Lula confirms return of visa requirements for U.S. citizens

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The Brazilian government on Wednesday reinstated visa requirements for tourists from Australia, Canada, Japan, and the U.S., which the previous administration of Jair Bolsonaro had lifted in 2019. The measure is to take effect on October 1.

The Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva administration had announced back in March its intention to bring tourist visas back for citizens of those four countries, but the decree to that effect was only published today.

Despite being a country that lends itself to tourism, Brazil remains a marginal global destination. According to Tourism Ministry data, the country only received 6.3 million foreign tourists in 2019, compared to almost 7.4 million in neighboring Argentina, a smaller country. 

At a hearing in the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week, representatives of the tourism, hotel, and aviation sectors strongly disagreed with the government’s position. They expressed concern about the impact of the decision on their industries, which have been facing headwinds since the pandemic broke.

Fábio Bentes, a senior economist at employers’ association CNC, estimated that a visa waiver enforced earlier in 2019 could have helped Brazil attract an additional USD 510 million that year, a significant improvement in a period over which foreign tourists spent nearly USD 6 billion in Brazil.

Under previous Workers’ Party administrators, Brazil has historically been very strict in applying the principle of visa reciprocity —  imposing similar hurdles on citizens of other countries as Brazilians face when traveling.

At the House public hearing, Ambassador Leonardo Gorgulho, secretary for consular affairs at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, said that Brazil would reinstate a policy of electronic visas for tourists from those four countries, obtainable through a fully online process that does not require travel to or an interview at a Brazilian consulate. Visas will cost USD 80, compared to the USD 185 that foreign tourists will need to pay for a U.S. tourist visa starting May 30.

In an exclusive story this Wednesday, The Brazilian Report showed in our Brazil Daily newsletter that the government expects revenue from visa procedures to be much lower than the dollars the tourism sector expects tourists to bring in. 

A Foreign Affairs Ministry document obtained through the country’s freedom of information law estimates that the visa waiver meant a loss of USD 15.9 million in fees for the federal government, compared to the USD 4.95 billion all foreign tourists spent in Brazil last year or the USD 510 million Mr. Bentes estimates the visa waiver could have generated in 2019 if enforced earlier.


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