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Moving to Brazil: A Guide for Expats and Digital Nomads

Discover everything expats need to know about moving to Brazil, from applying for visas to finding work to embracing the local culture.

Gabriele Culot
Written by Gabriele Culot
February 22, 2024
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Key takeaways

  1. Brazil has emerged as a popular choice for expats and digital nomads in recent years.
  2. Applying for one of the many Brazilian visas and finding jobs calls for thorough research and careful planning.
  3. Deel’s step-by-step guide shows you how to effortlessly navigate the Brazilian visa process and settle into your new home.

Over recent years, Brazil (the largest country in South America) has become a popular destination for foreign residents and digital nomads drawn by the country's vibrant culture, stunning natural beauty, beautiful beaches, and growing opportunities. The advent of remote work and location-independent lifestyles has made moving to this South American gem even more attractive.

While Brazil offers an array of visas and residency programs for foreigners, it's important to note that moving to a new country always involves meeting specific requirements and dealing with paperwork. Proper preparation and understanding are key to a smooth transition to life in Brazil.

Step 1: Prepare your documents

Before initiating your move to Brazil, you must determine your residence permit eligibility and apply for the appropriate visa. Here's what you need to consider:

Types of Visa in Brazil

The Brazilian government offers various visas that allow foreigners to enter and stay in the country

  • Tourist visa: Suitable for short visits up to 90 days with no employment activities allowed.
  • Temporary visa (VITEM): For more extended stays, including for work, study, or family reunion
  • Permanent visa (VIPER): Intended for individuals who wish to take up permanent residence in Brazil, often for retirement, investment, or family reunification reasons
  • Work visa: Required for foreigners who intend to work in Brazil. This visa is usually tied to a specific employment offer from a Brazilian company
  • Student visa: For those admitted to a Brazilian educational institution

Visa sponsorship

Among other visa requirements, foreign nationals typically require a sponsor to work in the country, in addition to other visa requirements. The sponsor is often an employer or a Brazilian family member.

Essential document checklist

Gathering all the necessary paperwork for a Brazilian visa application ahead of time can help prevent potential delays or issues. Depending on your visa type, these documents may include:

 Passport (plus copies): Your passport should be valid for at least six months beyond your intended stay.

 Passport-sized photos: Recent photos that meet Brazilian consulate specifications.

 Visa application form: The form should be downloaded, filled in, and signed in accordance with the specific requirements for your visa type.

 Proof of outbound and return travel: This could be a copy of your plane or cruise ticket.

 Accommodation details: Submit a document that details where you plan to stay during your visit.

 Proof of employment: If you're applying for a work visa, you'll need a signed employment contract or an offer letter from a Brazilian company.

 Police clearance certificate: Depending on the visa type, a police clearance certificate that verifies your criminal record may be required.

 Education certificates: You may need proof of your work or student visa qualifications.

 Financial records: To show that you will be able to support yourself financially during your stay in Brazil.

 Marriage and birth certificates: If you're relocating with your family, these documents are needed for their visa applications.

Importance of authenticating and translating documents

Brazilian authorities may require certain documents to be legalized. If your country does not adhere to the Apostille Convention, you may need to get your local Brazilian embassy or consulate to authenticate your documents.

Documents like birth and marriage certificates may also need to be translated into Portuguese. You should use a professional service that can attest to the accuracy of the translation.

Step 2: Manage your finances

Brazil offers a diverse landscape when it comes to the cost of living, with significant variance between urban and rural areas, as well as between cities. By managing your budget effectively, you can make the most of Brazil's vibrant culture and beautiful landscapes. Here’s what you need to know:

Cost of living in Brazil

Here’s a breakdown of the expenses you can expect while living in Brazil:

  • Renting: A one-bedroom apartment in the largest cities like São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro can cost around R$2,500 ($500) per month, while in smaller cities or towns, it can drop to around R$1,500 ($300).
  • Buying property: The real estate market offers lower prices than many Western countries, but foreign buyers should be aware of complex regulations and potential taxation.
  • Food and drink: Groceries remain affordable, and eating out at local restaurants offers value, with meals for two at a mid-range restaurant costing around R$120 ($24).
  • Transport: Public transportation is reasonably priced, with bus and metro fares around R$4.30 ($0.86) per trip. Gasoline prices, however, can be high.
  • Utilities: Monthly utility bills (electricity, water, internet) for a standard apartment can average around R$500 ($100), depending on usage and location.

Taxation in Brazil

Brazil's tax system is known for its complexity. Income tax rates are progressive, ranging from 7.5% to 27.5%, based on income.

Foreign residents are taxed on their Brazilian-sourced income, but verifying any double taxation treaties between Brazil and your home country is essential to understanding your full tax obligations.

Brazil also levies IPTU (Urban Property Tax) on property owners, which varies significantly by location and property value.

Banking and currency exchange in Brazil

Opening a bank account in Brazil requires a CPF (Cadastro de Pessoas Físicas) number, proof of income, residency, and sometimes a residency visa. Brazil’s banking sector includes both local and international banks, which offer a wide range of financial services.

The Brazilian Real (BRL) is the official currency. While exchange services are widely available, exchanging money through banks or authorized exchange brokers is generally advisable for security and better rates.

Step 3: Arrange housing and accommodation in Brazil

Finding a place to call home is not just a crucial part of your relocation process but also vital for quickly adapting to life in Brazil. Here’s an overview of what to consider:

Renting vs. buying

The Brazilian property market can be navigated successfully with due diligence. Buying property comes with significant bureaucracy and taxes, so it's recommended for those planning a long-term stay. 

Renting is more common among the expat community due to its flexibility. The rental market can prove to be competitive, especially in major cities or sought-after locations like Brasilia, Florianopolis, Belo Horizonte, or Fortaleza, so starting your search early is advisable. Rental contracts often require a Brazilian guarantor, but some landlords may accept a rental insurance policy instead.

Finding suitable housing in Brazil

Brazil offers a variety of housing options, from high-rise apartments in urban centers to beachfront villas. Popular websites for property search include Zap Imóveis, VivaReal, and OLX.

In Brazil, it’s common for rented accommodations to come unfurnished, which typically means without appliances as well. Inspecting the property thoroughly and discussing any repairs or upgrades with the landlord beforehand is essential.

Upon agreeing to a rental, the contract should detail:

  • A description of the property
  • Monthly rent and acceptable payment methods
  • Security deposit amount (usually corresponding to one to three months’ rent)
  • Lease duration (typically 30 months for long-term contracts)
  • Tenant and landlord obligations
  • Pet policies

Step 4: Consider career opportunities and working arrangements 

Securing employment in Brazil poses unique challenges and opportunities. Despite recent economic fluctuations, there is a demand for highly skilled professionals, especially in the fields of technology, engineering, and sustainability. Brazil's developing startup ecosystem also opens doors for entrepreneurs and tech-savvy individuals.

In this section, we’ll explore how to navigate job opportunities and professional environments in Brazil.

Brazilian job market overview

Brazil's economy is diverse, with the technology, agricultural, and service sectors driving much of its growth. International platforms like LinkedIn and Indeed are useful for job searches, but local platforms such as Catho, InfoJobs, and Vagas might offer more opportunities tailored to the Brazilian market. 

The country showcases a demand for IT professionals, engineers, and those with expertise in renewable energies and sustainability. Understanding trends in these sectors can give you a competitive edge.

Proficiency in Portuguese (Brazil’s official language) is usually essential for most jobs. However, in some tech companies and startups, English may suffice, while Spanish may be necessary if working with other markets in Latin America, like Argentina or Colombia. Expats should consider investing in Portuguese lessons to expand their employment opportunities.

Understanding work culture in Brazil

Brazilian work culture emphasizes personal relationships, so networking and building connections are key to professional success. Business dealings are often conducted face-to-face, and Brazilians value warm, friendly interactions over strictly formal conduct.

Typical working hours are from 8 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday, with an hour break for lunch. Work-life balance is important, and social events after work are common.

Step 5: Organize healthcare and education

Brazil offers a mix of public and private services in healthcare and education, providing comprehensive options for residents and expats alike.

The healthcare system in Brazil

Brazil's public healthcare system, the Sistema Único de Saúde (SUS), offers free services to all residents, including expats who register. While the SUS guarantees a wide range of services, the system can be overwhelmed, leading to long waiting times for certain treatments.

Many expats and wealthier Brazilians opt for private health insurance to gain access to private clinics and hospitals, which generally offer faster and more comfortable service. It’s advisable to research and choose a private healthcare plan that matches your needs and budget.

Education options in Brazil

Education is highly valued, with public, private, and international schools available. Public schools teach in Portuguese, which might be challenging for children who are not fluent. 

Private schools offer education in other languages (often English), following different curricula such as the International Baccalaureate. These are more expensive but provide high-quality education and easy integration for expat children.

Higher education is prestigious in Brazil, with many public (as well as private) universities offering a wide range of courses. Tuition fees are generally lower than in North American or European institutions, even for international students.


Step 6: Ensure your safety in Brazil

While Brazil is an incredibly diverse and culturally rich country, it has higher levels of crime compared to some other countries, even in the best cities. Urban areas, in particular, can experience petty crime and more serious incidents. Unfortunately, violent crime is not uncommon in some areas.

It's important to adopt safety precautions, such as avoiding walking alone at night in certain areas, using licensed taxis or ride-sharing apps, and keeping valuables out of sight.

In case of emergency, dial 190 for police assistance. Also, keep the contact information of your country’s embassy or consulate handy.

Step 7: Immerse yourself in Brazilian culture

Brazil’s dynamic culture, known for its warmth and hospitality, is one of its most appealing features. Adapting to Brazil involves more than understanding its pragmatic aspects; it's embracing cultural richness.

Football culture: The country, known for producing football legends like Pelé and Neymar, lives and breathes the sport, making it an integral part of Brazil's cultural fabric and national pride (with enough world cups to prove it).

Dress code: Brazilians favor stylish and casual dress. Workplace attire varies by industry but tends toward the formal in corporate environments.

Cafes and social life: Brazil has a rich coffee culture, and social life often revolves around food and music. The country is famous for its barbecue, feijoada, and diverse music genres like Samba and Bossa Nova.

Carnival and festivities: Brazil is globally renowned for its festive spirit, especially during Carnival. These celebrations showcase the country's rich cultural heritage and are a fantastic way for expats to immerse themselves in Brazilian life.

Make Brazil your new home with Deel

Brazil is a captivating country for expats and digital nomads alike, from the vibrant streets of Rio de Janeiro to the fascinating Amazon rainforest and the cultural richness of São Paulo and Porto Alegre. Enjoy a high quality of life, accessible healthcare, diverse employment opportunities, and a rich mix of cultures that span from Europe to African influences and the warm tropical climate of South America’s biggest country.

Making a move to Brazil requires careful planning and research. For additional support, Deel can navigate organizations and their employees through work permit or immigration processes and assist in finding suitable insurance plans.

Discover how Deel can aid in securing the required work authorization or visa, or explore the Deel blog for more insights on relocating to Brazil.

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