The US could double visits from Brazil and Chile. Do they want to?

The United States could double visits from Brazil and Chile  in one year and  generate $10.3 billion in new tourism revenue. In 2010, 1.2 million Brazilians visited the United States, injecting $5.9 billion into the American economy. economy.That would mean creating 95,100 new American jobs.  What needs to be done? Extend to these countries the visa-waiver program.

Here is the catch. Remind me again: Why do Brazilians need to get a Visa to visit the US?

It has always been like that. As far as I can remember. Now the question is asked. The other day my colleague Ricardo raised the issue on a post about Brazilian tourism. This week, an interesting piece from Time Magazine argues that making it easier for Brazilian tourists would be good for American economy (and citizens!).   Tim Rogers article, “Let Them In: How Brazilians Could Help the U.S. Economy” informs us that Brazil represents the fastest-growing non-immigrant visa demand in the world, up 234% over the past five years, eclipsing even China’s 124% increase in U.S. visa issuances, according to the State Department.

Good costumers, good for business

Brazilian tourists spend more per capita than any other nationality, says the  Time Magazine.  An average of $43.3 million a day, dropping a gigantesco $1.4 billion last April alone, up 83% from the same period last year, according to the Brazil’s Central Bank.

Waiting outside the American consulate in Sao Paulo

Be patient or go somewhere else

U.S. has only four consular offices in the country: in the capital Brasilia, Recife, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. What happens if you live in Porto Alegre? As Tim Rogers exclaims, you’d probably have to spend hundreds of dollars on domestic airline tickets to fly everyone 700 miles to São Paulo, then drop hundreds more on hotel rooms, food and taxis, just to get a visa application interview, which costs an additional $140 each.

In a time of “globalization”, does it make sense? 

While the State Department claims the average international wait time for a visa interview is 30 days, in Brazil it can be as high as 141 days.

The overworked consular staff in São Paulo is currently processing an average of 2,300 visas every day, more than any other U.S. consulate in the world.

But if don’t want to endure a line in the American consulate, or expend money with consulate fees.. here is another idea of where to spend your “Brazilian real”.

To visit this city, you don’t need a visa.

PS.. remember to give us your opinion about our blog (just to be clear: not only this post.. I mean, the blog). We appreciate it! And drop your comments below about this post, if you’d like to share your view.

eedback please

Published by Hildete Vodopives

Hildete de Moraes Vodopives is founder of Brazil Global and of the Harvard Strategists Group. She has a PhD in Economic History and advises companies and investment agencies in international business development.She served as Corporate Relations Director and later, on the board of the Brazilian Investment Analysts Association (APIMEC).

7 thoughts on “The US could double visits from Brazil and Chile. Do they want to?

  1. I don’t know why Brazilians need visas but I had heard recently it had something to do with the lack of security measures in the old (green) Brazilian passport. No idea if that is true.

    Non-immigrant visas don’t prove much. I know dozens that have applied for these, taken their vacation and stayed for decades. That statistic doesn’t say much to me.

    I think the whole issue does need to be looked at. I see a general tendency for Brazilians to go to Europe in general. Most tolerate the US so they can do some shopping but I think most would prefer europe as a vacation destination.



  2. Though Brasil loves to keep open arms to all who visit, the USA has reason to be cautious but yet open as long as criteria are being met. Very few, if any, aspects of international relations cannot be resolved with a simple answer. If it could, many journalists, diplomats, and politicians, they would be in the unemployment lines as well. And as always with international relations, the answer is found outside the borders of dispute and not inside.

    The visa requirement has been in place since 1952, due to the passage of the McCarran Walter Act. At that time, communism was making itself known and was becoming widespread in many countries, including the United States. Countries that allowed communists to enter their country without a passport found their citizens needing a passport to enter the United States.

    There were talks before the events of 11-September-2001, to review and update the requirements. Countries that were friendly to the USA would be waived of the passport restrictions. After 11-September, the talks shifted — any country that allowed radical terrorists into their country without a passport would find anyone coming from that country requiring a passport. Brasil does not require a passport from many of the countries that are enemies of the USA — not requiring the passport from Brazil would only be an open window to a secured prison. The USA is also vulnerable on both the north and south borders, as well. Illegal immigration has been allowed to exist too long – now many politicians find themselves biting the hands that feed them.

    Secuirty is not the biggest reason, but it is the biggest concern. The USA spends much revenue not only on its own defenses, but will defend other countries as well. Most of the times, the USA is never reimbursed for coming to their assistance. Brasil was one of the benefactors of the USA’s benevolence, having been given a waiver for the loans it could not pay, with its financial problems during the 1980’s, followed by hyperinflation in the early 1990’s. Though many will look down at the USA for its position on many issues – all of them know that they can, and will, be provided protection from the USA military if the country so desires the assistance.

    Brasil has much to be proud about —sometimes you have to count the blessings you have, and keep in front of you where you want to go… It will not be easy. Brasil has an infrastructure that needs much work. But this is all about growth – the USA has been in the same position several times during its growth. Many forget that 100 years ago, the USA was not a superpower – it was England.

    Returning to the Visas, there is no simple answer. To have Brazil require any country that is an enemy of the USA to produce passports is not the answer. This would only incite blatant favoritism that will only backlash. The problem is not between Brasil and the USA – it is global…

    and right now, the globe is not exactly at peace…


  3. As an American, married to a Bahiana with a child on the way being born in Bahia, I speak with some insight. I was born and raised in Northern/Central California and completely familiar with immigration issues and American attitudes. While I speak for myself, I have heard the same over and over. We love immigrants…we detest ILLEGAL immigration. You are welcome and encouraged to come here…however, do it LEGALLY! The issue is legal vs. illegal, NOT as the media would portray it: not immigration itself. The millions of Mexicans who flood our borders who don’t think they should answer to anyone have ruined it for Brasilieros or anybody else seeking immigration. We are a country of laws and when you think you are above the law, is when public sentiment grows negative. When working people who are taxed to pay for the ones who come without papers have to suffer financially and the freeloaders come and get food stamps, free health care, jobs, freebies, etc. something is wrong and unjust. Entende? Bjos


  4. Thanks Walter, Garret and Roger, for your insights! You all raised very good points.
    It is very interesting for me to listen to your perspectives. After reading them, I have a question:
    Don’t you guys think that we should ask ourselves what are real causes to illegal immigration and security? Maybe this visa tourist control is, as we say, “tampando o sol com a peneira” ( if google serves me right: capping the sun with a sieve) ..
    Quick points:
    Passeport security: You are right, Brazilian passeport got behind international standards in the past years. The new Brazilian passeport has an electronic device for recording data (chip) on the cover of the new passport is the main improvement.
    Illegal immigration: Is tourist control efficient to prevent it?. If so, why some nationalities are exempted? Other countries do it by controlling the work market. On top of that, the immigration pressure is reversing these days. I have met many people who want to move to Brazil. So should Brazil keep the visa for tourists?
    Law: Brazil is a country of laws too.There are flaws, injustice but there are areas that Brazil excels. (good exemple is how Brazilian banks passed by the 2008 crisis. Thanks to Brazilian legislation. Other exemple, is transparency in elections; no problem there too).
    Security concern: Again, I wonder if tourist control is the solution. And the discretion based on nationalities.. isn’t it a little limited?
    Thanks once more for your comments! I hope to hear more from you! I love the US, I studied there and I admire American practical approach.


  5. There are a lot of things to praise in Brazil, in addition to the 2008 banking sector performance, like the energy independence. This from a former American CIA director, posted at CNBC:
    “Woolsey also thinks the U.S. should follow the lead of Brazil, which is requiring auto makers to “make their fuel lines out of a slightly different kind of plastic so it costs less than $100 a car in the manufacturing process … and the vehicle can burn alcohol fuels as well as gasoline.”
    One of the things that The Economist has been saying is that the BRICs benefit from America patrolling supply lines to your energy sources, especially India and China which get their oil from the Middle East. The Brazilian economic boom has occurred mainly since Lula in the past 10 years. One wonders when all of the BRICs will step up and contribute to global security.

    Maybe you Franco-phile Cariocas should stroll down to the French Foreign Legion office in Paris so you can do a refreshing tour of North Africa? I hear Tripoli is quite invigorating this time of year!


  6. Always glad to participate is a practical approach Hildete!

    Some thoughts about your very good points…

    Passport security: Documentation has been counterfeited since the Gutenberg Press — as we get smarter, so do the counterfeiters. What is elusive to the counterfeiter is consistent change and the element of surprise. The electronic age is here and so are hackers — just need to keep changing proactively and not reactively.
    Security and Illegal immigration: As much as possible, every sovereignty must protect itself from possible harm, even unrealized or unseen — but, do so with diplomacy. Controls provide a means of preventing floodgates arising — especially in the light of new opportunities or in the light of being an advantageous location for ill means to those within or nearby the sovereignty. Keeping a tourist visa would be one means but does not lead to illegal immigrants, tourist visas is something they use to their advantage. Many countries keep track of those arriving through Visas, like Ireland. When you are due to depart, there is a visit from immigration to be sure everything is going well and to answer any questions. Think of a world without tourist visas — you might was well forget the boundaries that set the sovereignties apart.

    The USA already has means to control illegal immigration but Congress has looked the other way for so long when it comes to enforcement and regulation that they are now finding themselves with the Mexican cartel at their back door. The Congress made the mistake of trying to appease everyone without keeping a focus on the security of the country. Lack of adherence to laws and regulations is also another means may illegals will use to gain entry to any country. The stricter the laws and regulations, the more likely they do not have illegal immigrant issues. Then there is the extreme cases such a North Korea, China… politics aside, three are not too many that want to move to either country…

    Is tourist control efficient to prevent it and Law: To place this bluntly, monitoring everyone that arrives to the borders of a sovereignty is not economically feasible. Whatever means you invent, some will invent ways around it. This has happened since Cain and Able. What has worked is the fear of the consequences for being caught outside the criteria of a visa — and the consequences have to outweigh the risk of remaining illegally.

    Does the USA have an illegal immigrant problem or an enforcement problem? The Congress will not allow the current laws to be enforced and is far too lenient with those that remain beyond their visa permissions. For the immigrant, the risk of returning far outweighs the risk of being caught. Is just as easy to return through another ‘door’ so not to be visually recognized by the INS security teams.

    Any sovereignty would do well to tap into the knowledge and resources of other sovereignties to resolve their internal challenges — such as Brazil’s need to strengthen its infrastructure. To ignore such an opportunity would be very unwise, and selfish. Innovation is rampant when the challenges are most difficult and when the experience of others are taken into consideration, not when everything is going well.

    All this are a reason for both the tourist visa and business visa to be enforced — but also for a reason to not keep such a control on visas as to dampen the desire to travel to any country. The answer still lies in what Brasil needs, and what is it keeping itself from attaining by the current regulations and laws within its own immigration policies. I am one of those that will be relocating to Brazil soon — I understand the needs of Brazil in many areas and hope to contribute what I can. And hopefully, my hand will not be bitten (the expression “never bite the hand that feeds you” applies to both sides of the equation)…


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