Brazil has decided to reinstate visa requirements for U.S. visitors seeking entry into the country as part of a major overhaul of its immigration system.
Since former President Jair Bolsonaro publicly repealed the country’s reciprocity policy in 2019, Americans – and to a lesser extent Canadians, Australians and Japanese – had been excused from needing a pre-departure visa before boarding a plane to Brazil.
The visa-free access to Brazil for nationals of these four countries has now ended.
In the past, Brazil has always issued visas on the basis of reciprocity. This means that, in theory, residents of foreign countries are automatically allowed to enter Brazil without applying for a visa, as long as they exempt Brazilian nationals from the visa requirement.
Brazilian nationals, like Mexican nationals, must travel through or enter the United States on a pre-issued tourist visa. This move prompted the Brazilian government to impose a similar requirement on U.S. passport holders.
Former President Jair Bolsonaro overrode the reciprocity rule and allowed Americans to cross any Brazilian external border if they presented a valid biometric passport. He did so in an effort to boost the country’s sluggishly growing travel industry, which receives an average of only 3.6 million to 5 million tourists annually.
Americans have had free access to South America’s largest and most economically important country for the past three years. Upon arrival, they were granted a three-month stay, which could be extended for an additional three months if desired.
The new visa requirement has not yet been enacted by the Brazilian government, but according to local media, it could do so at any time in the coming weeks or months. There is already a great deal of uncertainty, as there is no specific date.
Americans, Canadians, Australians and Japanese who have planned to travel to Brazil this year do not know if they will be able to get visa waivers before they travel, as the reciprocity rule could go back into effect without much notice. Brazilian border restrictions dating back to the pandemic era, which still require unvaccinated Americans to get tested, have not been lifted.
These factors, along with the lack of infrastructure and extremely high crime rates in most densely populated urban centers, including tourist destinations such as Rio, Sao Paulo, and Salvador, contribute to the country’s ranking as the least tourist-friendly country in South America.