Entrance Requirements When Traveling to Brazil
Traveling to Brazil has been complicated slightly by the international security situation and the political relationship between Brazil and the United States. There are entrance requirements that must be met.
To travel to Brazil, Americans and Canadians, along with most other countries, must have a passport that will be valid for at least 6 months after you plan to enter Brazil. You can get this through your local post office, or you can use a service for a small fee. Try entering “passport information” into Google. In the US, more information on passports is available at http://travel.state.gov/passport/ .
Americans and Canadians also require a visa to enter Brazil. What is a Visa? It is simply permission from a country that you may enter for a limited time and travel there for a specific purpose. It takes the form of a stamp placed directly in your passport. This is for what Brazil calls reciprocity – in other words, because the US and Canada require a visa from Brazilian citizens. It costs US $100 (exactly what the US charges Brazilians) to apply for this visa, which must be done at the Brazilian Consulate that serves your state. Some of these consulates allow application by mail, others in person, but all allow the use of service agencies, in which case additional fees apply. A list of Brazilian Consulate websites is found in the Links section where applications can be found online. Again, Google is a good resource to find services, but you can also use the Yellow Pages under Passport & Visa Services.
You should apply for a Tourist Visa and allow about 30 days for processing if you want to save money. Using a visa service and overnight delivery can cut this time down to about 3 days, but it costs extra. Visas expire in 90 days if they are not used, so a little planning is important. When you first arrive at a port of entry in Brazil (normally the airport), you will be asked by an immigration officer how long you plan to stay in the country. He will mark your entry documents with permission to stay up to 90 days. Note that this is not automatic or guaranteed, but is at the discretion of the officer. Be nice and be honest. There may be trouble when you leave if you overstay your visit. Penalties may include the inability to re-enter Brazil for several years. Tourist Visas allow you to visit Brazil for up to 6 months a year, but you must apply for an extension of 90 days past the first 90 days while you are in Brazil. Go to the Federal Police Foreigner Section (Delegacia de Estrangeiros) in the area that you are visiting BEFORE your current visit expires. Again, your ability to extend your stay is discretionary and could be declined.
The validity of your tourist visa appears to vary depending on the consulate used. At the moment, San Francisco, New York, and Miami will issue a visa good for 5 years from the date of first entry, while Houston routinely issues visas good for only 90 days. Regardless of where you live, you can apply in person at any consul or the Brazilian Embassy in Washington, D.C. Some consuls accept applications by mail, but this must be at the consul for your jurisdiction. If you use a service, it doesn't matter which consul you use (unless you are concerned about the validity period as described above).
Driving in Brazil is not recommended for the faint of heart. On the other hand, I do it all the time. A car and driver or taxi is really much easier. Read the section on Driving in Brazil, and if you want to give it a try, you will need an International Driver License designated for South America. This is really just a certification of your state driver's license with additional language in Spanish and Portuguese. This document is not usually required by car rental agencies, but it may be handy if you are stopped by the police. It can be obtained for a small fee from the AAA (American Automobile Association). Regardless of your decision, bring your driver’s license as an additional form of identification.
There are no requirements for vaccinations unless you are traveling to the Amazon or you plan to arrive from certain tropical countries. However, some may be advised depending on your health condition. There is a lot more information on this and other health advise in the section on Brazil Travel Health Concerns.