General Information Banking
Business Etiquette Tips Embassy Locations and Registration
Employment-Legal Requirements Entry and Exit Requirements
Intellectual Property Legal and Registration of a Business Entity
Safety and Crime Taxes

General Information

BrazilBrazil is the fifth-largest country in the world with the largest population in Latin America and an advanced developing economy.  Facilities for tourism are excellent in the major cities. The majority of people live in the south central area of Brazil (e.g., Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Belo Horizonte). Brazil's explosive urban growth has aided economic development, but it has also created social, security, environmental, and political problems for many of the major cities. Brazil also boasts one of the most advanced industrial sectors in Latin America.  Brazil's diverse industries range from automobiles and parts, other machinery and equipment, steel, textiles, shoes, cement, lumber, iron ore, tin, and petrochemicals, to computers, aircraft, and consumer durables. Most major automobile producers have established production facilities in Brazil. The financial sector provides local firms a wide range of financial products. The largest financial firms are Brazilian (and the two largest banks are government owned), but U.S. and other foreign firms have an important share of the market.

There may be political unrest and/or targeted crime against visitors to the country.  Travelers should check with the U.S. State Department Web site for current travel safety information.

Major Cities Capital: Brasilia (population 2.5 million)
Major cities: Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Salvador, Fortaleza, Recife, Porto Alegre, and Curitiba
Official Currency Real (R$)
Time Zone Brasilia Time (BRT) -0300 UTC / (2 hours ahead of Washington, D.C. during Standard Time).  Note: Brazil is divided into four time zones, including one for the Fernando de Noronha Islands. Daylight Saving Time: +1hour, begins third Sunday in October, ends third Sunday in February. 
Language Portuguese

Legal System and Government

Type of Legal System

The Brazilian legal system is based on Roman codes. it has not accepted compulsory International Court of Justice (ICJ) jurisdiction.

Form of Government

Federal republic



Available Banking Services

Internet banking and e-statement 
Mobile banking
Loans and letters of credit
Standard bank services: savings and checking accounts
English-speaking for bank transactions

Required Documents to Open a Bank Account

In order to open an account, Brazilian legislation mandates that the customer or a legally authorized representative be present at the branch. The following documents are required: 

Bank Holidays

New Year's Day
Civil Servant Day   
Bank Holiday     
Good Friday      
Tiradentes Day      
Labor Day/May Day
Corpus Cristi     
Independence Day (National Day)         
Nossa Senhora de Aparecida    
All Souls' Day  
Republic Day  
Black Consciousness Day  
New Year's Eve

U.S.  and Other Major Banks in Country

(Note: Addresses and contact information subject to change.)

Predio Palacio Avenida
Travessa Oliviera Belo
11b-5* Andar
CEP: 80020-030
Phone: +55 41 3321 6161
Fax:    +55 41 3321 6081

Citibank Brazil
Avenida Paulista, 1.111
São Paulo - SP
01311- 920, Brazil
Phone:  (55 11) 2109-2484

Standard Chartered-Brazil
Principal Office-Representative office
Rua Dr. Renato Paes de Barros, 
750/13 floor, 04530-001
Sao Paulo, Brazil
Phone:  +55 11 3371 0150
Fax:  +55 11 3371 0151


Business Etiquette Tips

Business Attire

Brazilians pride themselves on dressing well. Men wear conservative, dark-colored business suits, and women wear suits or dresses that are elegant and feminine with good quality accessories. Well-manicured hands are expected. Both males and females should avoid wearing any combinations of the colors of the Brazilian flag (yellow and green). 

Business Negotiations

Expect to take a fair amount of time building the business relationship and answering detailed questions about your company. It may be advisable to hire a translator if your Portuguese is not fluent. Use local lawyers and accountants for negotiations if your company permits, as Brazilians typically resent outside legal presence.

Proper Greetings

Men shake hands when greeting one another while maintaining steady eye contact. Women generally kiss each other, starting with the left and alternating cheeks. Hugging and backslapping are common greetings among Brazilian friends. If a woman wishes to shake hands with a man she should extend her hand first.

Public and Social Behavior

If invited to a Brazilian's house, bring the hostess flowers or a small gift. Orchids are considered a very nice gift, but avoid purple ones as purple and black are mourning colors. Arrive at least 30 minutes late if the invitation is for dinner.  Arrive up to an hour late for a party or large gathering.  Always dress elegantly and err on the side of overdressing rather than under-dressing. (Note: Making the "OK" hand signal is a rude gesture in Brazil.)

Scheduling Appointments

Business appointments are required, and they can often be scheduled on short notice. But it is best to make them two to three weeks in advance.  Confirm the meeting in writing. It is not uncommon for appointments to be cancelled or changed at the last minute. Do not appear impatient if you are kept waiting. Brazilians see time as something outside their control, and the demands of relationships may take precedence over adhering to a strict schedule.


Embassy Locations and Registration

(Note: Addresses and contact information subject to change.)

Brazilian Embassy
3009 Whitehaven Street NW
Washington, D.C.  20008
Phone: 1-202-238-2828

U.S. Embassy
Avenida das Nacoes, Lote 3,
Brasilia, Brazil
Phone: 011-55-61-3312-7000  After hours: 011-55-61-3312-7400

U.S. citizens also possessing Brazilian nationality cannot be issued Brazilian visas and must obtain a Brazilian passport (from the Brazilian embassy or consulate nearest to their place of residence) to enter and depart Brazil. In addition to being subject to all Brazilian laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on Brazilian citizens. Note that children adopted from Brazil are still considered Brazilian citizens, and they must be documented as such should they return to Brazil.

Americans living or traveling in Brazil are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate through the State Department's travel registration Web site and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Brazil. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the embassy or consulate to contact them in case of emergency.


Employment-Legal Requirements

All registered employees, including foreigners, are required to hold a work card (carteira de trabalho) on which the terms of employment must be recorded. Employers must keep official registers or cards containing detailed information about each employee and file this information annually with the local office of the Ministry of Labor. Brazil's traditional work week is 44 hours, though most foreign firms work 40-hour weeks, five days a week, eight hours a day. A reasonable amount of overtime is permitted, and it is payable at 150 percent of an employee's base salary. 

Expatriate Personnel in Brazil

Foreigners who do not hold one of the visas below may not work in Brazil. It is advisable to apply well in advance for any type of visa. In addition, a foreigner must hold a permanent visa and be domiciled in Brazil to be able to serve as director of a Brazilian subsidiary of a foreign company. There are three types of work visas available for foreign personnel.

  1. Businessman's visa: Granted for 90 days and renewable for another consecutive 90-day period to those who intended to work in Brazil on specified projects. They cannot be registered employees of a Brazilian entity.
  2. Temporary residence visa: Similar to businessman's visa except that the holder is entitled to work in Brazil for two years. It is renewable for another consecutive two-year period.
  3. Permanent visa: May be granted to those contracted to work in Brazil for an indefinite period. It is generally issued to top executives of foreign companies being transferred to Brazil, those with specialized skills not really available in Brazil, and those who marry Brazilians or have Brazilian-born children. In other circumstances it is difficult to obtain a permanent visa.

Restrictions on employment: All employers, with few exceptions, are required to employ Brazilians in the proportion of at least two-thirds of their total personnel as regards both number and total remuneration. Exceptions may be made for skilled workers and technicians. Foreigners resident in Brazil for 10 years or more or those with a Brazilian spouse or child born in the country qualify as Brazilians for this purpose. In the event that employees have to be laid off as a result of a reduction of activities, Brazilians whose duties are identical to those of foreigners must be given preference for retention.

Terminating Employees

Termination is quite formal in Brazil, and it has to be filed with the relevant labor authority to be official. All employers are required to deposit 8 percent of an employee's monthly remuneration into an interest earning account. In cases of termination without proper cause, the employee then receives the fund plus another 40 percent contributed by the employer.

Legally Mandated Benefits and Leave

Funeral leave 3 days
Marriage 3 days
Maternity leave 120 days (payable through social security)
Paternity leave 5 days
Sick leave 15 days maximum (medical verification required)
Vacation 15 days (after 150 days of service) and 30 days (after a full year with no more than 6 absences)

Employers are also required to pay a mandatory annual bonus, known as the 13th-month salary. This is payable in two parts: the first whenever the employee takes a vacation or no later than November 30 and the second at year's end. Employers' contributions to the Employee Severance Indemnity Fund are also payable on this bonus.


Entry and Exit Requirements

A passport and visa are required for U.S. citizens traveling to Brazil for any purpose.  Brazilian visas must be obtained in advance from the Brazilian embassy or consulate nearest to the traveler's place of residence. There are no "airport visas," and immigration authorities will refuse entry to Brazil to anyone not possessing a valid visa. All Brazilian visas, regardless of the length of validity, must initially be used within 90 days of the issuance date or will no longer be valid.  Americans reentering Brazil must be able to show an entry stamp in their passport proving that the visa was issued within 90 days. Otherwise they will not be allowed reentry. Immigration authorities will not allow entry into Brazil without a valid visa. The U.S. government cannot assist travelers who arrive in Brazil without proper documentation. 

Travelers are reminded that they are subject to local law. Showing contempt to a Brazilian government official at the port of entry or elsewhere is a serious offense.  (Fines for such offenses are based on the offender's claimed income.) 

Temporary Residence Visa or Work Visa

The criteria for approval of an employment visa include suitable educational qualifications or work experience, a secured employment contract in Brazil, proof of adequate means of subsistence in Brazil, police confirmation that you have no criminal record, and a satisfactory medical examination.  Employment visas are issued for a specific job, and they are not transferable between employers in Brazil without permission. Visas are also issued to the employment-visa holder's spouse and children. (See the "Employment-Legal Requirements" section above for more detailed information regarding work visas.)

All official documents must be translated into Portuguese. The application-processing period is normally around two to three months. The visa is valid for two years. (It is generally recommended that individuals acquire a short-term visa while awaiting approval of an employment visa.)


Intellectual Property

In Brazil patent rights are accorded to the inventor recognized as first to file. In instances where an employee is responsible for a new invention while employed or utilizing an employer's resources, the invention is deemed to be the property of the employer. A patent prohibits third parties from making, using, selling, or importing patented products and processes without the patent owner's consent and an approved license to do so.  For an invention to be protected it must be patented in Brazil.  U.S. patent holders also have an exclusive right to apply for patents during certain periods: 6 months for design patents and 12 months for inventions and utility models (new arrangement of known materials that improve a product).

Copyrights are protected regardless of whether or not they are registered. Criminal and civil proceedings can be brought against infringers. Registration of copyrighted material can be accomplished by registering through a number of resources: 

Regular patents are protected for 20 years from the original date of filing and require the payment of an annual maintenance fee. Utility patents are protected for a 15-year time frame, and industrial design patents are protected for a 10-year period from the date of filing. Design patents are protected for an initial 10-year term with maintenance fees due at the five-year mark with three renewals available in five-year increments. 


Existing patent infringement law provides for extensive criminal provisions that cover the infringement of patents, trade and service marks, designs, and geographical names.  Criminal proceedings in almost all industrial property cases are private, and initiated and carried out at the request of the offended party (who can terminate proceedings at any time during the course of the prosecution).  All criminal and civil cases begin by a search-and-seizure procedure whose aim is to obtain evidence of infringement.

The laws regarding intellectual property as written appear effective. But Brazil continues to fall short in providing effective protection, and it is considered one of the world's largest pirate markets. Due to a lack of resources and personnel, implementation of the processes and laws can be very slow. 


Legal and Registration of a Businesses Entity

Establishing a limited liability company by forming a local subsidiary is more common than setting up a branch office when opening a business in Brazil. The attraction lies in the fact that this form has fewer formalities, less public disclosure, and can be established in a shorter period of time. Establishing a branch office is more difficult, requires authorization by presidential decree, and takes considerably longer than other forms. 

The World Bank lists 13 steps for registering a company in Brazil and estimates a total of 132 days for completion of the entire process from start to finish. The process is a lengthy one, but in actuality there is one process that takes the bulk of the time: applying to the municipality for an operations permit, which while free of charge can take as long as 90 days.

The remaining steps consist of registering the company with the State Commercial Registry Office, paying required registration fees, registering the company with the Secretaria da Receita Federal do Ministério da Fazenda for payment of federal and state taxes, and registering any employees with the social integration program.

A complete listing of the remaining processes can be retrieved from the World Bank's Doing Business Web site.


Safety and Crime

Crime throughout Brazil has reached very high levels, and Brazil's murder rate is more than four times higher than the United States.  Street crime remains a problem for visitors and local residents alike, especially in the evenings and late at night. Foreign tourists are often targets of crime, and Americans are not exempt. This targeting occurs in all tourist areas, but iit s especially problematic in Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, and Recife.

Caution is advised with regard to nighttime travel through more rural areas and satellite cities due to reported incidents of roadside robberies that randomly target passing vehicles. Robbery and "quicknapping" outside of banks and ATM machines also are common. In a "quicknapping," criminals abduct victims for a short time in order to receive a quick payoff from the family, business, or the victim's ATM card.



Holders of temporary visas are subject to income tax. But in the first year after arrival, or up to the time a permanent visa is obtained if earlier, tax is limited to Brazilian-sourced income only. Foreigners arriving with a permanent visa may bring in otherwise dutiable household goods duty free for personal use only. 

Foreigners with temporary residence visas, which are valid for two years and may be renewed for another two-year consecutive period, are considered nonresidents for their first 21 months in Brazil or up to the time that they acquire a permanent visa. As nonresidents they are taxed only on their Brazilian source of income. There are no special tax considerations for foreigners working permanently or temporarily in Brazil, and no tax treaty exists between the United States and Brazil. The tax year follows the traditional calendar year and goes from January 1st through December 31st.|

Individual and Employee Taxation

An individual who stays in Brazil for more than 183 days (consecutive or not) in any 12-month period is considered a resident for tax purposes. 

Tax Residents

Worldwide income is subject to personal income tax.

Tax Nonresident

Nonresidents' income is taxable only if it is from Brazilian sources. There is no tax on foreign income (i.e., income received abroad) or obligation to file an annual income tax return until you become resident.

Corporate and Employer Tax Obligations

Foreign companies are typically only responsible for Brazilian tax if conducting specific sales activities. Employers, however, are responsible for a percentage of their payroll to Instituto Nacional de Seguridade Social, the social security pension fund. Employers also pay another percentage of payroll to the Length of Service Guaranteed Fund. In addition, the 13th month salary is a mandatory payment due by the employer. Employees pay an additional percentage of their income into social security on their own behalf.

Social security benefits are the same for all employees regardless of their nationality. Contributions to the social security fund are not refunded if an employee leaves the country. Those working under a temporary residence visa are also entitled to annual vacations, standard working hours, accident insurance, and social security benefits.  Overall, the tax structure in Brazil can be complicated, and legal advice should be sought prior to filing.

For more specific information regarding both employer and employee tax rates, visit the Secretariat of the Federal Revenue of Brazil Web site.


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