Coming all the way to South America and not visiting Brazil is like having sex without achieving orgasm - it’s great but you missed the best part.
I’ve seen a few people I know making such trips recently and it really leaves me scratching my head, but I’m sure a big part of it is simply to do with the tedious and costly visa process. You see, Brazil makes it really hard for Australians, Americans and many Europeans to stay here for a long time, because whatever visa restrictions a foreign government imposes on Brazilians, the Brazilian government returns in kind. For an Aussie, whether you’re staying for a week or for months, you’ll have to pay $216 on top of a time-consuming application process.
I don’t know officially why Brazil finds itself on the outer in visa arrangements especially with Australia as they are the sort of people we would be lucky to have more of in our country, but I’d guess it has something to do with Brazil’s not so subtle issues of poverty and crime. In other words, there is a far higher motivation for a Brazilian to get out of Brazil than an Australian or an American to need to.
This for me is a great shame, as between a 6-month student and now a 6-month tourist visa, to stay here just this one year has been an expensive and time-consuming task. And the truth is I would love to stay longer but can’t without signing up to an expensive tertiary course or finding a decent-paying job to be sponsored by, in a role no other Brazilian can fill, and really with my Portuguese I don’t think that's likely (but if you have something then please send me an email!).
Brazil’s greatest assets are undoubtedly it’s people and beautiful weather and environment, meaning its most natural and lucrative industry able to weather any global economic storm is tourism. Even though commodity prices have tanked and dropped the bottom out of Brazil's economy sending it into a "rock bottom" recession, people will still always want an exotic holiday. Just about everyone who leaves desperately wants to come back, addicted to its energy like a drug. Really, it’s just the emotion of love, and like feeling it for a person, it can be really hard to leave them.
But as the Brazilian economy struggles, budget cuts are made, wages are frozen and anti-austerity protests break out in the streets, the government still makes it really hard for people like me to stay and spend money. If they relaxed their tourism visa laws then Aussies and Americans could stay longer and do exactly that. As it is, being in Brazil for a long period of time is a headache.
180 days in a 12-month period is the longest Australians can stay as a tourist, and that’s after you go through all the hassle of applying for your first 90 days from home, then going through another process in Brazil to apply for the second lot. Even most Europeans who can come in without applying for a visa in their country have to leave after 90 days, no extension offered.
And while I have no experience with work visas here, it seems they don't go without frustration too, with The Economist savaging Brazil for its policies:
"Brazil needs millions of well-qualified workers but its mediocre schools are not providing them. Without more immigration, analysts warn, Brazil faces a “skills blackout," it says.
"They do not come because Brazil needlessly puts up additional roadblocks. Its legislation on immigration is “anachronistic”, admits Beto Vasconcelos, who handles the issue at the justice ministry in Brasília. The main law dealing with immigration, enacted by generals who ruled from 1964 to 1985, treats foreigners as a menace to national security and to Brazilian workers.
"Even when the economy is shrinking and unemployment is rising, this unfriendliness to foreign talent has a big cost... 61% of Brazilian employers are having trouble filling job vacancies... In an annual ranking of countries by their ability to develop and attract talent, Brazil fell to 57th place out of 61 this year. It scored especially poorly for security, quality of life and education."
So The Economist seems to have the same questions as me. It seems to be a matter of cutting off your nose to spite your face as all it seems to do is stem the dollars and brains which could be flowing into the Brazilian economy. But on the other hand too I think the Australian government needs to rethink its visa arrangements with Brazil at least for students and under 30s, and if they did, problem solved, at least for me.
But despite all this Brazil is not to be missed, and any length of time you can take to come here, short or long, is worth it. If you’ve never been to Brazil and see the visa fee and process as too much of a hassle, just remember that a couple of hundred bucks is like the cost of a festival ticket back home and Brazil, you can believe me, is better than any festival in Australia, so just think of it as paying for your entry to one of the best shows in the world.