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Dalama Adventures Tale of two corporate types ditching their jobs and traveling the world for 14 months... check out all photos, blogs & interesting tid bits at http://www.dalama.net

Brazilian Visa Troubles: Reciprocity Sucks

ARGENTINA | Friday, 18 January 2008 | Views [4595]

We gave ourselves plenty of time in Buenos Aires to organize our Brazilian visas, which notoriously take a long time to process.  The Brazilian embassy in Argentina is only open from 10:00 am to 1:00 p.m. for application submission.  We arrived at 11:00 am, figuring that would be plenty of time.  I had also completed and printed out our applications, had our passport size pictures ready, along with the documents required detailing flights and our $274 dollars in crisp, new USD bills ready to submit our payment.  I've applied for Brazilian visas twice before, so figured we were all set, and just needed to submit and wait out the administrative processing for a week or so.  We take the elevator to the seventh floor and can barely exit as the visa queue into the embassy has spilled out into the elevator lobby.  We finally make our way through the metal detectors and pat-down by the security guard, and through the doorway of the tiny embassy office.  We wait in the queue, only to see people in front of us consistently turned away because they hadn't brought everything they needed.  One guy and his girlfriend from the US had already been back five times, apparently the embassy officials seem to change the rules on what they require daily.  Our turn up, we are quickly declined.  First, because I filled out the wrong form, the one on the official Brazilian Embassy website in Sao Paulo is not the correct form.  In Argentina you need to fill out the automated form on their computers in the lobby.  The only difference is that the Argentinean one has "Argentina" listed on the top of the form as the address for this specific embassy.  Also, because Darrin and I are married and share bank and credit card accounts, one statement with both our names on it won't do.  We are informed that we need to produce a marriage certificate, along with bank statements from the past three months.  Good luck finding our marriage certificate, as it's buried deep inside some packing box in our storage pod locked securely in some warehouse of metal pods in East San Diego.  When I show our around the world airline tickets flying into Sao Paulo and out of Santiago I quickly informed the agent know we'd be crossing out of Brazil by land into Argentina at Foz Iguazu, and would be taking public bus for which advance tickets are not sold.  That's not good enough.  We need to show a round trip flight in and out of Brazil.  So now we need to go buy some pricey refundable flights and hope they accept an international credit card, which most vendors in Brazil do not accept for online purchases.  The woman hands us a list of documents that we need to be prepared with for our next visit to the embassy.  The list, extremely general, lists things like copies of credit cards, bank statements, airline tickets, passport photos, etc.  The devil is in the details and the unasked questions.  How is one to know that your electronic bank statement printout needs to have your name on every page, or that you need a marriage certificate if you share an account?  It's no wonder why most people here in line have already made several trips, and are frustrated beyond belief.  We need to wait two hours in line just to speak with an agent in Spanish (the guy in the entrance information booth only speaks Portuguese, and when asked a question in Portuguese, he doesn't respond with words let alone answers, he just hands out the same damn list of generic requirements).  The worst part of the process through, is for US and Canadian citizens, we all get hit with the hefty fee of $137 USD/pp to apply.  Like other South American countries, Brazil levies a "reciprocity tax" on Americans (as well as Canadians, Australians, and Mexicans - although much lower amounts for the latter two).  They do this specifically because our country levies similar taxes onto their citizens when they apply to come to the US.  It's also probably why the process is so painfully slow and bureaucratic... they're also replicating a similar, poor, bureaucratic US process.  We've heard time and time again on our journey how the US Immigration office makes foreign visitors jump through painful hoops to submit application paperwork, then keeps the processing fee ($100) if the person is declined their visa.  I guess we're getting a taste of our own medicine.  

I think I have found my calling - when I return to the US I must seek out job opportunities with the US Government to work on immigration reform and process improvement.  Bureaucracy & reciprocity sucks!


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