Working in Brazil



This guide is directed to foreigners that want to work in Brazil. Its content is focused on helping and advising people that do not yet have a working contract with a Brazilian or a foreign company within Brazil but would like to work in this country.

Employees with an existing contract that get sent to Brazil on an international assignment by their company (expatriate employees, or expats) usually are supported by their company’s HR department in organizing and solving all administrative tasks related to work abroad. Nevertheless most of the content in this guide also applies to expatriates.

Despite all the barriers that need to be considered when looking for work in Brazil it can be a worth-while endeavor in relation to all the opportunities the country offers as well as the value of the experience that can be obtained. We hope that this guide helps you to facilitate your project of working in Brazil.



Before going into any details of how work and the necessary authorizations can be obtained in Brazil we would like to inform that all the processes related to obtaining a work permit and in subsequence the work visa are complex and time-consuming. In addition it is very difficult for a foreigner without the according work permit to find work in Brazil. Most Brazilian companies (and also foreign compa-nies operating in Brazil) often are not willing to take the extra effort and cost of arranging a work permit for a foreign employee. This explains why most foreigners working in Brazil are expatriate employees that have already worked for the same company abroad.

The second important point is that knowledge of the Portuguese language in most cases is indispen-sable. Also in commercial centers like Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro still only a small number of people speak English, let alone another foreign language. In order to be able to communicate in the work environment it is important that you are able to converse in Portuguese.

Just as important as the language is the culture. The Brazilian mentality is different to the Swiss way of thinking. This will present various challenges in the work environment as well as the daily life of a foreigner living in Brazil. We recommend a thorough preparation by for example reading about life in Brazil. One book recommendation in this context is “Kulturschock Brasilien” by Carl D. Goerdeler.


General Information

In Brazil many people work without an employment contract. But as a foreigner you will need a writ-ten contract for the company being able to apply for a work permit in order to enable legal employment.

There are three types of work contracts. The general work contract (Contrato de Trabalho) applies for an unspecified period of time and includes 40 to 44 working hours a week (depending if the em-ployee works 5 or 6 days a week). The annual vacation amount is 30 days, which have to be taken at once or split into two parts where one part hast to last at least for 20 days. Each employee in Brazil is entitled to a 13th salary. The legal period of notice is at least 30 days. The same regulations apply to the temporary work contract, with the difference that it may be applied for a certain time period with the maximum of two years. The part time contract may not exceed 25 working hours a week and does not allow overtime.

The legal retirement age for men is at 65 and for women at 60 years.

Nonwage labor costs in Brazil are very high, making up over 80% of the salary that the employee receives. In addition the Brazilian labor legislation tends to favor the employee and there is a big number of strong labor unions that support its member workers. For all those reasons companies in Brazil take big diligence in their recruiting and hiring processes before contracting a new employee.

Finding a Job

Although the process of job search is more or less the same all over the world, it helps to get familiar with some peculiarities (e.g. the preferred format of the CV) of the Brazilian job market. One book that takes you through the whole process of preparing yourself for the job search as well as looking and applying for a job is Robert Wong’s “Superdicas para Conquistar um Otimo Emprego” (only available in Portuguese).

While networking is probably the most important and effective way of finding a job all over the world this specifically applies for Brazil. Connections are the sine qua non for a successful job search. Networking platforms and social networks can facilitate and support your networking efforts. A few examples are LinkedIn (specifically for career networks), Internations (platform for expatriates all over the world) or Facebook.

Also executive search companies (so called ‘headhunters’) are a valuable source of open job posi-tions. There are a big number of big international companies (such as Michael Page or Huxley) as well as smaller local providers (e.g. Robert Wong) that help job searchers on their quest. Be aware that headhunting is their daily business and that they usually know exactly what they are looking for in relation of experience and knowledge, so do not insist if you do not get any return. In addition most of them are specialized in a certain area (e.g. financial services, gastronomy) or do focus on a spe-cial segment of workers (e.g. top management, technical personnel), so take the time and find out, to which ones your profile fits best. Headhunters Brazil gives an overview over a wide range of execu-tive search companies that are present on the Brazilian market.

Job portals are another valuable source for finding open positions. The big players in Brazil are Vagas (for lower end jobs), Catho (for higher end positions), InfoJobs, Indeed, etc. All of those sites allow you to register your CV and save job search criteria in order to receive alerts when a new position is available. Some of them might charge a fee for their services or for additional functions. Here it is important to note that some fraudulent companies exist that promise a job or services linked to obtaining a job for a payment in advance without providing any of the promised in subsequence. Be aware of frauds and always check the nature of such offers and the background of the companies providing them.

Also professional social networks like LinkedIn often offer a job search function with a big selection of open positions.

Today all companies are present on the Internet and on their homepages they usually have a career section where they publish their open positions. Most of the bigger companies also offer the option to save your CV and leave it with the company for the case that a matching vacancy should turn up. Another approach is to send an unsolicited application. The contact information usually is published on the career page as well. SWISSCAM offers a list of all member companies with contacts.

But also here personal contacts offer better chances for your application being perceived. Therefore use your network and try to find somebody you know, or somebody you know that knows somebody.

At last but not at least SWISSCAM offers the possibility to publish your CV on their site if you become a member, in addition it gets sent to the HR departments of all associate companies on a monthly basis for six months. Also a small number of job posts can be found on the homepage of SWISSCAM. The German chamber of commerce offers a similar service.


Process and Formalities

If you succeed to get in contact with a Brazilian company the next challenge starts. In general the company will ask you if you have a work permit for Brazil. But as a foreigner it is not possible to get a work permit unless you are being hired by a Brazilian company. Because most companies do not want to take the effort and the risk of applying for a work permit, very often the contact to the company ends there.

Nevertheless the process of contracting a foreigner in Brazil will be explained as next step, also with the goal to illustrate that the process is not as complex and costly as most HR departments in Brazil think (it can help to point out these facts when negotiating with a company for a possible employment).

As soon as a contract between the Brazilian company and the foreign employee has been signed the company can apply for a work permit (Autorização de Trabalho) at the Ministry of Labor and Employment (Ministério do Tabalho e Emprego, MTE).

If the application is approved it is forwarded to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Ministério das Relações Exteriores, MRE), which will then authorize the responsible consulate or embassy to process the work visa where it is collected by the employee.

In order to apply for a work permit and a work visa a company must be registered in Brazil.
In addition the following prerequisites must be fulfilled:

• The application must state why the according position cannot be filled by a Brazilian citizen (for specialized personnel this is usually no problem).
• The company hiring the foreign employee must proof that at least 2/3 of all its employees are Brazilian.
• The sum of the salaries paid to foreigners may not exceed 1/3 of the total paid salaries.
• If the foreign employee is transferred to a firm within the same economic group the salary paid in Brazil is equal or superior to the remuneration that was paid abroad.
• Proof of education, qualification, and professional experience according to the following terms:
o Two year experience in a medium level profession and with a minimum education of nine years;
o One year experience at a high level profession counting from the conclusion of the degree/course that has empowered him/her to the position;
o Three year experience in a cultural or artistic profession that is not dependent on school education;
o Foreign citizens that have completed a Masters degree or a superior degree do not need to present proof of professional experience.

The company and the employee are requested to hand in various documents and forms that give proof to the above-mentioned prerequisites. The Procedure Guide for the concession of work permits to foreign citizens of the MTE lists all the documents required.

Documents that are not of Brazilian origin must be authenticated by a Brazilian Diplomatic Authority abroad and translated by an authorized translator in Brazil.

If all required documents are correctly provided the official deadline for reaching a decision is a ma-ximum of 30 days. Nevertheless it is strongly recommended to calculate at least three months for the whole process (including the provision of all documents).

Companies that are not very familiar with the process do best in contracting specialized service pro-viders (so called Despachantes) that have the necessary experience and contacts in order to guaran-tee a smooth and timely course of all the processes.

The costs for the whole process may vary depending on the degree of involvement of service providers but experience shows that they usually are between 3’000 to 5’000 R$.

The final work permit and work visa issued are valid for 2 years. The visa is a temporary work visa (Vitem V) that can be extended for another 2 years and finally can be conversed into a permanent visa. It also allows spouses and children to stay in Brazil for the same time period (but it does not include work permit for the spouse).

The visa is tied to the employer that has applied for it and can only be transferred to another em-ployer under the authorization of the Ministry of Justice. Foreigners with this type of visa must also not have managerial responsibilities, since such duties are allowed only to those that obtain a per-manent visa.



Besides the most common process mentioned above also other concessions for work permits for different groups of professionals exist. The Procedure Guide of the MTE lists the details of each one of them. For the types of visa linked to a working permit as well as all other visa types please refer to the SWISSCAM publication Brazil Legal Provisions.

Here we are having a look at two more possibilities of getting a residence permit in combination with a working permit. The first one is for investors that intend to start their own business or would like to participate in an existing business in Brazil and the second one is for trainees that are still studying or have just graduated from an institution in Brazil or abroad.

In the latter case there exist two ways of attaining a work permit based on practical training.

Students of a school outside Brazil can apply for the concession of a visa in order to receive profes-sional training in Brazil after the conclusion of a higher education or specialist course. The company that hires the trainee needs to be based outside Brazil but with a subsidiary in the country. The visa type in this case is also a temporary work visa (Vitem V), but its validity is limited to 1 year and may not be extended. In addition the trainee may not receive any salary in Brazil. Details are stated in the Resolution no. 94 of the National Immigration Counsel.

The second possibility exists for foreign students that are studying at a Brazilian school. As stated in Resolution no. 88 of the National Immigration Counsel the trainee must be enrolled in a Brazilian school for the time of the practical training and the maximum working hours for students with a higher education may not exceed 6 hours a day and 30 hours a week. A salary may be paid in this case but it is not compulsory. If the company agrees to pay a salary, the amount usually will not exceed R$ 2’000 per month. The visa obtained in this case is the student visa (Vitem IV) that is valid for one year and expandable for an additional year.

If you have a business idea that you would like to realize in Brazil or if you would like to participate in an existing business it is possible to obtain a permanent resident visa for foreign investors. The main requirement is the proof of an investment in foreign currency equal to at least R$ 150’000 that is de-posited in Brazil and registered with the Central Bank of Brazil. In addition the following criteria are being used in order to assess the application for permanent residency: creation of jobs and revenue in Brazil, productivity increase, technology transfer and assimilation, and increased resources for specific sectors. If these criteria are met and the investment is of social interest to the country the National Immigration Council can also grant a permanent visa when the amount is below R$150’000. In addition to the monetary investment an investment plan must be presented that provides a clear and detailed account for the use of the invested resources. MTE’s Administrative Order/GM/CGIg/ NR. 01/09 defines the procedural operations.

Although the visa offered to investors is called a permanent visa (VIPER) it must be renewed after three years by proofing that the foreigner is still an active investor in Brazil. The permanent visa also allows spouse and children of the investor to stay in Brazil for the same time as the visa holder. The work permit that is linked to the permanent visa only allows its holder to work in the business the in-vestment was made for; it cannot be transferred to any other type of work.

As the opening of a business and the founding of a company in Brazil are very complex and bureau-cratic also here the support of service providers and lawyers should be contracted.





This report was created by

Peter A. Meier


May 2014