After Rio – rebuilding Brazil’s economy and immigration structure

In the wake of the Rio 2016 Olympics, Soo Gurtcheff-Smit
and Fabiano Bittencourt, of immigration consultancy Pro-Link GLOBAL, take stock of recent political and immigration developments in Brazil.

After Rio – rebuilding Brazil\'s economy and immigration
As all eyes turned to Brazil for the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games, the country’s leaders must have understood the significance that those six weeks would have for its economic and political future.Often thought of as a regional leader, Brazil has long stood on the edge of being considered a global leader in politics, business, innovation, technology and manufacturing. A successful Olympic Games could be the turning point.A key member of the emerging BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China), Brazil has historically struggled with the impression that its corporate and immigration regulations were too complex, too expensive, and too slow for major personnel and business investment from multinational companies.Once again, the country finds itself at a crossroads: although it is plagued by political disruption and a struggling economy, the overall success of both the 2015 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics, combined with recent strategic immigration changes, may once again have foreign companies considering it as an investment opportunity.

Troubles and challenges

In the weeks following the Summer Games, two major political events transpired: a lengthy labour strike by Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) employees and the impeachment of Brazil’s former president, Dilma Rousseff, over violations of Brazilian finance laws.

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Spanning 22 August–4 October, the labour strike significantly affected immigration services, both within Brazil and at consular posts abroad. Designed as a partial stoppage to allow for vital services to continue, it caused considerable processing delays to visa adjudication and issuance, in-person consular appointments, and the ability for MoFA officials to notify consulates of work authorisation approvals (a prerequisite for work visas to be issued).Although the strike ended on 4 October and MoFA employees returned to work, the relationship between the union and the MoFA remains strained. Legal disputes over compensation and benefits remain, and no official agreement has yet been announced regarding the compensation demands that underpinned the global strike.

Impeachment of Dilma Rousseff

Throughout the Rio Games, the impeachment of then-President Dilma Rousseff somewhat clouded the overall success story of the event. Charged with illegally manipulating government budgets and distantly linked to corruption scandals that have affected Brazil’s politics for years, Ms Rousseff was suspended from Parliament in May and formally impeached in August, after the Olympics.Thanks to this political upheaval, Brazil’s economy finds itself at a tipping point. Will investors see the final impeachment of Ms Rousseff and the beginning of successor Michel Temer’s administration as a sign that Brazil is on the mend, or will continuing corruption charges and economic instability keep foreign investment on the sidelines?Mr Temer, a member of the centrist Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), has stepped into his new role as president promising to focus on rebuilding the economy from one of its worst recessions of the last 100 years. Although he is seen as being more business friendly than previous Brazilian presidents, he is not without controversy when it comes to ousting Dilma Rousseff, the continued corruption that plagues Brazil’s political infrastructure, and his poor approval ratings among Brazilians.It remains to be seen what the new president can accomplish before the 2018 general election, but his recent international economic trips to China and the United States are first steps in the right direction Even amid these labour and political deterrents, many economic forecasts point to the beginning (albeit a timid one) of economic recovery in Brazil: in-country consumer confidence is increasing, business confidence is at a two-year high, and the stock market has risen consistently throughout 2016.

Immigration changes

Independent of these political and economic intangibles, the Brazilian authorities have made several measurable changes to their immigration systems and protocols, aimed at simplifying and streamlining what has traditionally been a cumbersome and complex system. Notable recent and upcoming changes include:
  • On 14 August, Brazil officially became a signatory to The Hague Apostille Convention. This allows many sponsoring companies and foreign employees to bypass the lengthy legalisation procedures in favour of the often faster, easier, and cheaper Apostille authentication process
  • New online application systems through the Ministry of Labor are to be implemented for change-of-employer notifications. Currently, these applications are filed manually through the Ministry of Justice
  • ‘Strategic Professionals’ will soon benefit from stream lined work visa processes. Very little is currently known regarding this upcoming change, including the eligibility criteria for a ‘Strategic Professional’ or what the fast-track process will entail
  • A new application system with the Federal Police is expected to be implemented throughout the country in the upcoming months. The details of this system remain unknown, but immigration professionals hope for a simplified and more efficient programme
All these changes point not only to a country recognising that its immigration system provides a significant barrier to foreign investment, but also to one that is willing to rebuild its system to better fit the world’s fast-paced global economy.

What’s next?

Brazil finds itself at a critical juncture for its economy, politics, and future place on the world stage. Although immigration changes alone won’t solve all its current challenges, they do indicate that the country is looking toward the future instead of being mired in the past – a positive sign for the foreign investors waiting to see if Brazil is the next big market.

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