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How to become a Brazilian citizen

. Feb 09, 2021
How to become a Brazilian citizen Photo: Fernando Pedrotti/Shutterstock

For immigrants in Brazil, doing things “by the book” can be a challenge. Excessive bureaucracy, seemingly endless notary fees, lengthy waiting times, and contradictory information from authorities make processes of naturalization or residency tortuous and cumbersome. As a result, many expats are forced into illegality or, if they can afford it, spending vast amounts of money on hiring immigration lawyers.

Dealing with Brazil’s Federal Police for any migratory issues is a notorious time suck. Migration offices — which only open to the public during working hours — are invariably home to large crowds, long queues, and mind-numbing waits.

In major Brazilian cities, arriving at Federal Police offices by 9 am one can only expect to leave with some form of resolution by the time doors close at 5 pm.</p> <p>When it comes to scheduling visa appointments using the authorities&#8217; online systems, the process is near impossible. There is even a suspicion that the Federal Police&#8217;s online system is intentionally faulty. We advise our clients to ignore the authorities&#8217; requirement for online appointments, showing up in person with proof of the applicant&#8217;s failed attempts to access the digital scheduling system.</p> <h2>Who fits the bill for naturalization?</h2> <p>In Brazil, despite the troubles one may encounter during the application process, the requirements for naturalization — that is, the process of foreigners obtaining Brazilian citizenship — are fairly liberal.</p> <p>First off, all individuals born in Brazil or to a Brazilian parent abroad have the right to &#8220;original nationality,&#8221; being considered native Brazilians. Then, the law allows for &#8220;derived nationality,&#8221; which is voluntarily obtained through naturalization.</p> <p>According to the <a href="https://brazilian.report/podcast/2018/10/05/podcast-brazilian-constitution/">Constitution</a>, a foreign citizen residing in Brazil for more than 15 years without interruption has the right to so-called &#8220;extraordinary naturalization,&#8221; providing they have no prior criminal convictions. Before 15 years, foreigners have to meet a series of requirements before fitting the bill for naturalization.</p> <p>First, besides being over 18 and of sound mind, applicants must have legally resided in Brazil for at least four years. In addition, they must have a clean criminal record and be able to demonstrate their proficiency in Portuguese, typically by way of a <a href="https://www.gov.br/inep/pt-br/areas-de-atuacao/avaliacao-e-exames-educacionais/celpe-bras">Celpe-Bras</a> certificate, issued by the Education Ministry.</p> <p>Crucially, Brazil&#8217;s most recent Migration Law (dated 2017) removed several additional requirements for this form of ordinary naturalization. Previously, applicants had to prove they were in gainful employment, as well as possessing sufficient funds to support themselves and their families.</p> <p>Furthermore, the binding legislation reduces the minimum residency period to just one year for foreigners with a Brazilian child or a Brazilian spouse or partner. The same benefit applies to Portuguese citizens seeking naturalization in Brazil. Individuals who have &#8220;provided or may provide a relevant service to the country&#8221; or have been recommended for their professional, scientific, or artistic ability may apply for naturalization after two years of residence.</p> <p>In addition, foreigners who have worked for embassies or consulates in Brazil for at least 10 uninterrupted years qualify for naturalization.&nbsp;</p> <h2>Provisional naturalization</h2> <p>Children or adolescents who were born abroad but relocated to Brazil before their 10th birthday may obtain provisional naturalization before they turn 18, valid as proof of Brazilian nationality for up to two years after they reach adulthood.</p> <p>In this case, these individuals can make their naturalization definitive by expressing their intention to remain Brazilian before their 20th birthday. If this is not carried out in time, the individual is once again considered a foreign citizen and would have to apply for naturalization through the standard channels.</p> <h2>Why naturalize as a Brazilian citizen?</h2> <p>In short, permanent residents are granted the overwhelming majority of rights and protections extended to locals, meaning that for many expats there is little motivation to go become a Brazilian citizen. However, there are key advantages to obtaining citizenship.</p> <p>First and foremost, only Brazilian citizens have the right to vote in the country. And completing the naturalization process also allows citizens to apply for jobs in the public sector and receive federal benefits. None of these opportunities are available to residents.</p> <p>Then, there are the bureaucratic benefits. Citizenship, unlike permanent visas, does not require renewal. Furthermore, holding a Brazilian passport means that foreign-born citizens can make use of Brazil&#8217;s entry visa requirements around the world. Brazilians are exempt from visa demands in over 150 countries, including the Schengen Area in Europe.

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Iure Pontes Vieira

Ph.D. in Public Law, winner of the European Academic Tax Thesis Award in 2011. He is a founding partner of Pontes Vieira Advogados

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