Working in Brazil
Where could you work in Brazil?
Home to bossa nova and a passion for football, Brazil is the world's fifth largest country. Most multinational companies with operations in Brazil are based in São Paulo, making it a very popular destination for expatriates, but there are also job opportunities in Rio de Janeiro, Brasília (the capital) and Macaé. Graduates are required in areas including finance, IT and engineering.
In order to get a visa, though, you'll need to prove that you can do a job that a Brazilian national cannot fill, and in order to get a job you are likely to need to speak Portuguese. Brazilian companies also have to ensure that two-thirds of their employees are Brazilian.
If you are interested in teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) in Central or South America, be aware that it might not be easy to obtain a work visa to do so in Brazil. You could consider looking for jobs in Mexico or Chile (including its English Open Doors programme), where TEFL teachers are usually able to get a work visa. The British Council offers English language assistant positions in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico, and suitable visas will be available for these.
Major industries in Brazil
Manufacturing accounts for a large chunk of Brazil's GDP and covers automobiles, electrical machinery, textiles, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, aircraft, steel and food. Other large industries include:
- oil and gas
Other areas that are currently enjoying investment include agri-tech, space exploration, infrastructure and marine. There is also a focus on healthcare and water. The government hopes that its Mais Médicos programme, aimed at attracting doctors from abroad, will help Brazil reach 600,000 physicians by 2026 and there are plans to make sanitation services available to all by 2033.
- There are several large banks in Brazil: Caixa Econômica Federal, Itaú Unibanco, Banco Bradesco and Banco de Brasil.
- In metals and mining, you have Vale and Gerdau.
- Two large food manufacturing companies are JBS and BRF.
- The oil and gas industry is dominated by Petrobas and Ultrapar.
- Grupo Globo, founded and headquartered in Rio de Janeiro, is the largest mass media group in South America.
Other large companies include Oi (telecommunications), Electrobas (utilities), Cielo (a payment system company), Braskem (petrochemicals), Sabesp (water and waste management), Kroton Educacional (private education) and Embraer (aerospace).
However, you may find it easier to get a job with an international company that wasn't founded in Brazil but has operations there. This includes Avon, Chevron, Experian, ExxonMobil, Ford, General Electric, General Motors, IBM, JCB, J.P. Morgan, Medtronic and Rolls-Royce.
It is usually only possible for graduates with a good knowledge of Portuguese to work in Brazil.
Do you need a visa?
British nationals are allowed to visit Brazil without a visa for up to 90 days. The federal police may ask for the intended purpose of your visit and you may need to prove that you have enough money for the duration and have plans for return or onward travel. Make sure your passport is stamped and keep your immigration landing card. You can apply to the Brazilian federal police for an extension of up to another 90 days, which you should do at least two weeks before your initial 90 days are over.
You will, however, need a visa if you're travelling to Brazil to work. You'll need to get a job offer first and your employer will initiate the application for a temporary work visa on your behalf. Temporary work visas are valid for up to two years. If you want to become a permanent resident eventually, you must apply through the Consulate General of Brazil or Brazilian embassy of your home country.
Once you have arrived in Brazil, you will need to apply for various documents within 30 days. You will need to collect your Brazilian foreigner ID card (called a CNRM – Carteira de Registro Nacional Migratório) from the federal police and you'll also need to get a Brazilian taxpayer ID (called a CPF – Cadastro de Pessoas Físicas), which is required to open a bank account or rent accommodation.
You can find out more about visas from the Consulate General of Brazil in London.
What is it like to live and work in Brazil?
Working hours: Office hours in Brazil are typically 8.00 am to 6.00 pm. Employees are legally not allowed to work more than eight hours per day or 44 hours each week. All employees are entitled to at least one day of rest, usually taken on a Sunday.
Holidays: You will be entitled to up to 30 days' holiday after one year's service with the same employer. This should be taken either all at once or in two parts, with one half being at least 20 days. Employees are also given the day off for public holidays.
Income tax: Resident taxpayers in Brazil are subject to an income tax that starts at a rate of 7.5% and progressively moves up to 27.5%, so how much you pay will depend on how much you earn. You are a resident taxpayer if you hold a permanent visa or a temporary visa and a local employment contract. Non-resident taxpayers pay a flat rate of 27.5% on any wages they earn in Brazil.
Remember to check your UK tax and National Insurance position with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to ensure that you are not losing any UK pension rights.
Cost of living: Living in Brazil is generally cheaper than living in the UK, although some things will be the same price as in London. Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo are the most expensive cities to live in. You can live comfortably but you probably won't save much money.
Currency: Real – one real consists of 100 centavos.
Healthcare: You should visit your doctor well in advance of travelling to Brazil to find out if vaccinations are required. Vaccinations usually recommended include influenza, measles, rubella, hepatitis A, hepatitis B and yellow fever. Precautionary methods against malaria and Dengue fever, such as mosquito repellent, are essential.
Brazil is one of the few countries that provides free access to medical care for everybody. However, it is underfunded, there are long waiting times and most doctors in public hospitals don't speak English, so a lot of expatriates prefer the private healthcare system. Many employers offer a private medical plan as part of your employment package.
Laws and customs to be aware of:
- Holders of UK driving licenses can drive in Brazil for 180 days as long as you have your passport and driving license with you. After this period, you'll need to contact your nearest DETRAN office in Brazil to apply for the recognition of your driving license.
- Penalties for drug trafficking are severe.
- Levels of violent crime are pretty high, especially in major cities. Take precautions such as keeping valuable possessions out of sight and not walking on your own at night.
Major religions: The majority of Brazilians are Roman Catholics and around a fifth are Protestants.
Newspapers with vacancies
You could look for vacancies on job websites such as Catho and Empregos, both in Portuguese. You may also find positions on Jobs Abroad, which is in English, and with international recruitment agencies.
Not every job available in Brazil will be formally advertised. You will increase your chances of landing one of these jobs by sending speculative applications to the companies you're interested in and making contacts through networking, both in person at events and on LinkedIn.
CV, application and interview tips
You're likely to need to submit a CV and covering letter. Your CV should ideally be on one page and definitely no longer than two pages, and your covering letter should focus on your qualifications and skills and how you have worked on your language skills. Unless other instructions are given you could submit two versions of your application, one in Portuguese and one in English. Unless you are a fluent speaker and writer of Portuguese, get a native speaker to proofread your application.
Interviews are similar to in the UK, but assessment centres are not common. Be prepared to demonstrate your skills and ability to do the job, and don't be surprised if you are asked about your personal life too.
Work experience, internships and exchanges
Internships in Brazil usually last between one month and a full year. Opportunities can be found in social work, healthcare, journalism and business. There are also opportunities for biology and environmental studies due to its proximity to the Amazon. Foreign interns are not allowed to earn a salary in Brazil and you may need to pay a programme fee. However, an employer can provide you with a stipend and/or transportation support. You will need a student visa.
Look for opportunities on websites such as Go Abroad and Global Choices. AIESEC also offers international traineeship exchanges for between six weeks and 18 months and science, technology, applied arts and engineering students can apply for placements of between six to twelve weeks in the summer through IAESTE.
If you'd like to study overseas, many UK universities have exchange programmes with universities in Brazil.
Central and South America are popular destinations for students and graduates who want to combine work and travel, for example as a gap year. You could do this independently or investigate companies who offer these opportunities.
Volunteering opportunities in Brazil include healthcare, social work, reforestation and conservation. Look into organisations such as Rio Voluntario, Task Brazil, REGUA and WWOOF Brazil.
You can also find volunteering opportunities in Central and South America through organisations such as Go Abroad, Go Overseas, Concordia and Frontier.