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Gringo Talk – Obtaining an Investor Visa

Opinion, by Sam Flowers

RIO DE JANEIRO – Every week at the café I meet foreign tourists who love visiting Brazil and who think about possibly living here. They typically ask me “what visa did you get?” And, of course “how do you get it?”

Sam Flowers, owner of the Gringo Café.

I have the investor visa which allows me to live in Brazil full time for five years. To maintain the visa, I must be a partner in a Brazilian company that employs several Brazilians. After five years I need to apply for an extension and after ten years I’m eligible to be a truly permanent resident.

I know several people who successfully obtained the investor visa. The process is easy to understand but it is time consuming, somewhat expensive and full of hassles and potential obstacles. During this process you will need several different specialists such as a lawyer, accountant and a “despachante” (an agent or advocate with the right connections and know how to get things done). Typically you can find an agent or other specialist who will coordinate the work with the others.

Currently the investment required is R$150,000 and the visa is good for three years. These requirements were established in late 2008 and are subject to change. Next I’ll go through the application process at a high level. Please note that this represents the process that was in place about two years ago and some elements may have changed. In general it should still give you a good idea of what to expect.

Get a CPF
You’ll need to get a CPF, the Brazilian equivalent of a tax payer ID or social security number. You can obtain this relatively easily through several channels including online.

Open a company
You open a Brazilian company with a partner. The partner can be any nationality but the company must have an Administrator that is a Brazilian national or permanent resident. The Administrator does not need to be a partner, but he/she will have nearly full power of attorney and effective control of the company. It needs to be someone you know well and trust.

Open a bank account
Your new company opens a local bank account. This step is more difficult than it sounds. Banks will not open accounts for foreigners so the account must be in the company name and your company administrator will need to sign for everything. There’s a lot of paperwork required and it can take a week or two for your account to be active.

Make the investment
You personally wire money to the new company’s account in Brazil and register the investment with the Central Bank of Brazil. It is critical that this step is done correctly to satisfy the visa application requirements. There are several documents involved and you’ll want to work with a broker or accountant who has experience doing this for other visa applicants.

Submit the visa application
Once the funds are in Brazil you’ll submit an application for your visa to the appropriate government agencies. The application must include a business plan, the point of which is to describe the business and indicate the number of Brazilians the company will employ.

The other requirements for the business plan were somewhat unclear in the past, but there may be new guidelines to follow. This is another case where you’ll want to work with a specialist who has recent experience with the application process.

Application approval
After submitting an application it is common that some follow up step will be required. You may need to correct a document, redo a step that was done incorrectly, clarify something in your business plan, etc. If all goes well your application will be approved. This step takes about a minimum of three months and could take significantly longer if a lot of follow up is required.

Get the Visa
Once approved there are several steps to get the actual visa that will permit you to stay in the country. First you need to go to your home country and visit the Brazilian Consulate in your district. The Consulate updates your passport with the approval for the investor visa. When you travel back to Brazil, you visit the Federal Police and they give you the formal documents that truly represent your new visa.

Once again, this is a very high level road map of the process for getting an investor visa. If you’re interested in further details I’m happy to answer any follow up questions about my experience or refer you to the visa specialists I know.

Sam Flowers at the Gringo Café.

Sam Flowers is an American entrepreneur and owner of the Gringo Café, locted on Rua Barão da Torre 240, Loja A, Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro, [email protected], +55 (21) 3813.3972.

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