obama brasilPresident Dilma and President Obama in Brazil at Itamaraty Palace. Planalto on flickr.

Welcome the Brazilians

Written by Cindy Venerio

Olá do Brazil  /  Hello from Brazil

Brazil has quickly become one of the largest economies in Latin America, and arguably one of the most important countries in the region. This emerging country has recently seen a change in its immigration policy with the U.S. because under the Obama administration it became “easier” for Brazilians to obtain a visa to enter the country. As a result, many Brazilians can be found on the beaches of South Florida and in Orlando enjoying Disney World.

Recently, the administration has lifted most restrictions for Brazilians entering the U.S. President Obama has said "we want them spending money here, in Orlando, in Florida, in the United States of America, which will boost our businesses and our economy” (CNN). These new provisions state that visas for Brazilians will increase by 40% and the wait for an interview will now be around 21 days, whereas before the interview process could take up to 70 days. Brazil has a reciprocity policy when it comes to visas, so the U.S. will receive the same regulations that have been implemented towards Brazil. Now it is easier for U.S. citizens to obtain a visa to travel to Brazil. This policy change could not have had better timing since Brazil is set to host the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics in Rio. These global events bring in a flow of tourists and foreign money. The implementation of this new policy creates a win–win situation for both Brazil and the U.S. since both countries will receive revenue from tourism and foreign investment.

Brazilians between the ages of 14-79 must be interviewed to obtain a visa. According to the U.S. Department of State, it takes about two weeks for visitors’ visas and three days for student exchange program visas. After the interview and in order to qualify for a visa, the applicant must demonstrate that they have enough funds to cover the trip, plan to stay for a limited amount of time, have economic ties abroad, and have a reason to return to Brazil. The cost of a tourist visa is $140.00 (travel.state.gov)—a large amount for the average Brazilian since the per capita GDP of the country as of summer of 2011 is $11,600 (cia.gov). Furthermore, a typical plane ticket from Rio to Miami (the most visited city by Brazilians) costs around $1000. Although the country has seen a rise in prosperity, the majority of Brazilians cannot afford to visit the U.S. since Brazil still has one of the biggest income inequality gaps in all of Latin America.

Today Brazil’s GDP stands at $2.5 trillion, making it the 7th largest economy in the world, and has a population of almost 200 million people. This growing prosperity came in the early 2000s when Brazil began to pay off its foreign debt and focus on a macro economic model. After paying off this debt, the country was given gold on credit ratings which made it more attractive to foreign investors. This large inflow has strengthened the currency while industrializing the country even more. However the GDP per capita remains low, demonstrating that despite its wealth, there is still a large gap between the rich and the poor. At this rate, the country hopes to continue industrializing with new projects in the works. Some of these projects include twelve stadiums for the World Cup which are already under construction. The construction of these stadiums was initially going to be paid for by private investors, but now taxpayers are picking up the bill. Because of some of these factors, middle and upper class tourists continue to travel to the U.S.

With 1.5 million visitors every year, Brazilians are the biggest group of international travelers to Florida, contributing about $50 million to its economy every day (CNN). Brazilians are coming to shop, specifically buying brand name clothes which cost approximately 10-15% more in Brazil due to tariffs and transportation. Furthermore, in Rio it is more expensive to buy property, but in Miami, oceanfront property can be half the price than in Rio. The Disney Corporation has even started hiring Portuguese speakers in Disneyworld. With the increasing amount of Brazilian tourists, President Obama hopes this will create about one million jobs in Florida and in New York (CNN). Although this new policy is aimed at improving the United States’ economy, not everyone is in support of this new law. Many other Latin American countries are not offered similar access to visas as Brazilians. This is an example of how tourism and immigration policies are influenced by money. Furthermore, even though the policy for entering the U.S. is changing, only a small portion of the Brazilian population can actually enjoy this new law.

So, what other reasons have led to this change in policy? It is still a question what political party Brazilians lean towards in the U.S. The Obama administration’s new visa policy might be a tactic to get Brazilian-Americans to vote for him in the upcoming Presidential Elections since immigration has become a key issue for Latinos. There are approximately 300,000 Brazilians who are eligible voters in Florida and this number could be enough to decide the next election in this important swing state. One thing is clear, President Obama is trying to foster the economy while promoting his own political position in a key electoral state. Thus, this changing immigration policy for Brazil is not a threat, but a benefit for Brazilians who are able to travel, for Florida’s economy, and for Obama’s re-election. Although some view this new policy as unfair because other Latin American countries don’t get this type of treatment, this new policy can help us improve the economy by embracing new travelers. 

Works Cited 

"Background Note: Brazil." U.S. Department of State. U.S. Department of State, 3 Nov. 2011. Web. 26 Apr. 2012. <http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/35640.htm>.

"Brazil." CIA.gov. Central Intelligence Agency, 12 Apr. 2012. Web. 26 Apr. 2012.

Couwels, John, Shasta Darlington, and John Zarrella. "Florida's Tourism Gets a Boost from a Brazilian Invasion - CNN.com." CNN. Cable News Network, 24 Jan. 2012. Web. 26 Apr. 2012. <http://www.cnn.com/2012/01/24/travel/brazilian-tourist-invasion/index.html>.

Tales, Azzoni. "Work Restarts at World Cup Stadium after 8 Months." Yahoo! Sports. Yahoo, 21 Mar. 2012. Web. 26 Apr. 2012. <http://sports.yahoo.com/soccer/news?slug=ap-wcup2014-beira-riostadium>.