Obtaining a Brazilian Visa
Buenos Aires, Argentina
If you want to travel into Brazil, and you're fortunate enough to possess a passport from one of the countries they actually like, you won't have to worry about visa formalities prior to reaching the border; however, if you don't, get ready to jump through the hoops.
For all the crap I'm going through to get a tourist visa into Brazil, the place better be worth it. Never before in Latin America have I had to apply for entry into a country in advance, and the amount of red tape is rather off-putting.
It's not just the bureaucratic formalities; the US$100 fee that I have to pay because of my nationality is ridiculous. Yes, I'm aware that it's Brazil's way of giving the middle finger to the USA for the US$100 my government charges for visas into the United States—reciprocity, they're calling it.
In Buenos Aires a visit to the Brazilian embassy is required for many to secure entry into the 5th largest country in the world. An American girl in my hostel was recounting the ordeal that she had to go though during her visit during the allotted hours—most of it was time spent waiting in a series of lines.
Items to have in hand when you visit the embassy:
- Your passport,
- A single passport photo,
- Proof of yellow fever immunization,
- Proof of purchased transport into and out of the country,
- The known name, address, and phone number of a hotel or hostel, and
- The processing fee
The embassy Web site instructs that you can fill out the paperwork ahead of time (and the girl I talked to highly recommended doing it)—but this just turned out to be a waste of time. The visa clerk denied the form (holding up a different variation of the tourist visa application) and told me to use the application-only computers to create a new one. Fortunately there wasn't an hour-plus line to use them, like the American girl had to wait in.
After waiting an hour or so in line I came to discover four things:
- They could care less about a yellow fever vaccination certificate,
- You couldn't pay the processing fee at the embassy,
- You better have some convincing proof of inward and onward travel in order, and
- The embassy was going to take my passport away from me while they processed it—for an entire week
The big sticking point people seem to be having problems with is presenting proof of onward travel. The embassy not only wants to see your ticket into the country, but that you've already secured your transport out—always problematic when you're backpacking and don't have any desire to control your schedule with fixed travel dates.
I walked up to the clerk and presented her with my fake airline travel itinerary, courtesy of my faux ticket technique. The key is knowing that with so many ways to print out an electronic ticket itinerary, there's no way for an immigration or embassy employee to verify the legitimacy of the document (they don't have the resources for such things anyway). If your name is on the printout and it shows an airline and flight destinations they're familiar with, you're golden. Additionally, I manipulate the situation by using a highlighter to mark the parts of the document that I want their eye to focus on.
My big stink of the ordeal was that I couldn't pay the visa processing to the embassy directly, I was sent to a bank several blocks away with a numbered piece of paper. In the bank I waited, and waited, and waited. Eight or so people in front of me and it took over an hour to reach the counter. Pesos only, to boot, I couldn't pay the fee in dollars.
I'm told that Bolivia has recently (just a few weeks after I passed through it) started forcing travelers go through similar visa processing procedures (and fees) prior to traveling through the country. I find this annoying to no end, as Bolivia has clearly been thought of as a gateway between Argentina and Peru for some time now.
Update: One week later I have my passport and visa in hand.