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Americans and Brazilian Immigrants Flock South in Search of Brazilian Dream

Ibirapuera monument in São Paulo Brazilian immigrants are returning home to a bustling economy that offers better financial opportunities for Brazilian natives and foreigners alike. As competition for jobs in the U.S. has become increasingly fierce, many Brazilian-Americans have been persuaded to return home, where obstacles such as work visas, English fluency, and not to mention prolonged separation from family, are absent. 

Due to a historically low unemployment rate of 6 percent and earnings back home that have risen 170 percent since 1999, Brazilian immigrants are returning to their native construction, manufacturing, and service industries, which in the United States have been crippled by the ongoing effects of the recession.

Despite the global economic downturn, in 2008, the Brazilian economy rebounded quickly and has maintained steady growth. Brazil now leads Latin America with the world’s seventh largest economy, rising to prominence on the global stage.

During the economic turmoil of the 1980s that swept Latin America, many Brazilians emigrated to the United States in hopes of achieving their own versions of the “American Dream:” an idealistic goal no longer possible in today’s stagnant U.S. economy.

Subsequently, the Brazilian Diaspora is now beginning to return home for better economic opportunities. Recently, airlines have noted that a higher number of Brazilian migrants are now purchasing one-way tickets during the winter months when the need for U.S. manual labor slows down.

As the number of Brazilians flocking home increases, the population of Brazilians in the U.S. decreases. According to the Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, the amount of legal permanent residents who emigrated from Brazil to the U.S. has decreased from 14,701 residents in 2009 to 12,057 in 2010.”

As Brazilians return home for better employment opportunities, U.S. citizens have followed suit, seeking the benefits of a potential “Brazilian Dream”.

Americans are arriving in Brazil with a gold-rush mentality, determined to make profit. In the first six months of 2010, more than 4,300 U.S. citizens received working visas from Brazil’s labor ministry, an increase of twenty percent over the previous year alone.

U.S. bankers, hedge fund managers, oil executives, and engineers have fled to large metropolitan cities such as Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo in search of jobs. U.S. and foreign investors have been particularly attracted to Brazil’s oil discoveries. Meanwhile, the demand for jobs in information technology industries is also high.

Brazil still needs about 60,000 new engineers and as a result the government has been soliciting U.S. and other foreigner workers to fill these needed skilled positions. Jobs in mining, infrastructure, retail, and finance have also attracted trained workers from all around the world.

According to the New York Times, salaries in Brazil “are at least 50 percent more than salaries in the U.S. for strategic positions.” Last year, Brazil’s economy increased 7.5 percent and is expected to grow by four percent this year.

Despite the more favorable opportunities found in Brazil, US citizens heading south will face issues not encountered in the States. These include an overheating of the Brazilian economy and the high appreciation of the Brazilian real. Americans also have to compete for jobs with homeward-bound Brazilians as labor legislation favors hiring a Brazilian worker over a foreigner.

For immigrants, obtaining a Brazilian work visa can be a lengthy process. Still, U.S. citizens are attracted by an alluring culture, the Portuguese language, the hospitality of the Brazilian people, and the upcoming 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games. 

Despite these attractions, U.S. President Barack Obama’s new economic stimulus plan may alter the currently increasing immigration rate to Brazil.

On September 8, 2011 Obama outlined several goals for his stimulus plan, specifically geared toward creating more jobs to jolt the economy. If passed the stimulus plan will provide more summer jobs for young workers, invest USD 35 billion in local communities for more teachers and expanded healthcare, and provide businesses with USD 4,000 in tax credits to those unemployed for a period of six months or more.

If the stimulus plan is passed and expands economic opportunities in the U.S. as intended, we can expect the mad dash to Brazil to abate. However, Brazil’s rise has turned it into a global destination of considerable gravity, particularly for those seeking a broad spectrum of economic opportunities.

Denise Fonseca is a research associate at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) – www.coha.org. The organization is a think tank established in 1975 to discuss and promote inter-American relationship. Email: coha@coha.org.

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