The Expat’s Guide to Moving to Brazil

Last updated on June 10th, 2024 at 08:30 am

Expat's Guide to Moving to Brazil

Brazil has a long history of attracting immigrants from around the world. During the final half of the 19th century and into the beginning of the 20th century, the country welcomed between 2–3 million immigrants. [cm_simple_footnote id=1] People from around the globe continue to relocate to South America’s largest country, thanks to its growing economy and spirited culture. If you go, you’ll likely find an expat community there.

As of 2021, 70,000 Americans call the country home. Since President Bolsonaro lifted the tourist visa requirement for Americans and Canadians [cm_simple_footnote id=2] in 2019, even more North Americans are traveling to Brazil.

If you’re considering a move, this guide will introduce you to the country and give you an overview of what you need to know before you relocate to Brazil.

A brief overview of Brazil

Brazil has borders that touch Colombia, French Guiana, Suriname, Guyana, and Venezuela in the north; the Atlantic Ocean in the east; Uruguay and Argentina in the south; and Peru, Bolivia, and Paraguay to the west. Almost half of South America is made up of Brazil. It’s the largest country by size and population in Latin America, and the fifth largest worldwide.

Known for its vibrant cities, diverse geography, and rich culture, Brazil is a popular destination for tourists. It typically welcomes more than 6 million international visitors every year.

Can a U.S. or Canadian citizen move to Brazil?

Overall, Brazil is a welcoming country for immigrants from all over the world. U.S. and Canadian citizens can move to Brazil, provided they meet the requirements and follow the proper protocols.

What are the requirements to move to Brazil?

Because Canadians and Americans don’t need a visa to enter Brazil, you can visit before you move if you have a valid passport issued by Canada or the U.S.

You can remain in the country for up to 90 days with nothing but your passport, and you can extend your stay to up to 180 days if you receive an extension from the Federal Police. Visiting Brazil can help you learn what areas you like, immerse yourself in Brazilian culture, and more details about what you’ll need to permanently move there and get Brazilian citizenship.

If your intent is to move to Brazil, you will need to obtain a temporary visa. You will then need to apply for a National Migration Registration Card (CRNM) once you’re in the country.

How do you get a visa to move to Brazil?

The simplest way to get a temporary residence permit to move to Brazil is to apply online and pay the application fee of R$168.13, which is roughly $33. You can also apply at a Brazilian consulate or embassy located in the U.S. or Canada.

For temporary visas, and ultimately to receive a National Migration Registration Card (under Brazilian immigration laws), you must have one of the following qualifications:

  • you’re married to a Brazilian national or have a child with one
  • you have family in Brazil
  • you work as a high-level scientist or researcher
  • you hold investments in Brazil
  • you are a key executive of a corporation
  • you’re retired
  • you’re a digital nomad

Immigrating with spousal or parental status

If you’re married to a Brazilian national, you will need to present a marriage certificate and a declaration that you are not separated or divorced. Your partner will need to submit proof of identity like a passport or driver’s license.

To verify that you have a child with a Brazilian national, you typically provide the child’s birth certificate and verify that you can provide financial support for the child. This can be achieved by showing proof of employment in Brazil or an adequate balance in a bank or investment account.

Immigrating with family in Brazil

To immigrate to Brazil to reunite with relatives, you’ll have to submit:

  • Proof of identity of your relative or relatives, such as their passport or driver’s license
  • Proof of your relationship to a Brazilian citizen through birth certificates or marriage certificates
  • Proof that you can support yourself financially, such as a letter from a new employer in Brazil or bank or investment account statements

Immigrating as a high-level scientist or researcher

High-level scientists and researchers must submit their CVs and proof of qualifications, such as diplomas and certificates. You will need to have worked for at least two years in your given field.

Immigrating as an investor

If you have invested in real estate or in a Brazilian company, you can apply for a temporary visa to enter the country by showing proof of the investment. This proof typically comes in the form of a property deed and appraisal or investment account statement.

Immigrating as an executive or administrator

If you’re a new executive or administrator for a Brazilian company, you will normally need to make a financial investment in Brazil and show proof via an investment account statement. You’ll also need to submit proof of employment, such as a letter from your employer on official letterhead.

Officers representing businesses that are at least five years old and wish to relocate their headquarters to Brazil may also be granted a temporary visa. You must normally provide financial information for your company, such as Canadian or U.S. tax returns, and your partnership, LLC, or articles of incorporation paperwork.

Immigrating as a retiree

As a retiree, you can immigrate to Brazil if you are at least 50 years of age and have proof that you have a monthly income to support yourself and your independents. Bank and investment account statements are the most common forms of proof.

Does Brazil offer digital nomad visas?

Brazil does offer digital nomad visas, which is an immigration status for individuals who are employed by companies located outside of Brazil in positions that allow them to work remotely. If you wish to receive a digital nomad visa, you cannot apply online. Instead, you will need to visit a Brazilian consulate or Brazilian embassy.

To receive a digital nomad visa, you have to provide:

Expat's Guide to Moving to Brazil

Can you live in Brazil permanently?

To live in Brazil permanently, you must receive a National Migration Registry Card (CRNM). You can only apply for one after you have entered Brazil. Depending on the type of temporary visa you have, you will need to obtain your card within 30–90 days after you have entered the country.

Find out more about getting a Brazilian CPF here; that’s the country’s “natural persons register” number that’s available to citizens and foreigners alike, which requires you to register with Brazilian authorities. Many expats planning to move to Brazil apply for a permanent visa.

How do you get a CRNM?

The Federal Police unit handles card issuance. To apply, you’ll need to schedule an appointment at the office in the district where you live. The in-person interview usually lasts 30 minutes.

You’ll undergo fingerprinting during the interview. Once you receive approval for a CRNM, you’ll need to pay an issuance fee of R$204.77, which equates to about $40.

How much money do you need to move to Brazil?

The cost of flying or driving to Brazil depends on where your trip begins. If you’re planning to fly, try to avoid the peak tourist season from December to March to get the best deals on airfare. If you’re driving, factor in the cost of gasoline, food, and overnight accommodations during your trip. Plan for fees at the various borders.

International moving companies charge for the cost of shipping by container, which includes inspection and customs’ fees. As a result, the cost can run into the thousands of dollars.

Expat forums like ExpatExchange will have up-to-date information from others about the cost of moving, as well as recommendations. In general, the amount you’ll pay will depend on the distance you travel and the total weight and size of what needs to be moved.

Once you arrive in the country, factor in the cost of initial accommodation in a hotel or hostel as you search for a residence.

How much monthly income do you need in Brazil?

Your required income depends on your standard of living and where you plan to live. Cost of living is generally higher in the cities and lower in rural areas.

As of August 2023, the estimated monthly cost of living without rent in São Paulo was $2,341 USD for a family of four and $649 for a single person. In Rio de Janeiro, the cost was $2110 and $595, respectively. Average rent for a one-bedroom apartment was around $575 in São Paulo and $380 in Rio de Janeiro.

The Brazilian real is the unit of currency. As of August 2023, one real was worth about $0.20 U.S. dollars. Exchange rates do vary.

Our guide to getting the best Brazilian real rates will help you get the most for your money when you’re exchanging in Brazil or sending money from Brazil to the U.S. or Canada.

What type of government does Brazil have?

Brazil is a federal republic, a country made up of multiple states that operate under a single federal government. The president is the head of state and is elected through two-rounds of voting once every four years.

The legislative branch is called The National Congress of Brazil. It is composed of the 81 members of the Federal Senate elected for 8-year terms and the 513 members of the Chamber of Deputies, who serve 4-year terms.

Brazil has a separate judicial branch headed by the Supreme Federal Court. The president elects judges who serve until the age of 70.

Is there a U.S. embassy in Brazil?

The U.S. enjoys good diplomatic relations with Brazil and has embassies and consulates in the cities of:

  • Belo Horizonte Brasília
  • Porto Alegre
  • Recife
  • Rio de Janeiro
  • São Paulo

Canada also maintains embassies and consulates in the cities of:

  • Brasilia
  • Belo Horizonte
  • Rio De Janeiro
  • São Paulo

Is Brazil a good place for North American expats?

U.S. News and World Report ranked Brazil the 26th best country in the world to live in. The country can be a good place for North American expatriates, especially if they want to learn Portuguese and participate in local life. Only about 5% of the population speaks English.

How safe is it to live in Brazil?

Many parts of Brazil are very safe. However, there are areas in some cities that are unsafe due to gang activity, organized crime, and high rates of violent crimes like robberies, carjackings, and murders.

To stay safe, the U.S. Department of State recommends avoiding informal housing developments, which are commonly called comunidades, favelas, and vilas. In addition, the agency reports that the satellite cities of Ceilandia, Santa Maria, São Sebastião, Paranoá, and border areas near Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, and Paraguay may not be safe for foreigners.

What is the cost of living like in Brazil?

Although cost of living varies throughout the country, it is generally less expensive to live in Brazil than in the U.S. or Canada.

At the time of this writing, the cost of living in Rio de Janeiro is about 59% less expensive than living in New York City, and the cost of living in São Paulo is about 70% less expensive than in NYC.

What is the education system like in Brazil?

The education system in Brazil has struggled in the past, but reforms are underway to improve it. All children in Brazil must now receive two years of early childhood education from public preschools and attend elementary school from ages 6–14.

Secondary school is not mandatory in Brazil. Because of high rates of dropouts and low literacy levels throughout the country, Brazil tends to rate low on official education rankings. The World Economic Forum placed Brazil at 77 out of 130 countries, and the 2015 OECD PISA study placed it at 63 out of 70 countries.

Many expats choose to educate their children in international private schools that base their curricula on American, British, or Canadian education standards. Normally, these schools offer instruction in English and teach Portuguese as a second language. The International Schools Database is a good starting point for finding private schools in Brazil.

There are more than 200 colleges and universities located in Brazil. Some of the top schools (as identified by U.S. News and World Report) include:

Expat's Guide to Moving to Brazil

What is the healthcare system like in Brazil?

Brazil has a well-developed public healthcare system called the Sistema Único de Saúde (SUS). To gain access to the system, you must visit a public hospital, clinic, or health center and show your Brazilian taxpayer number and proof of identity and residence.

Public hospitals provide free evidence-based care from a variety of providers. However, wait times can be long due to overcrowding. As a result, some expats turn to the private healthcare system, which delivers care that you can pay for out of pocket or through health insurance. Less than a fourth of all Brazilians have health insurance. Overall, the 2021 CEOWORLD magazine Health Care Index ranked Brazil’s healthcare system as the 63rd best in the world.

What is the climate/weather like in Brazil?

Brazil has regions with equatorial, tropical, and subtropical climates. The country typically receives the most rain during March, April, and May, though levels of rainfall vary in different regions.

During the summer months of December–March, the weather is often hot, rainy, and humid, while the winter months of June–September tend to be drier and cooler. Temperatures in Rio de Janeiro range from 70–80°F (21–27°C) throughout the year. The year-round average temperature is about 68°F (20°C) in Brasília.

What is the quality of life in Brazil?

The 2022 World Happiness Report rated Brazil 38th out of 146 countries. Although its ranking was lower than Canada and the U.S., Brazil earned high marks for social support services and life expectancy.

The biggest detractors of quality of life for Brazilians are widespread poverty and high rates of crime in some areas.

Can I get a driver’s license in Brazil?

Brazil requires foreign nationals driving in Brazil for longer than 180 days to obtain a national driver’s license or CNH from the Departamento Estadual de Trânsito, commonly known as Detran.

A permanent driver’s license usually involves a medical exam, a logic or psychological exam, a written test, and a practical driving test.

Is it easy for Americans and Canadians to find a job in Brazil?

Finding a job in Brazil depends on your education and work experience. Workers with backgrounds in technology, science, engineering, or mathematics are often in demand. Brazil offers both a work permit and a business visa to prospective residents. A work visa may not be required, depending on your country of origin and the terms of your employment contract.

One barrier to employment is language. Because English is not commonly spoken, you may struggle to find a job if you don’t speak Portuguese.

Some expats choose to start their own businesses once they move to Brazil. The American Chamber of Commerce in Brazil can assist you with getting a startup off the ground in your new home.

What are some things to do in Brazil? Exploring your new home

In Brazil, you can find many lush beaches to soak in the sun or adventure into the rainforest to see wildlife. Each region has its own character and attractions.

Some of the most popular spots for tourists to visit include:

Brazilian culture: what to know

Brazilian culture draws from Portuguese, Italian, Dutch, Spanish, West African, and other Latin American cultures. Perhaps more than other South American countries, Brazil is a true melting pot. Traditions, flavors, and musical styles vary from state to state.

Some common Brazilian customs include:

  • Eating feijoada on Wednesdays: Many Brazilians eat feijoada, a dish made of black beans and pork, on Wednesdays. The meal traces back to the days of slavery, but, today, it is a symbol of Brazil’s history and tradition.
  • Festa Junina: Many people hold Festa Junina parties in June, July, or August. Guests dress up as cowboys and cowgirls and perform a dance called the quadrilha. Peanuts, corn, and sangria are typically featured on the menu.
  • Samba: Samba music is popular throughout Brazil, and many Brazilians know how to samba. You can find many bars in major cities that host samba dancing, and it is common for people to dance at barbecues and events from World Cup viewing parties to weddings.
  • Carnival: The annual celebration of carnival in Rio de Janeiro is known throughout the world, but the entire country observes it annually. In fact, in some regions, many businesses close to allow workers to participate in the festivities. Carnival is celebrated from the Friday before Ash Wednesday until noon on Ash Wednesday.
  • Barbecue: Barbecue or churrasco is very popular in Brazil. A favorite is picanha, a cut of beef that comes from the top of the rump of a cow.

Learn more about the culture of Brazil by checking out our article on what you should know before you move to South America’s biggest country.

Where are the best places to live in Brazil?

As a large country, Brazil offers locations for everyone from retirees to families to young singles. The best places to live depend on your lifestyle, age, occupation, and personal preferences.

For retirees

Retirees who love nature may choose to settle in Campinas, which is home to many parks and botanical gardens, as well as several private and public hospitals.

Natal is another popular spot for older adults. Its coastal location brings cooling sea winds throughout the year and provides plenty of opportunity for lounging on the beach.

For families

São Paulo is home to a whopping 10 million people and is Brazil’s largest city. The middle and upper classes are likely to speak English, and a booming economy means jobs are plentiful. The city has many cultural and entertainment options and is home to a number of top international private schools.

Another city known for prestigious international schools is Porto Alegre. The city has an excellent public transportation system and is home to two universities:

  • the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul
  • the Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul

A thriving economy also means that jobs are plentiful here.

Expat's Guide to Moving to Brazil

For young singles

Belo Horizonte is a hot spot for young singles. The city is home to more than 12,000 bars and nightspots and is a paradise for foodies with many restaurants. As the capital of the state of Minas Gerais, the city provides many job opportunities. It is also home to consulates for both the U.S. and Canada.

Florianopolis is another popular location among young expats. Like São Paulo, the city has a large English-speaking community and is home to many galleries, restaurants, and museums. Large companies like Philips and Capgemini have offices in the city. As a result, infrastructure is strong, and there are good hospitals and schools in the area. There are also plenty of job opportunities.

How to find a place to live in Brazil

Once you have decided where you’ll move to in Brazil, you’ll need a place to live. Consider enlisting the help of a local Brazilian real estate agent, or use a site like International to find apartments and homes for rent. Facebook groups, WhatsApp groups, and other expatriate forums can be a rich source of information for finding housing.

How to set up a bank account in Brazil

To pay for purchases and make deposits, you’ll need to open a bank account in Brazil. While you can get cash from an ATM with your home country debit card, you’ll need the convenience of local banking for your permanent residency. Remitly is a trusted app for transferring money between accounts in your home country and your Brazilian bank. Brazil also has a convenient nationwide electronic payment system called PIX. It’s very popular in the country. Once you have a Brazilian bank account, you can register for your PIX key.


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