Brazil = Bureaucracy?
People had warned me about bureaucracy in Brazil and that things might take longer than expected and go in mysterious ways. And I have already made some of these experiences. But there is just no way avoiding it when you come as a foreigner and want to live in Brazil or even work here. But until today I can’t complain (a lot) about the Brazilian bureaucracy. In fact, I was surprised how friendly and sometimes even fast things go in Brazil.
The road to my permanência
To get a “permanência” with which I can stay in Brazil more or less permanently, I had to register with the Polícia Federal. Now here comes a funny thing about Brazilian authorities: even if they have a copy machine standing right next to their desk, there is no chance you can use it to make copies of necessary documents. So I had to go outside were a copy shop is conveniently located somewhere close by. With the Polícia Federal it was different, because I had to make officially approved copies of my passport, which only a cartório can do, where people were amused to copy all blank pages of my passport and put an official stamp on it. Of course I had to pay for all of it, but it was not very expensive.
Visiting the Policia Federal
The Polícia Federal in Santos is located in an old building in downtown and it seemed to fulfill my worst expectations, when on my first visit I had to wait about two hours to talk to an official only to get a vague information. But it was shortly after Christmas and people were on summer vacation and every time I went there since then, I had to wait less than 10 minutes and was always treated very friendly. This does of course not mean, that things are not complicated. After applying for a “permanência” I received a “protocolo” which is the official prove that I entered this process which might take up to more than a year. With this protocolo I can and should identify myself to policemen and other officials, it is my temporary ID card. This does of course not mean, that is is sufficient for everything. Because in order to open a bank account or to apply for a carteira de trabalho (work card which serves as a work permit and which you need to have if you want to get hired by someone) I also need to have an official RNE – a national registration of foreigners. This I will only get together with my permanência (which will take some time, maybe more than a year – remember?), which means, I wouldn’t be able to work or open a bank account.
RNE, SINCRE and my alternative
There is of course (this is Brazil) a way out of the dilemma. I would be able to apply for the working card even without the RNE with a SINCRE, a summary of all the data stored at the polícia federal about me. But since there is nothing stored yet (the process starts only after the permanência is issued), there is no SINCRE either. Nevertheless there is another alternative, because the Polícia Federal can issue a paper, stating that I am in the process of getting a permanência, with which I could get my working card as well as a bank account (remember: my protocolo also states that I am applying for the permanência and I have to carry this with me all the time, but it seems to not be enough).
So I applied for this confirmation at the Polícia Federal, handing in more copies of my passport, my marriage certificate and a picture of me (basically the same stuff I needed to apply for the permanência), then proceeded to another part of the building to hand over the paper, only to receive a copy of this paper with a barcode and the information to come back after 10 working days.
Humble and polite as I have become after dealing with German administration for years I did not question this procedure and came back as it had been stated and received to letters which stated very clearly, that they are only valid in the original and not as a copy. Oh – and yes – I am in the process of getting a permanência. Funnily enough, there was nothing on the letter which made it copyproof. But why make more copies? I only need one for the Ministério do Trabalho (Ministery of Labour) in order to receive my carteira de trabalho.
“Are you crazy?”
In the Ministério do Trabalho I was informed that in addition to the documents, I would also have to provide a proof of residence. Since in Brazil this is handled much as in the US, you just present a letter with your address, then people assume you live there. So I came back a couple of days later, presented my papers to an older mean who seemed to know what to do but shook his had when he looked over my documents and said: “Everybody is trying to get out of the country, but you want to get in. You are crazy” Three working days later however, I received my second official Brazilian document: my carteira de trabalho! It is dressed in a wonderful baby blue. This means, I am ready to work. And another valuable lessen learned for staying in Brazil: never give up too early!