Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Getting a Brazil Visa or How to Poke your Eye out with a Churro

Editorial update: in full disclosure and in the spirit of harmony and goodwill, it is worth stating clearly that the visa process between the United States and Brazil is one of reciprocity. In other words, whatever the United States imposes on Brazilian citizens, Brazil will impose on United States citizens. To read what Brazilians must go through to get a visa to the US, click here. It is a doozy. No side has the upper hand. It is also worth mentioning that I personally know people who have been denied visas to the United States simply because of their age, nationality, or marital status. These issues are complex and political. It is not uncommon for many people around the world to wait months to acquire a visa and still need to fly to a neighboring country to reach the nearest embassy, only to be denied upon arrival. Just today I read about a nomadic ethnic group that continues to be denied citizenship and therefore without rights. These are complex issues that demand serious attention. I welcome your thoughts in the comments section below.


I'm going to Brazil in a couple of weeks and even though the Brazilian tourism website tells us it's the #1 most requested visa destination for Americans, it's easier to eat a hamburger in India than it is to get a visa for this country. Which goes to show you: never underestimate the power of American ingenuity and perseverance when it comes to lounging in string bikinis on the white sand beaches of Rio.

In case you decide to visit this wonderful country, allow me to give you a few tips:
  • Be sure to start off with the Official Brazilian Embassy website. You will know if you have reached the correct place if the site looks like this:
  • Silly me, the Embassy is in Washington, D.C. Instead, you need to visit your local consulate. In my case, that would be Miami. While getting your visa, you can also check out some nice Brazil girls for dating.

  • If you still do not know what you need for a Brazilian visa, be sure to check out the State Department website. It's full of all sorts of helpful information, like where to avoid "quicknappings" and to be on the lookout for robbers and rapists who slip drugs into your drinks. 
  • In my research and personal experience, I discovered the following paperwork is needed to acquire a Brazilian visa. Note: depending on the time of day, person you are speaking with, and alignment of certain planetary objects, each piece may or may not be needed. And you won't know if it is or not.
    1. Passport
    2. 3 months of paychecks
    3. W2 form
    4. Social Security number
    5. Letter of invitation in Portuguese 
    6. Letter of introduction by US company
    7. Notarized letter of introduction
    8. Drivers License of your employer who is not going to Brazil
    9. Grandmother's name
    10. Birthdate
    11. Marital status
    12. Purchased airline ticket
    13. Yellow Fever shot
    14. Printed web form written in Portuguese
    15. 2x2 photo stapled
    16. 2x2 photo glued
    17. Postage paid envelope
    18. Passport number
    19. Home utilities bill
    20. Your diary
Once I accumulated all the necessary paperwork and entrusted my most personal information to the FedEx guy, I thought I was home free. Two days later, I was informed by the outrageously expensive visa handling people that they did not have enough time to process my visa and my only option was to drive to Miami or cancel the trip. Then, they charged me $134.85 to mail my paperwork back to me. With that kind of money, I want the FedEx guy to show up in his purple shorts at my desk. Preferably with flowers.
And so, yesterday I piled in a Toyota Highlander with 4 others and we made the trek to Miami, Florida--the city that can either be described as the armpit of America or the one that puts the fun back in dysfunctional. You pick.

It should be noted that the Brazilian Consulate does not have an address that can be picked up on any GPS, they don't answer their telephone, but if you walk into enough tall buildings and speak Spanish to a security guard, you're bound to find it. It should also be noted that you must pay for the visa in exact change--but no cash or credit card is allowed. Instead, insert your money into an ATM machine that wires directly to the Bank of Brasilia. For Americans, $141. If you're from Singapore, you can sneak in for twenty bucks. 

Most importantly, the Brazilian Consulate is open only two hours a day. And they do not take appointments. Which means my next job is definitely to work at the nearest consulate.

When you arrive at the Consulate, you will receive a red ticket with a sharpie marker number scratched on the back. If it looks like a ticket you would receive at a county fair, then you are an excellent observer. Do not use your telephone in the room. The only exception to this is if you are a woman and the security guard thinks you're cute. In that case, talk loudly.

While you are waiting in this windowless room, sitting in government issued plastic chairs, be sure to admire the oversized framed posters of Brazilian beaches. Of course, it could also be Hawaii. Difficult to tell. 

And so, the journey to get a Brazilian visa is nearing the homestretch. All that effort and I still did not come back with one. Hopefully, my passport will be stamped in five to seven days. And I'm going to be on the lookout for that FedEx guy.

8 comments:

Jerry said...

I hear it is nearly as difficult for young, single adults from developing nations to get US visas.

Visas are filters that countries use to keep people out, and clearly Brazil doesn't want any more Americans!

Lindsey said...

I need a nap after reading that. A nap and a bottle of wine. Sheesh!

Lindsey said...

(also, YOU BLOGGED!!) :-D

Adler Martins said...

Hello,

I'm a Brazilian lawyer who also keeps a blog (www.brazilianlawblog.com). I couldn't help reaching your post, since I'm always looking for news on Brazilian Visas.

In Brazil's defense, you should know that all this hardship is imposed onto you because the US does the same to any Brazilian willing to visit America. Right now, the sooner a Brazilian can get a US visa is in 4 to 6 months. The documents required by the US consulate are the same the Brazilian embassy requested from you. Cost is also similar, if not higher.

With some luck, US will add Brazil to their visa waiver list. It that happens, you will be able to visit Brazil with much more ease.

Good luck on your trip.

Adler

Judi-CAJ said...

I love your humor! You make almost any situation more tolerable, and memorable. By the way, I thought Pres. Obama already gave Brazillians the easy in. I thought the Brazillian Visa thing was over for them...well, maybe it was for Brazillians needing an American Visa....which of course made me wonder why WE have to pay so much and THEY are now paying nothing. But then, maybe it was just another of his political promises on the good ole teleprompter. Sounds like you and your team had a full day in another world anyway!

Karin Tome said...

Adler,

Thanks for taking time to comment and to share the other side of the story. You are exactly right. I updated the blog to reflect a more balanced picture of the US/Brazil relationship.

The frustrations I experienced were not related to the hoops, as it were, I needed to jump through, but rather knowing what those hoops really are. Maybe you could link to the correct websites on your blog?! That would be so helpful! I really did have a difficult time finding the official site.

Sincerely,
Karin

Un Till said...

Karin, the blog is funny, and yes, it's a big song and dance going in all directions. When my wife got her green card and could finally join me in the US Citizens line, we rejoiced. The NYTimes had a good article about this a few weeks ago: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/16/opinion/the-unwelcome-mat.html?scp=2&sq=visa%20customs&st=cse&gwh=74BD9D30B1A0DDB308110ED1307B26CA

michael said...

Sounds like fun. That's a great detailed (and painful) description of the process.

I can't help but think back to when I was working at Church Street Station and the hordes of Brazilian teenagers (90% girls for some odd reason) would swarm the place. I wonder how the policies have changed over the years.