With the strongest economy in the region, the attraction of Brazil for everyone from multinationals to migrant workers is enormous. The Federal Government's sanctioning of an amnesty for individuals working in the country without proper documentation earlier this year promises benefits for all.

On July 2 this year, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva sanctioned an 'amnesty' law allowing foreigners who are illegal in Brazil to request temporary residency.

With the strongest economy in the region, the reasons for migrating to Brazil from neighboring countries are numerous, whilst there are plenty of opportunities for overseas companies deciding to set up operations which require the posting of skilled professionals from abroad.

Law 11.961/2009 essentially considers the situation relating to foreigners who entered Brazil prior to February 2, 2009 and who have remained in the country illegally.

A look at the particulars of the categories of foreigners eligible to apply for amnesty shows that they include those who:

  • Have illegally entered Brazil;
  • Legally entered the country but whose visa periods have expired;
  • Took advantage of the last amnesty which was decreed in 1998, but who have not had their status made 'permanent'.

An individual's request for temporary residence must be filed with the Ministry of Justice within 180 days of the law's publication (in other words, the application should be made by the end of January 2010).

According to the Executive Director of the Ministry of Justice, Luiz Paulo Barreto, the amnesty aims to regularize the status of up to 50,000 illegal foreigners currently living and working in Brazil.

It may be argued that since the country was founded, it has been common practice for companies to open branches of their operations as a means to supply much needed first world technology and know how. The need for specialized technical skills means that, quite often, the companies relocate a core group of individuals to help the business get off the ground.

For one reason or another, such individuals often find themselves in a situation whereby their temporary work visas expire but they remain as part of the foreign company's ongoing implementation project.

"The Government's primary reason for this immigrant regularization move is to address the status of those individuals who have moved from our less wealthy neighboring countries in search of a better life and who are now living and working illegally in Brazil," says Dr. Maria Carolina de Souza Guacelli, attorney responsible for the Immigration Department of Felsberg e Associados.

"It is very common however, for international companies operating in Brazil to find that their skilled technical workers need to stay in the country for longer than expected. As such, the recent legislation can prove to be of great benefit to these companies," she explains.

The Immigration Law Department at Felsberg e Associados has assisted a number of clients in the regularization of employees' visa statuses with regard to the amnesty and is prepared to ensure the smooth implementation of all clients' rights in this area.

Felsberg e Associados has more than 10 years of experience in assisting domestic, multinational and foreign companies in the obtaining of the temporary work permits which are necessary to obtain residence visas, both under employment contracts, for technical assistance or cooperation, and for professional training. Felsberg e Associados also assists in obtaining work authorizations for directors, administrators, officers and investors, in the extending of temporary visas; converting temporary visas into permanent visas; obtaining resident visas for the dependents of those who already have a permanent visa, and obtaining permanent residence for foreigners who are married to Brazilian nationals or whose children were born in Brazil.

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