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Living In Brazil: A Guide To Moving To Brazil As An Expat

Living in Brazil (the biggest country in South America) offers 8.5 million square metres of beaches, jungles and vibrant Latino communities. With its captivating nature and one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, moving to enjoy a colourful new lifestyle in Brazil as an expat is an exciting prospect.

But what do you really need in order to move to Brazil? Should you find work first? Is it safe? How easy is it to find accommodation? Here’s everything you need to know about living in Brazil as an expat.

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What to expect from living in Brazil as an expat

Brazil is a country rich in history and culture, with expansive natural landscapes. It’s home to an ever-expanding community of expats, settling in its diverse towns and cities, and taking pleasure in its natural white coastlines, local culture, and historical sites.

The pace of life can be fast, especially in larger cities like Sao Paulo, which are centred around business and commerce. Meanwhile, a more relaxed lifestyle can be found in coastal cities like Rio de Janeiro and Florianopolis.

With the country’s ethnically diverse mix of European, Japanese, indigenous, and African ancestry, expats in Brazil will experience a unique blend of cultures and communities that are always willing to embrace new travellers.

How many expats live in Brazil?

The total population of Brazil is estimated at just over 212 million. Of these, 1.3 million are immigrants.

The leading nationalities of expats in Brazil are Japanese (62,296), Bolivian (49,289), Italian (47,193), and Argentinian (36,910).

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Quality of life and living in Brazil

There’s no doubt that Brazil is one of the most beautiful places you can call your home. It’s known for one of the most important natural resources on our planet (the Amazon rainforest). But aside from its biodiversity, the Brazilian people are renowned for their laid-back lifestyle, culture, and passion for all things football, partying, and food.

Once you start to get to know locals, you’ll soon become accustomed to the passionate gesticulation when talking, goodbye hugs, and even kisses. Whilst that might seem unnatural for an American or English expat in Brazil, you’ll soon learn that it really just means you’ve been accepted into that social circle, and your newfound friends will soon feel like a second family.

Family is hugely important in Brazilian culture, and children often remain with their parents until they marry.

The weather is warm year-round with temperatures rarely dropping below 20 Celcius.

Brazil is predominantly a Roman Catholic country with an estimated 65% of the population practicing the religion. Patriarchy and gender roles are widely reflective of the Catholic culture, with men being the bread-winners and women responsible for domestic affairs. However, this is slowly changing.

Language in Brazil

The official language of Brazil is Portuguese, though the pronunciation is slightly different from what is spoken in Portugal. English and Spanish are also spoken in the larger cities and for business.

What is the average life expectancy in Brazil?

The average life expectancy in Brazil in 2020 was 76 years. In 1960, life expectancy was just 54 years. A focus on prenatal care, child nutrition programs, immunisation campaigns, and other important preventative services have played key roles in the increase of life expectancy in Brazil.

How did Brazil deal with COVID-19?

Brazil’s response to Covid-19 was chaotic. Since the start of the pandemic, over 32.5 million cases have been reported, and 672K residents have died. To date, Brazil has the second highest death toll from Covid-19 in the world.

The first Covid-19 vaccine was delivered in Brazil on 17 January 2021, just over a month after the vaccine was rolled out in the UK. 87.6% of people in Brazil have now received at least one dose of the vaccine. 80.2% have been fully vaccinated.

Wetlands in Belem do Para, Brazil - Living In Brazil: A Guide To Moving To Brazil As An Expat
Wetlands in Belem do Para, Brazil / GETTY IMAGES

Accommodation in Brazil

The quality of accommodation in Brazil can vary greatly. There are plenty of places (be it hostels, hotels or rental apartments) that have all the amenities you may have come to expect in metropolitan cities like LA & London.

But there is a little bit of due diligence necessary to get the most bang for your buck. For instance, star ratings for hotels are only based on bureaucratic measures like the width of elevators, but there may be perfectly comfortable (or even luxurious) hotels with no stars at all.

Where are the best places to live in Brazil as an expat?

  1. São Paulo – São Paulo is undoubtedly the number one spot for expats who are first moving to Brazil. It’s South America’s largest city with a population over 12 million.  São Paulo is a culturally mixed bag, and expats can easily get around with little to no knowledge of the Portuguese language. It enjoys a beautiful tropical climate, and the pace of life is relatively laid-back compared to Rio. As Brazil’s financial centre, it offers plenty of job opportunities for expats here: 34% of Brazil’s GDP comes from São Paulo.
  2. Rio de Janeiro – The natural next choice (especially for those who love a busy city vibe) is Rio! It also boasts some stunning beaches and very friendly/welcoming vibes so suits almost any singleton, family or couple alike. If you work in oil, pharmaceutical, or media companies then you will easily find work in Rio, since it houses some of the biggest names in those industries from around the world.
  3. Salvador – Salvador is widely considered one of the most beautiful spots in Brazil. It has the largest international student population and is growing in popularity among other expats too. It’s far cheaper than some of the major cities in Brazil, but still retains its charm with its pastel-coloured houses and stunning ‘Upper town’ which is a UNESCO world heritage site.
  4. Florianopolis – The home to carnival, Florianopolis one of the best places to live in Brazil. With a population of half a million, Florianopolis has some of the highest living standards in Brazil as well as a variety of over 60 beautiful beaches, museums, & bars. It’s also got an ever-growing expat community – though being smaller than most cities, you’re still better off learning (at least) basic Portuguese.
  5. Porto Alegre – Located in southern Brazil, this is the country’s fourth biggest city and is perfect for expats who want a cooler climate.
  6. Brasilia – The official capital of Brazil, boasting a thriving job market and great job opportunities for foreign skilled professionals. Known for its unique modern architecture, Brasilia also has the best universities and school in the country.

How can I find accommodation in Brazil?

Local newspapers and online property portals are both great ways to find local accommodation. Using Portuguese sites, rather than English ones aimed at holidaymakers, can help you get better prices.

Can expats buy property in Brazil?

Yes, by law Brazilians and foreign nationals have almost equal rights when it comes to buying, owning and renting property in Brazil. However, restrictions may apply when buying land within 100 metres of the coast or in rural areas.

If you’re planning to rent a property, it’s worth noting that tenancy agreements are typically for 30-month periods (although this can be negotiated). Most property prices exclude utilities, and you’ll be expected to pay a month’s rent as a deposit. You will also likely need a guarantor to co-sign your agreement.

Where are the cheapest places in the world to relocate to?
We look at the best places with the lowest cost of living

Cost of living and moving to Brazil

Brazil is considerably cheaper than many western countries, which makes it such an appealing place to move as an expat. The cost of living in Brazil as an expat is more than 40% lower than the UK, with monthly costs for a single person estimated at 2,526 BRL (£392/US$468) without rent. Rental costs are, on average, 73% lower than in the UK.

Consumer costs (that is, excluding accommodation) are 98% more expensive in the USA, and 70% more expensive in the UK. That makes it a lot easier for you to enjoy eating out at a restaurant regularly or doing more of the hobbies you love.

William Russell Blog - Cost of living in brazil as an expat vs usa vs uk

What is the cost of living in Brazil vs USA and UK?

Below, we’ve outlined the cost of common big expenses in Brazil, the USA, and the UK:

Monthly cost

Brazil

USA

UK

Average net salary
US$387
US$3,700
US$1,242
Nursery/Kindergarten fees
US$272.80
US$1,038
US$1,160
Apartment price (per m2) in City Centre
US$529
US$1,376
US$4,891
Apartment price (per m2) outside of centre
US$344
US$730
US$3,714
1 bed apartment rent in city centre
US$286
US$1,679
US$1,042
1 bed apartment rent outside of centre
US$190
US$1,243
US$782

What salary can I expect as an expat in Brazil?

According to a recent salary survey most employees in Brazil earn around 8,600 BRL a month, (£1,337/US$1,596). However, salaries vary dramatically between different careers, with the highest earners averaging over 38,200 BRL in monthly salary, (£5,945/US$7,091).

Banking and finance in Brazil

The local currency in Brazil in The Brazilian Real (BRL). 1 US dollar is worth about 5.39 BRL and 1 pound sterling is worth 6.42 BRL.

Itaú Unibanco was the leading commercial bank in Brazil in 2021, followed by the Banco do Brazil. Other banks to consider are Bradesco, Caixa Econômica Federal and Santander.

Brazil’s individual income tax rates are progressive from 7.5% to 27.5%. Non-resident taxpayers are taxed only on Brazilian-earned income at a flat rate of 25%, with any rental income taxed at 15%. Income received from abroad is tax exempt.

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Healthcare in Brazil

Following two decades of dictatorship, Brazil has moved onto universal healthcare as a right for its residents.

Brazil’s public health system, The Sistema Único de Saúde (SUS), covers every person legally living in the country. However, a shortage of healthcare professionals and inadequate funding make private healthcare a popular option for foreign nationals.

Private healthcare affords its members a better level of service overall, as well as access to specialists and specialist facilities. Learn more about our private global healthcare options here.

Education in Brazil

Unfortunately, due to its past challenges, Brazil has one of the largest shares of adults who lack secondary education – and at present only 69% of 15-19 year-olds enrolled in education. Class sizes are a little high (averaging 25 students) and teachers’ salaries are low. All of this amounts to Brazil currently being ranked #32 in the world for education.

Despite all of its challenges, this landscape is changing. More online education is becoming available globally, and the government is investing heavily in improving education standards.

There is a wide range of public, private, and international schools available in Brazil. Private and International establishments are often the preferred choice for expatriates because they offer better academic results, and often align better with American and British curricula.

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Is Brazil safe for expats?

Brazil has huge inequalities between rich and poor. This can make petty crime, such as robberies and pickpocketing common, particularly in busy areas such as shopping centres or business districts.

Brazil also has a notoriously high violent crime rate compared to other expat destinations, with 59% of expats considering personal safety a potential disadvantage of moving to the country. Brazil ranks last for Safety & Security in the InterNations Quality of Life Index, with 56% of respondents rating their personal safety negatively.

LGBTQ+ communities are widely celebrated and Brazil even made same-sex marriage legal before the UK & US (2013). However, there is still deep-seated intolerance in many communities, with more transgender people murdered in Brazil than in any other country – 124 were killed in 2019.

In 2019, Brazil’s only gay congressman renounced his seat and fled the country after receiving death threats and hate mail. So whilst Brazil is nowhere near the most dangerous country for LGBTQ+ people it’s worth remaining vigilant.

Brazil is also well-known for corruption. You only need to google the term to see various bribery, drug, or money laundering scandals appear.

William Russell Blog - Moving to Brazil as an expat - how many brazillians trust their government infographic

Whilst overall crime levels are higher in Brazil, than for example the United States, casual drug use and gun crime is overall higher in the USA. Overall, in common expat destinations you’re still relatively safe.

How is the political situation in Brazil?

Brazil is a democratic multi-party republic, where the president is both head of state and head of government.

The next presidential contest will be held in October 2022, between the incumbent Jair Bolsonaro of the conservative Social Liberal Party, and former President Luiz Inácio ‘Lula’ da Silva of the Workers’ Party.

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Top tips for living in Brazil as an expat

  1. Find a job!
    Like many countries, Brazilian law dictates that companies need to prioritize nationals for any position. Two-thirds of employees should be Brazilian, or an employer may also need to prove a Brazilian cannot do the job. It’s, therefore, a lot easier to move to Brazil if you work in a specialist field. Likewise, f you’re planning to move as a student, you should find and accept your placement first. If you are planning to move here for less than 90 days then this isn’t so important as it’s easy to gain entry for short terms at the border.
  2. Apply for a VISA
    Visas don’t typically take long for a response, but the acceptance rate is not as high as many others. But it’s essential for living in Brazil, so it’s worth doing this as soon as possible (see our section about VISAs for more).
  3. Get your banking in order
    You’ll need to have your VISA in place before you can open a bank account here. There is a limited choice though, and state-imposed taxes on transactions are high. For this reason, many expats choose to use international accounts instead. If you do decide on a local account, then it’s relatively straightforward to set up an account, and some providers also offer online applications before you travel.
  4. Learn the language
    This may not seem so important if you’re only traveling for a short while, or happen to be moving to one of the larger cities. However, whether you want to impress your colleagues, integrate with your class or simply learn more about the culture, you’ll always be more welcome when locals can hear you making an effort.

The Brazil visa game: visa requirements & how to apply

Brazil expats will need to get a visa before moving to Brazil. Anyone with a criminal record will not be accepted.

Short stay visas in Brazil

Brazil is hugely welcoming to shorter stay visitors (under 90 days), and those traveling from Europe or the USA can usually enter the county for this time without the need for a visa. To qualify you must be able to prove you will be staying for less than 180 days in a full year, you have sufficient funds to return home (or a return ticket), and for your stay.

If you are on a business trip and need to stay for longer, then you must apply beforehand and you won’t be able to take up other work in Brazil during that stay.

There are also other temporary visas granted to the likes of artists, students, and volunteers which can be issued for longer periods than 90 days.

Working visas in Brazil

Working visas for expats in Brazil are usually obtained directly through an employer. Digital nomads can apply for the working holiday visa, which is valid up to year, providing they earn at least US$1,500 a month, or have a bank balance of at least US$18,000.

Temporary visas in Brazil

If you want to live and work in Brazil – you can apply for a category V visa (also referred to as VITERM). Temporary visas in category V are for those who have already signed a temporary employment contract with a Brazilian employer. These visas are valid for up to two years and can be extended. These visas are however limited to the specific position you applied for and cannot be transferred. You would not be able to remain in the country and job-hop. Whilst these VITERM Visas vary in cost, they’re typically no more than around US$400.

Permanent visas in Brazil

A permanent visa in Brazil (also known as a VIPER Visa) allows its holder to change jobs without losing residency rights. These typically cost US$150-360. To be considered for a permanent visa, the applicant needs to have a clean criminal record as well as proof they have specialist skills that benefit the Brazilian economy. Processing times vary between 5 and 30 days, and you can apply at your local embassy.

Retirement visa in Brazil

Expats looking to retire in Brazil can apply for a retirement visa, valid for up to two years. After two years, retired expats can apply for permanent residency. Brazil expats will need to show evidence of a monthly income of at least US$2,000 to qualify for a retirement visa.

Investment visa in Brazil

To apply for an investment visa, you or a company you own must be looking to invest a minimum of 150,00 BRL in local business or research activities (the amount you have to invest will depend on your investment intentions and may come with additional requirements). Brazil expats can also apply for an investment visa if looking to buy real estate in Brazil.

Your handy “moving to Brazil” checklist


We’ve provided a handy checklist for your move – use this link if you want a print-out you can add to.

  • Do you have an offer of employment?
  • Have you found a place to live?
  • If your property is unfurnished, have you found a company that can supply your home with essential furniture ahead of your arrival?
  • Have you prepaid your property deposit and any other bills?
  • Have you received your tenancy agreement as proof of address? (You will need this to do many other things like set up a bank account.)
  • Have you asked your landlord or property manager to set up your home Wi-Fi ahead of your arrival?
  • Have you calculated a budget that takes into account expenses such as rent, taxes and other bills/fees?
  • If you are migrating with children, have you arranged a place for them at a local school?
  • Have you taken out international health insurance before moving to Brazil?
  • Have you looking into other forms of health insurance to support your life in Brazil, such as life insurance and income protection?
  • Have you chosen a bank for your account and prepared the necessary paperwork?
  • Do you have all the necessary payment cards to go with your account?
  • Have you arranged to get a mobile phone with a local SIM card?
  • Have you taken out international health insurance to cover you and your family?
  • If you have already been vaccinated for COVID-19, if so, do you have evidence of your vaccine such as the batch number and manufacturer?
  • Have you applied for a visa at least 2 weeks before beginning your preparations?
  • Have you also applied for a visa for your spouse and/or family?
  • Have you checked to see if you can bring your pets (both with your landlord as well as the transport implications)?
  • Have you learned some basic Portuguese phrases to help you get by in day-to-day life?

Before you go…

Moving to another country can be challenging, but you can ensure peace of mind by making sure you have the right international health insurance.

For 30 years, we have helped expats like you move and settle into their new lives overseas, with the peace of mind of knowing their families are covered by a comprehensive and flexible health insurance policy.

Speak to us today to find out more about how international health insurance could benefit you and your family – and good luck moving to Brazil!

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