Brazil: New Immigration Law Takes Effect in November

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By Ed Taylor

Foreign workers will have the same rights as native-born Brazilians—including job access, social security eligibility, and the right to join labor unions and participate in strikes or protests—under the new Migration Law to be effective Nov. 21. Signed by President Michel Temer on May 25, the new law replaces highly restrictive legislation enacted during the period of Brazil's military dictatorship between 1964 and 1985.

According to Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles, the new law modernizes the treatment of foreigners in Brazil and “permits the entry of skilled workers” from other countries.

“We have moved away from a model which protected the national worker to a model that provides equal rights to the national and immigrant worker,” said Leonardo Cavalcanti da Silva, research coordinator for the department of International Migrant Studies at the University of Brasilia.

The law had originally contained a provision that would have granted an amnesty for the estimated 1 million foreigners now living illegally in Brazil, most of them from the other South American nations that border the country. Temer vetoed that provision.

Unmet Demand

There was a sharp increase in the employment of foreign workers between 2011 and 2014 as rapid economic growth raised demand for skilled labor beyond what could be supplied by local workers. To expand output and increase productivity, many companies found it necessary to import skilled workers from Europe and North America for positions that could not be filled by Brazilians. This was particularly true in the petroleum and financial sectors.

From 2011 to 2013, the number of foreigners with registered employment in Brazil soared by 51 percent, and in 2014 the government processed 52,000 work visa requests from residents of other countries.

Starting in 2015, however, Brazil plunged into its deepest recession on record with unemployment climbing into double digits and thousands of companies shutting down. In 2016, the number of requests for work visas from foreigners totaled only 20,000, down 61 percent from 2014.

Visas and Residence Permits

The new law provides for five types of visa—visit, temporary, diplomatic, official, and courtesy. The temporary visa covers nearly all employment categories. Employers must request the appropriate visa, justify the need for a foreign worker, and guarantee they'll provide employment to the recipient. Once the employee has the temporary visa, he or she can apply for a residence permit.

Guidance is still to be issued concerning length of visa validity and procedures for visa renewal.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ed Taylor in Rio de Janeiro at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rick Vollmar at

For More Information

For more information on Brazilian HR law and regulation, see the Brazil primer.

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