Rebranding Brazil – What Rio 2016 means for your global mobility programme

Re:locate Immigration Team of the Year award winner Pro-Link GLOBAL’s SooHyung Smit and Fabiano Bittencourt consider what recent changes to its immigration system may mean for international assignees, their employees, and the country’s economy.

Brazil

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The 2016 Rio Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games are right around the corner! As the August event draws closer, Brazil looks to capitalise politically and economically as all eyes turn to arguably the biggest stage in international sport.Not only will the country make all efforts to welcome the countless numbers of athletes and tourists attending the Games, but recent subtle economic and immigration changes point towards an overall ‘rebranding’ of Brazil as a regional hub of business and tourism. These measures – combined with similar objectives brought forth before the 2014 FIFA World Cup – come at a crucial time for Brazil’s troubled economy and politics.For years, Brazil has struggled with the international perception that its complex corporate and immigration regulations are unwelcoming to foreign investors. From miscommunication between federal and local immigration authorities, to frequently changing immigration policies with inconsistent implementation, to stringent document requirements for foreign applicants and sponsoring companies alike, the country’s immigration system is fraught with challenges.Although Brazil is often listed in the top emerging world economies, these unique difficulties often result in slow and costly immigration procedures for multinational companies trying to move top talent into the country.However, Brazil has taken several steps towards simplifying its immigration policies and procedures in recent years. Exemplified by three specific changes, it has begun to improve several of the most crucial elements of a successful and welcoming immigration system: streamlined application procedures, fast and efficient processing times, and simple yet accurate document requirements.

Streamlined application procedures: simplification of process steps

February 2015 brought forth the first seemingly minor, yet arguably significant, changes in Brazil.The Ministry of Labor relaxed the documents required to prove minimum professional experience for work visa applicants. Historically, this process was extremely time consuming and often involved obtaining legalised, translated letters of support from both the employee’s current and former employers. Under the new rules, any relevant document demonstrating work experience (including payslips, contracts, and so on) is now accepted by the Brazilian authorities.Brazilian authorities also announced their intention to simplify the process for foreign employees to obtain their CTPS Work Booklets. Eventually, applicants will be able to provide a copy of the Official Gazette as evidence that their work visa was approved, rather than requiring proof of their registration with the Federal Police (an appointment that could take upwards of several weeks to schedule). This change has not yet been implemented in any locations within Brazil, but it has the significant potential to reduce the amount of time an employee spends in country before he or she can begin working.

Fast and efficient processing times: changes to conditional permanent residency adjudication

In a unique 2012 decree, the Brazilian authorities implemented a new Conditional Permanent Residency status for those foreign employees seeking work permit extensions in Brazil. This new status would provide two additional years of work and residence authorisation, after which the employee would be eligible for Permanent Residence (VIPER) status if they met other prerequisites. Since its 2012 rollout, however, processing times for these applications have been extremely delayed, and often take 12–24 months for a decision to be issued.In order to combat the significant criticisms of these extensive waiting times, the Brazilian Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Labor recently carried out an unprecedented reduction of these processing times: applications filed after mid-March 2016 are now being adjudicated in only four to five weeks. Not only does this improve the immigration experience for foreign employees, their accompanying dependants, and global mobility teams, but it also eliminates several legal grey areas in Brazil’s immigration laws.

Simple and accurate document requirements: Brazil joins Hague Apostille Convention

Finally, in a recent surprise announcement, Brazil confirmed that it will become the 111th signatory to the Hague Apostille Convention and will begin accepting apostilled documentation as of 14 August 2016.Currently, all personal vital documentation from foreign employees and their dependants must be legalised by the Brazilian Consulate General with jurisdiction over the document’s issuing location. This multi-stage process can take upwards of several weeks to complete and often delays application filings while the applicant waits for the legalisation procedures to be finalised.Once the Hague Apostille Convention comes into force in Brazil, however, many sponsoring companies and foreign employees will be able to bypass these lengthy legalisation procedures in favour of the significantly more streamlined Apostille authentication process.Of all the recent developments in Brazil, this change perhaps most significantly points to Brazil’s rebranding efforts: many of the challenges faced with immigration into Brazil are closely tied to the country’s stringent document requirements. By entering into one of the most influential international treaties for the purpose of easing these challenging requirements, Brazil has taken a major step in the right direction.

Rio and beyond: what the future holds for Brazil

When considered on their own, none of these changes holds the potential to push Brazil beyond its current challenges. However, when viewed as a whole, the strategic immigration changes made by Brazil in the past 18 months demonstrate the country’s recent efforts to build an easier, more open immigration structure within its growing market.These changes couldn’t come at a more pivotal time for the country: while the short-term results of the political turmoil may continue to reflect a negative tone, economists believe that the Rio Games, combined with the recent economic and immigration changes, are likely to benefit the country in the long term.Ultimately, the fundamental question remains: after all is said and done with the Rio Games, after the tourists and athletes have left, after the spotlight is gone, will the legislative changes that Brazil implemented have made enough of a lasting impression to allow Brazil to truly take its next step in the world’s economy?It will be well beyond the Rio Olympics before we are able to answer that question, but Brazil will always remain a country with real possibilities for international growth and development.

 

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