, public schools divide a school day into three sessions. One set of students comes to class in the morning, another in the afternoon and the last set in the evening.

Q: When do school terms and holidays begin and end in Brazil?

A: There are different school terms as well as holidays in Brazil, depending on the region, but all kids have to spend a minimum of 200 days in school for each academic year. How these days are divided is the responsibility of the local municipalities. The entire month of July is a holiday.

Q: What is the Development Fund Fee charged by schools in Brazil?

A: The Capital Fund Fee is charged by private and international schools in Brazil. This is an obligatory one-time fee paid at enrolment. The exact amount is autonomously determined by each school, and the highest is around 30,000 BRL. Public schools do not collect this fee.

Shopping

Q: Where do expats go to buy imported grocery brands in Brazil?

A: Major cities have the biggest supermarkets in Brazil such as Companhia Brasileira de Distribuição, Carrefour, and Walmart. All of these stores carry imported brands from almost all major exporters around the globe.

Q: How much do cellphones cost in Brazil?

A: Like all kinds of manufactured items, cellphones are very expensive in Brazil. In 2012, the iPhone had a 3,000 BRL price tag, the most expensive price it had all over the world at that time. Expats should consider buying a cellphone back home instead.

Q: Where can shoppers find the best locally crafted items in Brazil?

A: In São Paulo, there's Casa de Vila (Capitão Calvalcanti 82 Vila Mariana), a mansion built in 1929 where Fair Trade handicrafts from 27 Brazilian states are now sold. In Rio de Janeiro, there's La Vereda Handicrafts (Almirante Alexandrino 428 Santa Teresa) which features some of the country's best handicrafts from artists and artisans.

Telecommunications

Q: Is there free public Wi-Fi in Brazil?

A: In the bigger cities and tourist destinations, yes. Locations with free Wi-Fi are usually parks and cafes, but expats should be wary about the open use of expensive electronics like iPads, smartphones, laptops, etc. as theft is rather common in these areas.

Q: Is it advisable for expats to discard their old phones and get a new one in Brazil?

A: Most people have mobile phones in Brazil and all the best brands are also available. However, even the most basic phone can be very expensive. It's best for expats to unlock their old phones and continue to use them with a local carrier.

Q: What types of service plans are there for mobile phone users in Brazil?

A: Due to Brazil's high mobile phone usage, most companies are encouraged to offer various calling plans for users. There are pay-as-you-go models available with providers like Claro, Oi, Vivo, TIM and Oi. Plans that include call, text and data storage services usually cost around 100 - 250 BBL, while prepaid plans can go as low as 0.50 BRL per local, same-provider call, and as high as more than 2 BRL/minute for local, other-provider calls or long distance calls. Note that expats need to have a tax number before they can get a phone or SIM.

Transport

Q: Is Brazil's metro system safe?

A: It depends on where in Brazil. For example, in Rio de Janeiro, there's no question about cleanliness and safety. The same is true for the metro in São Paulo, although some exit stations may be unsafe. In smaller cities such as Belo Horizonte, the metro system is still incomplete and there are also concerns about safety.

Q: How is traffic in Brazil?

A: Traffic in Brazil is tight, whether in the big cities or in the roads connecting them. Some drivers take remote routes which are mostly dirt roads. As of now, barely 10% of roads in the country are paved. Nonetheless, expats prefer to buy their own vehicles for convenience.

Q: What is the process for expats buying a vehicle in Brazil?

A: They have to register with federal police and get an identification number. If they plan to stay in the country indefinitely, they have to get a local license. Having a license issued in their home country helps to shorten the process, but it still depends on which home country. In any case, all expats have to take some tests before getting a Brazilian license.

Travel

Q: Can a traveler make visa arrangements only upon arriving in Brazil?

A: No, this is not allowed in Brazil, no matter how short the intended stay is. All visas must be processed before travel.

Q: Are there any health-related restrictions on people flying to Brazil?

A: Regardless of immigration status, all people entering Brazil from a country with a yellow fever risk are required to present proof that they have been immunized against the disease.

Q: Is it safe to fly in or out of Brazil on a local airline?

A: Brazil has a number of local airlines flying international routes, including Gol, Trip, Azul, and TAM. All of them are well-respected in the industry.

Visa

Q: Can any company or business in Brazil sponsor an expat employee for a permanent visa?

A: Not all businesses or companies in Brazil are legally capable of sponsoring an expat employee for permanent residence. The requirement is that they need to have put in a huge investment in the local economy before a permanent visa may be given to any of their workers.

Q: What are the legal requirements for expats who wish to retire in Brazil?

A: Expats should be at least 50 years old to qualify for a permanent retiree visa. On top of that, they have to prove that they have a minimum of 2,000 USD in their Brazilian bank account on a monthly basis.

Q: How long is the processing time for short-stay and temporary visas in Brazil?

A: Temporary visas are processed within a minimum of five working days, but Brazilian embassies are known to change rules ever so often, and may even require a personal interview in certain cases.