The business of America is business, goes the saying, and as Brazilians are interested in doing business, bring them on. At least make it easier for them to come.
The number of Brazilians traveling to the US is smaller only than visitors from such traditional frontrunners as Canada, Europe and Japan.
Here are some numbers from 2011: Canadians (21 million) and Mexicans (13 million), United Kingdom |(3.8 million), Japan (3.2 million) and Germany (1.8 million).
Those are the countries that led the list of visitors to the US, but significantly, except for Canada and Germany (both up 5%), the number of visitors was actually down for Mexico, the United Kingdom (both down less than 1%, but down) and Japan (the crisis and the tsunami resulted in a sharp decline of 4% in the number of Japanese visitors to the US in 2011.
Against this background, Brazil is statistically and significantly unique. In sixth place on the list of visitors to the US with 1.5 million, the number of Brazilians traveling to the US was up a whooping 25% in 2011 – in spite of all the crises and tsunamis.
That caught somebody’s eye in Washington. First, the State Department announced it was opening two more consulate offices (Belo Horizonte and Porto Alegre). Now comes news that the visa process will be streamlined and less expensive for Brazilians.
Beginning on April 30, the cost of a visa will fall from 360 reais to 280 reais (around US$ 160). And on May 7 new visa facilitation centers (separate from the embassy and consulates) will open in Brasília, Belo Horizonte, Recife, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo
Information will be collected in these new places and processed before interviews at the embassy and consulates when they are necessary. The State Department also announced that, although it will take time, work is underway to eliminate the need for Brazilians to get visas.
All these changes were negotiated and are being announced just after the visit of president Dilma Rousseff to Washington at the beginning of April.
In practical terms the most important deal on the diplomatic front as a result of president Dilma Rousseff’s trip to the United States was the news that the US will open two more consulate offices in the country – in Belo Horizonte and Porto Alegre. Besides the embassy in Brasilia, there are already consulates in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Recife.
There are very practical reasons for the new consulates and a direct order from president Barack Obama to make it easier for Brazilians to travel to the US.
The number of Brazilians visiting the US has skyrocketed as the local economy has stabilized, there are more jobs and more income, and the real has gotten much stronger against the dollar. As a result, Brazilians are flocking to the US where they spend billions, mostly in Florida.
In 2010, Brazilians spent US$ 16.4 billion abroad. In 2011, they spent US$ 21.2 billion, an increase of 28%. Much of the spending takes place in the US; something Americans understand without a translator.
The American Embassy in Brasília reports that in March this year a record 115,269 visas were issued to Brazilians, an increase of 62%, compared to the same month last year.
And over the last five years (since 2006), the number of visas issued to Brazilians has risen 230%. In 2010, the São Paulo consulate issued 320,000 visas, more than any other US consulate office in the world.