Connect to share and comment

Adventures in Brazilian bureaucracy

Foreigners in need of a bank account? Just follow these 70-plus steps.

A man walks past Brazilian banks in Rio de Janeiro Nov. 3, 2008. (Sergio Moraes/Reuters)

Anyone coming to live and work in Brazil will probably want to open a local bank account. People love using their debit cards here for purchases as small as a pack of gum, and person-to-person payments are often made by a simple process of transferring money into others’ bank accounts via an ATM machine. As another incentive, U.S. cards can charge nasty fees for withdrawals made overseas.

Luckily, it’s a straightforward process. Just follow these easy steps.

Part A: Get a Valid Work Visa

– You’ll need a Foreigners National Registry card to get an account, and you can’t get that without a business or work visa of some sort. So begin by printing out requirements for the appropriate one (let’s say, a Type VI Journalist Visa) from the Brazilian consulate’s website (let’s say, the one in New York).
– Gather the slew of documents listed.
– Go to the consulate. Be told by the attendant that she’s never heard of a Type VI Journalist Visa.
– Show the attendant the printout about journalist visas from the consulate’s website.
– Have her insist the printout is not from their website. Show her the website address at the bottom of the printout.
– Have her go to the back and get someone else to help you.
– Learn that the letter from your employer (based in Boston) must be notarized in the jurisdiction of the Brazilian consulate in New York, or they will not “legalize” it.
– Wonder if the Brazilians are familiar with the notary public system.
– Consider asking your new boss to fly to New York to sign in front of a local notary. Consider paying off a notary.
– Plot a third route: have boss sign in front of a Boston notary (specifically, a notary approved by the Boston consulate — a list with a lot of Portuguese-sounding surnames, hmmm…), and bring the letter to the Brazilian consulate in Boston to legalize it (a process that involves lots of fancy stamps and seals). Have it sent to you in New York.
– Deliver to consulate. Find out they must await approval from Brasilia. As trip approaches, beg consulate via phone and email. Acquire visa the day before departure.