1. ACQUISITION OF REAL ESTATE BY FOREIGNERS
The first step for a foreigner to buy real estate in Brazil is to obtain a CPF (Individual Tax Payer registration) number at any local Internal Revenue office (for further information access www.receita.fazenda.gov.br
or call 0300-780300).
When buying real estate in urban areas, a foreigner needs to present his or her CPF, passport, proof of residence and birth or marriage certificate (all with certified translations).
When buying real estate in rural areas a foreigner must present, besides the documents mentioned above, proof of residence in Brazil and the area of the property must not be larger than 50 (fifty) modules, in continuous or discontinuous area (the size of a module varies according to the location of the property).
2.1. Transfers from abroad to Brazil
To open an account in Brazilian banks a foreign person needs to have, in addition to the CPF and passport, a permanent visa and proof of residence in the country.
To transfer money from abroad to Brazil there are two different situations:
(1) The foreign person already has an account in a Brazilian bank: simply request the source bank for the money transfer, supplying the following data: receiving bank name and number, agency, account number and Swift code (international code of the bank);
(2) The foreigner does not have a bank account in Brazil: the largest amount of money that can be transferred is about US$5,000.00 (five thousand American dollars), to be withdrawn in cash from a bank agency. However, a foreign person can transfer any amount to a third party domestic bank account, justifying the reason for the transfer to the Central Bank of Brazil for this entity to release the transferred amount (it can be justified by a Private Instrument or a Deed of Purchase and Sale Commitment).
2.2. Dollar Exchange Rates
There are three different exchange rates for Reais to U. S. Dollars:
- Commercial Dollar (used by the Central Bank of Brazil in the transfer of funds from abroad and in goods and services exportations and importations)
- Tourism Dollar (used by some bank agencies to exchange dollars from foreign tourists or Brazilians travelling abroad)
- Parallel Market Dollar (used by exchange agencies to exchange dollars from foreigners and Brazilians). In real estate business, when the sale prices are announced in dollars, the conversion to Reais is by the Parallel Market Dollar rate.
2.3. Real estate purchase loans
High interest rates charged in real estate loans in Brazil, be them funded by financial institutions or by real estate developers, are discouraging to any foreigner in obtaining this kind of loan. Remember that it is not possible to obtain a loan without having a permanent visa.
3.VISAS ISSUED IN BRAZIL
There are seven different visa categories issued to foreigners: Transit, Tourist and Short term Business Trip, Temporary, Permanent, Courtesy, Official and Diplomatic. Tourist, Temporary and Permanent are the most commonly used when immigrating to Brazil.
3.1.Tourist and Short Term Business Trip Visa
All that is usually required is a two-way air ticket and it applies only to tourism or business trips. The visitor with this type of visa cannot work or provide any type of technical assistance, or receive any payment for services rendered in Brazil.
The Short Term Business Trip Visa can be obtained from any Brazilian Consulate Office, upon the presenting of a letter from the company (foreign or domestic) requiring the business trip, in which the purpose of the trip, the names, addresses and business contact telephone numbers in Brazil, the arrival and departure dates (anticipated),and warranties of financial and moral responsibility for the foreigner during his/her stay are stated. The business visa allows the foreigner to take part in meetings, conferences, fairs and seminars, visit potential clients, research the market and perform similar activities. These foreigners may not, however, work in Brazil.
The expiration date for both types of visas does not exceed ninety days, but this term may be extended for the same amount of time, totaling a maximum term of one hundred and eighty days a year.
3.2. Temporary Visa (for work or other purposes)
For those who come to Brazil for a specific period of time for business purposes, the following temporary visas are issued:
(1) Professionals: issued to individuals who come to Brazil for a pre-determined, temporary term of not more than two years, initially, and can be renewed for an additional period of two years. Issued, for instance, to foreigners hired temporarily by a Brazilian company in a position which requires special knowledge. The candidate will receive at least part of his/her salary in Brazil;
(2) Artists and Professional sportsmen/women:
Artists and sportsmen/women: application for this visa must be requested to Brazil´s Ministry of Work by the Brazilian organization sponsoring the event which requires the services of the foreign performing artists of sports figures;
For foreign journalists working temporarily in Brazil as foreign communication company correspondents, which will sustain the visa application. The candidate may not receive earnings in Brazil;
(4) Ship´s crew;
(5) Research Scientists:
Directed to teachers, technicians, scientists and researchers who intend to develop activities in Brazilian private or public schools, universities or in research institutes.
The temporary visas listed below do not allow their holders to work in Brazilian territory or receive any kind of remuneration from a Brazilian entity:
(1) Study mission and Religious mission (period of one year at the most);
(3) Trainees and Internship Programs (period of one year at the most);
(4) Medical or Hospital Treatment
Remark: Spouses and children may stay in the country as the temporary visa holder´s dependents during the period granted to the holder. They may not, however, be employed or perform any working activity while temporarily residing in Brazil. They may work if the visa is converted to permanent residence, nevertheless.
3.3. Permanent Visa
The Permanent Visa allows the foreigner to live and work in Brazil indefinitely. The most common means of obtaining the Permanent Visa are:
(1) Upon marriage to a Brazilian citizen (may be applied for after two years of marriage)
(2) Upon having a child (and registering the selfsame) in Brazilian territory;
(3) Upon investing US 50,000.00 (a visa will be granted to the foreigner who intends to live in Brazil for the purpose of investing private resources, originated abroad, in productive activities, conditioned to the investment being justified. The investment is in foreign currency, of an amount equal or superior to US$50.000,00 (fifty thousand American dollars). However, the same resolution states that the National Immigration Council may authorize the issue of a permanent visa to a foreigner whose investment project provides at least ten new job positions, upon presenting a Brazilian work force employment plan, for the period of five years, although the amount invested is inferior to US$50,000.00. The foreigner does not need to start a business – there´s the possibility of investing this money in an existing company and becoming a shareholder. The foreigner may use these visa conditions if the amount of US$50,000 was invested in the country in the past;
(4)Upon converting a Temporary visa into a Permanent Visa (after four years of holding a Temporary visa);
(5) Upon foreign retirement (for foreigners of ages 50 and above with monthly earnings superior to US$2,000.00);
Other means, less common, of obtaining a Permanent Visa are:
(1) Upon being appointed to the position of statutory director in a Brazilian company;
(2) Upon transference of a manager or statutory director to a Brazilian subsidiary or branch office of a foreign company, provided the company has US$200,000 in foreign investments certified by the Central Bank of Brazil;
(3) Upon requesting asylum or refugee aid;
(4) Upon converting a temporary visa to a permanent visa as a high-level professor, technician or researcher;
(5) Upon family reunification.
3.4. In practice...
If the Permanent visa is desired, but none of the options suits you – you are not a scientist, retired person, priest, political refugee, does not work for a multinational company and do not want to marry a Brazilian nor have a child in the country – the best option is to benefit from the right to obtain the visa by investing in the country (US$50,000 or less). Distinguishing the purchase of real estate for residential or commercial purposes (such as a hotel, for instance) is very difficult. There are specialized lawyers to deal with this matter.
Building in Brazil is usually cheaper than in European countries, due to the lower cost of labor.
Below is a table with the costs per square meter in Brazil (note: a square meter is equivalent to 10.7639 sq. feet):
Simple Standard: R$ 1.000,00 (US 600)
Average Standard: R$ 1.500,00 (US 940)
Luxurious Standard: R$ 2.000,00 (US 1.250)
(Approximate costs in 2011, including labor and material but excluding the cost of the project, landscaping and site management).
Building in Brazil is considerably different from building in European countries:
- While in Europe the walls are duplicated to afford protection from the cold, in Brazil there´s no need for this insulation, the houses are more open to allow greater ventilation due to the heat;
- Average and simple-standard houses do not possess heated water in kitchen and bathroom taps. In these houses the showers are electrical;
- The walls in Brazilian houses do not have a structural function, they are just for enclosing space. The structure of the house is made up of wood or concrete columns and beams;
- Windows and doors are usually made of wood (in simple houses they are made of aluminum);
- Roofs have a wooden structure. Usually a sheet (plastic or aluminum) is used between the tiles and the ceiling, to help insulate and protect from water leakage;
- The foundations must be more solid than in Europe, due to the weight of the walls and structures.
The use of local techniques is recommended as they are adapted to the local climate, soil, labor and materials.