Immigration to Brazil during the Covid-19 pandemic
Maria Carolina de Souza Guazzelli
Felsberg Advogados, São Paulo
These are far from normal times. With the world under lockdown, and with increasingly stringent travel restrictions, many companies are asking how they can still arrange for their professionals to work in foreign locations when needed.
The problem is not only that there are currently many different travel restrictions of varying intensity in place across the globe, but also the quarantine that many embassies and consulates have adopted to prevent the spread of Covid-19. At the time of this writing, not only are all foreign citizens forbidden to enter Brazilian territory until 27 April 2020, but Brazil’s embassies and consulates have also limited their services to urgent cases. Current entry restrictions do not apply to those who have already their respective visa and the Brazilian Identity Card.
Although multinational companies are doing their best to reorganise the workforce flow within their organisations, they have concerns related to the impact of Covid-19 for expats who have already been permitted to work abroad by immigration authorities. For how long will these approvals be valid? Others are concerned about the legal terms for using their work visa for the very first time. Is there a legal time period to be observed?
In Brazil, working residence visa approval is given by the immigration authorities which are linked to the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They inform the respective embassy/consulate abroad that the worker has duly been authorised to work in Brazil. As soon as the embassy/consulate is informed, the worker can initiate the procedures for the issuance of the respective visa in their passport.
The entire working residence application is made electronically, and so is the communication between the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the embassies/consulates. The problem is that many embassies/consulates require that the remaining documentation for visa issuance is delivered by the applicant in person. Sometimes interviews are also required when consular authorities consider appropriate. This is the first stage at which the current quarantine is impairing the regular continuity of the attainment of all required authorisations for an immigrant wishing to work in Brazil.
So far, despite the current Covid-19 pandemic, the regular legal term for the candidates to present themselves at an embassy/consulate has remained unchanged. Following the date of their working residence application’s approval, applicants have 180 days to present themselves at a Brazilian embassy/consulate.
Subsequently, applicants have another 90 days to enter Brazilian territory, otherwise the visa will be considered cancelled. This is the new challenge to be overcome by HR and project managers around the world. Hopefully, the entry of foreign citizens into Brazil will be normalised after 27 April.
That said, we expect that the situation will continue to develop and react to the pandemic’s unpredictable outcomes. The forecast is that April and May will likely be the most challenging months for those who were expecting to start work in Brazil. On the other hand, when it comes to future projects, the above legal terms do give multinational companies some margin to continue their planning.