I am currently living in Brazil on a three month tourist visa, and my intention has always been to extend my visa for another three months to enjoy even more time here.
Australian and UK citizens are allowed to extend their three months for an additional three months, for a maximum stay of 180 days in any year, the year being measured from the day you entered Brazil. I’m sure the rules are similar for people from other countries too.
Today the time came to extend my visa. I’ve heard about how to do this from friends, and I’ve done some research online to find out exactly what to do. Interestingly, I couldn’t find any information about this at all on any of the Brasilian websites, only stories and advice from others who had undergone the process on English language websites.
These accounts made the process seem quite difficult. According to all the sites I read I needed to provide:
- Proof of finances (bank statements etc.)
- Proof of a flight leaving the country (or bus, train, etc.)
- A letter of invitation from someone in Brazil
- An entry/exit card
- A completed request form (you can download the form here)
- Proof of payment of the fee which can be obtained online and paid at a bank/post office
I was quite concerned, since I didn’t have most of these things.
I haven’t booked a flight out yet, as I don’t know when or where I’m going. I did look into booking a bus just to Argentina or somewhere close to tick that box, but it was still RS400, so a lot of money for something I’ll probably never use. I also didn’t have a letter of invitation from a Brasilian, though I was confident that I could get one if needed. However I thought I probably wouldn’t need it. When applying for a visa to enter the country previously on my Australian passport (this time I traveled on my new British passport which doesn’t require a visa in advance) and that form said to provide proof of income or an invitation letter, so I thought that the proof of income would be sufficient.
I didn’t have an entry exit card as I wasn’t given one on landing. I remember asking the immigration officer about this when I landed as it was the first time I hadn’t received one, and they told me that they weren’t using them any more. I believe that the practice changed in November/December when there were a number of changes to immigration law, and other websites (including the official website) aren’t up to date. Another important change that was made was the fine for overstaying on a tourist visa. They used to charge about RS$10 a day, which meant that you weren’t too worried about overstaying, but this has been raised to RS$100 per day, making this a less attractive way to ‘extend your visa’.
Finally, scouring the internet in English and Portuguese, I could not find anywhere this form for online payment that everyone mentions. Everyone said that paying in advance was ‘the thing to do’ as it was not possible to pay at the location, you would need to go to a nearby bank or post office and return to the office, which extended the length of the process.
The websites I read in English also made the actual process sound quite painful, and not just the payment. They explained that you would need to show up at the local Federal Police office very early as there are always lots of people there. They said that if you were missing anything, or didn’t answer their questions in perfect Portuguese, they could be very unkind and mean.
Considering all this I was feeling quite a bit of trepidation about the whole experience. I spoke to one of my Brasilian friends about it and he suggested that we just go to the Federal Police with what I have, chat with them, and see what they say. Seemed a dangerous idea to me considering what I had read online, but decided to give it a go.
Well… we went to the appropriate Federal Police office, which in Salvador is at the airport. We got there at 8am as this is when I thought that opened from some online searching, but they opened at 9am. When they opened there were three other people there. I approached the desk with just my passport and a copy of the online form requesting to extend my visa and asked the woman at the desk if I could speak to someone about extending my tourist visa (in good, but I’m sure not perfect Portuguese). The woman took them, said nothing, and gave them to a man at a computer. We sat and waited, and 10 minutes later he gave me back my passport with a stamp saying that my stay had been extended.
Wow, what is the lesson in this? Is it a coincidence that all the information about the process and rules about extending a visa were in English, and not in Portuguese? It’s not really the Brasilian (or at least Salvadorian) way to follow these kinds of processes. This is very much an economy of who you know, and asking favours of friends, helping people as much as you can, and making things work with what you have. Simply turning up at the airport with what you have an asking for help is very much the Bahian way. The moral of the story, when in Brasil, try the Brasilian way.
I’m not saying that anyone should try this. It is probably a good idea to have as many of the things ‘on the list’ as possible, and to be prepared to speak to the people at the Federal Police – if you don’t speak good Portuguese, take a friend who does. It is probably also a good idea to show up at the offices early, especially in places like Rio and Sao Paulo. What I am saying is don’t buy into the horror stories. Go as prepared as you can be, but expecting to find reasonable people who are there to help you and are friendly if you treat them with respect.
Meanwhile for me, another three months in beautiful Brazil, yay!!!