My move to Brazil – a personal account

Below, I’ve copied a page from my static site.  I’d like comments and feedbacks to share with others

I am writing this page to perhaps help others in a similar situation to myself. I often found it difficult to locate information about rules and regulations when moving and when I did I often found it differed considerably. Whilst the info below is based on my personal experiences, you should confirm details for yourself as well. I am not a lawyer and can’t offer legal advise only opinion.

I believe that some of Brazil’s regulations vary from city to city and state to state. My experiences are based on moving from the United Kingdom to Belo Horizonte in the state of Minas Gerais.

A little about my story. I met a Brazilian lady whilst she was studying in the UK. After carrying on a long distance relationship we decided to get married and for me to move to Brazil. I am currently living in Brazil since May 2005 and now have a permanent visa, RNE (identification card for foreigners), carteira do trabalho (official booklet that records employment details) and driving license.

The first point of research should by your local Brazilian Consular office. You can visit the UK one here.

Please read the info below. You can contact me if you have any specific questions that I may be able to help you with.

General Points

I have been told by other British people I have met in Brazil that it worth getting any and all documents (and some you don’t think you’ll need) that you even think you may need legalized at the consulate in the UK. Without a stamp, UK documents are no use in Brazil (eg birth certificate, driving license, qualifications etc) and you can only get them legalized at the consulate in the UK and not in Brazil. These documents will also then need officially translating into Portuguese once you are in Brazil.

You are allowed to remain in Brazil on a tourist visa for 90 days which can then be extended by a further 90 days at the Federal Police Station. I understand that the maximum duration you can stay, continuous or not, in Brazil in any 365 day period is 180 on a tourist visa. These figures are the official ones, but I have met several people who have over-stayed there time and not had any problems when they did come to leave. However take this chance at your own risk.


The guide from the consul about documentation that was required proved to be accurate. We had no problems at the local cartorio (registry office) with any of the paperwork. Although we had been told in advance that we would not need a non-impediment to marriage certificate I obtained one in the UK anyway and had it legalized As with many things in Brazil it is better to have too much paperwork than not enough. Because I am a UK citizen staying in Brazil, the application for the marriage license did take longer than it would for a Brazilian couple. For us it took around 6 weeks from date of application.

Visa Application

I returned to the UK after we got back from honeymoon for a short trip to apply for permanent visa (family re-union) at the consulate in London. I was repeatedly told that it is much easier and a shorter process to apply in your own country. I was told it would take approximately 2 months to process in the UK, whereas to apply in Brazil could take up to 2 years. I have met several people who applied over a year ago for a permanent visa in Brazil are still waiting for it to be issued.

The consulate accepted all the documents I provided except one. On their web site they say you need proof of residence in the UK and give as one of the examples of accepted forms as a letter from a GP. However this was not allowed so I then applied to my electoral register office for a letter which was accepted. I believe documents such as this and the police statement detailing any criminal record remain valid, once legalized, for 3-6 months.

Despite the early indications that it would take 2 months or more to process my visa application, in my case it took only 24 days. Please do not count on your application being so fast but be aware it could be. When I returned to the UK I had to leave my passport with the consulate. When I arrived they told me to come back in 4 days time, despite it saying 3 days on their website, however when I showed them my return air ticket they agreed to process visa in 3 days.

RNE Application (ID card for immigrants)

The RNE is probably the most important document you need in Brazil as a foreigner. You can not apply for one until you have a visa other than tourist.

Once I had returned to Brazil with my permanent visa, the application process for the RNE was quite simple. All I had to do was go the the Policia Federal (DPF) with my passport (including photocopies of ALL pages), 2 passport size photos and one copy of my visa application that the UK consulate gave me back when I collected my passport with visa. There is a limited period from arriving in Brazil on permanent visa during which you must apply for the RNE or start the whole process over again. There was also an application fee that needed to be payed.

After completing the forms, handing in documents, having finger prints taken etc, I was given a temporary paper ID card which remained valid for 180 days. I was told the final ID card would be ready in 60-90 days, but mine actually took over 160 days. I think this was due to some problem in Brasilia though and was an exception rather than usual. When we tried to chase the application after 4 months, the Policia Federal didn’t believe it was taking so long.

There is an intermediate step in the process between being issued with temporary ID and getting final ID. After a few days, the details of the application are logged on to the computer systems. Once this has happened you are able to get another form, which includes your final ID number, called a SINCRE. In reality I found I needed both the SINCRE and temporary ID for other official applications (eg bank account). The SINCRE is just an A4 printout and took just a few minutes to collect.

When my final RNE was ready I was able to tell by checking the DPF website. Literally as soon as the website said it was ready then I was able to collect it that day.

Bank Account

In Brazil there are several forms of document required (eg CPF, ID card). In order to open a bank account you will need at least a CPF number (Tax ID similar to National Insurance number in UK I think), ID card (eg RNE) and proof of address (or as I used my wife’s utility bills with our wedding certificate). The CPF number you can obtain by applying at either Banco de Brasil or another bank called Caixa. You pay a small amount, fill in some forms and then eventually you will be asked to visit the local tax office (Receita Federal) to show your passport before the number is officially issued. I guess this is to check your ID. To get a CPF you do not need a permanent visa even though it will be easier if you do have one. The CPF is about the only permanent document you can get before having other forms of ID/paperwork. There may be other ways to open an account but I didn’t have any success.

However I wasn’t able to obtain any of the other forms of ID until after I was married.

Carteira do trabalho

The carteira do trabalho is actually a booklet that looks a lot like a passport. Although this document is not required by all employers (it depends on type of work and contract basis), I think it is very good to have. In this booklet your employer records details of your employment . When work is recorded in the booklet it means you and your employer are making contributions to the government to cover things such as pensions. It is not this document that allows you to work in Brazil as far as I understand it. You are able to work once you have applied for RNE but you may not get all the benefits until you have the carteira do trabalho and some employers will require one.

In order to get the permanent version of this document , you need the final RNE. However our research indicated that you can apply for a temporary one (like the driving license) once you have your temporary ID and SINCRE.

As I never needed and hence never applied for a temporary one, I am not sure of the details or how long it remains valid.

The application for the carteira do trabalho was very simple. It was even easier for foreigners than Brazilian nationals as there was no line for foreigners and there was a room full of Brazilians waiting to apply. For the application all I had to do was take a passport size photo and a photocopy of my RNE. I also showed passport, proof of address and original RNE. Once everything was completed, I was told to come back in 4 days to collect the document. When I returned to collect, I received the booklet after a short wait with no problems. This application was also free!


This is perhaps the area that I found most confused. I was told that an international driving permit issued in the UK is not acceptable in Brazil. The consulate questioned why I had bothered to have my UK driving license legalized as they said it was not valid.

The application for this was indeed the most troublesome of all the documents.

After arriving back and in possession of temporary RNE and SINCRE we went to DETRAN to apply for a driving license. We were directed to a small office hence avoiding the long lines. In order to apply I needed to show and have photocopies of proof of address, CPF card, temporary RNE plus SINCRE, UK driving license and the official translation of it. The application was processed immediately and I was given a piece of paper that entitled me to drive for 1 year. For me at least, there was no charge for this temporary document. I just needed to keep this document as well as my UK license and official translation of UK license (or official photocopies of) when I was driving.

Once I had my permanent RNE we returned to DETRAN. This time we had to wait in the line with the Brazilian’s applying for their licenses. Once we were seen by an attendant, she completed a few details on her computer and printed out a form for me to sign, a form for me to pay for the license application and details of a clinic to visit to complete the medical examination that is part of the application process (see below for more on this).

After this I went to the bank to pay the fee and then to the medical clinic where I was seen almost immediately. Having passed the medical and with receipt of payment I returned to the small office to apply for my actual proper printed Minas Gerais license. Once again, as above, I need to show original documents and have photocopies of proof of address, RNE, CPF and UK license. This time however I had to leave my actual original copy of the translation of my UK license (so make sure you have one or more originals/notarised photocopies!). I also needed one passport size photo of myself. Again the application was processed immediately and I was told to expect the license to arrive by post within a week. It is valid for 5 years, and then you need to take another medical exam (not the psychological test, though).

The medical exam consisted of a psychological test which mainly involved drawing lines and shapes on a bit of paper with eyes covered. I found this test very strange and felt sure I had failed it as had another person I knew. However I passed so don’t worry too much about it. The other part of the medical was with a doctor asking questions and checking things like eyesight and blood pressure. Again no problem and a much more expected medical examination.

I think this is one of the things that varies with where you live in Brazil. Be careful and check.

25 August, 2009 | Written by Steve | Comments: 1 Comment