Author: Thais Olsen

Beginning June 17, U.S., Canadian, Australian and Japanese citizens can spend 90 days in Brazil from their date of entry, Brazil Tourism said in a statement. They can extend their stay for 90 more days, not to exceed 180 days in a year.

1) “I AM AN AMERICAN CITIZEN!”

Most Americans do not know they need a visa to enter South American countries. For this reason, they literally leave the check-in queue from the airport and Uber to the Consulate. There, they get understandably annoyed when they are not received on the spot. The Consulate can not pass them in front of the queue and they leave irritated, as if it were the fault of the Consulate. The real culprit: the Airline! Fight with them if you want to fight somebody.

2) “WHY A MONEY ORDER?”

This is the second thing we hear the most in Consulates in the U.S. The reason is that dealing with money is actually forbidden for corruption reasons and also for standard practices. Some Consulates use a machine that can only read a certain type of money order.

3) “CAN I PAY FOR AN EMERGENCY FEE?”

It is known that several consulates allow the payment of “emergency fees”. This is not the case with some others and it is a cause frustration on both sides. It would be much better for the staff of the Consulate if there were a “preferred queue.” Believe me!

4) “WHY NOT IN THE AFTERNOON HOURS?” 

Consulates operate in different manner and times. Even Consulates from the same country will have different schedules in other U.S. cities. One thing is certain: they cannot be opened all day long to receive visa requests; at some point, they will have to close to do the real processing of the visa, which takes some time, especially now with all the security features. Usually, you submit in the morning and pick up in the afternoon of another day (and that can be the following week).

5) “MY PASSPORT WILL BE IN THE CONSULATE FOR A WEEK?” 

Yes. Some countries will even mail it somewhere else for a visa approval office. That’s how it works. Just be confident in the USPS Mail system. If you have to be in a different country during that week, it is a good idea to invest in a second passport.

6) “I AM DOING BUSINESS AND INVESTING A LOT THERE. SHOULDN’T I HAVE A DIFFERENT TREATMENT?” 

Yes, you should, but, in real life, it is not always what happens… In years of working in consulates, I realized that the more “normal” is your submission, the faster you get your visa. It is a production line: 400, 500 per day. The “special” ones are usually off-track, and it can be perceived by the agents as someone was bribed… So, be careful! And, please, please, do not brag at the window!

7) “I WANT TO STUDY AND DO TOURISM”

This is possible with a Student Visa. Not the other way around: Tourist visas are for Tourists ONLY. No studying, no working, no mentoring, no helping, no volunteering, no anything that is not pure tourism.

8) “CAN I MAIL MY PAPERS?” 

Usually, NO! Read the website, please, and be sure your passport will not get lost forever.

9) “I DON’T HAVE A COMPUTER. IS THERE A FORM I CAN FILL OUT?” 

Use your phone, borrow a computer. It’s the XXI century. Keep up.

10) “WHY DOES IT TAKE SO LONG? ISN’T IT JUST A LABEL?”

Yes, it is. But to produce that label, with the utmost security, there is a protocol to be followed, and that takes time.

In sum, PLEASE READ THE INSTRUCTIONS ON THE WEBSITE BEFORE going to a Consulate. They are there for a single reason — there is not enough personnel to provide them live and in color, as we would all like it to be.

Thais Olsen spent her career serving in Vice Consul positions, including over visas, for various Brazilian consulates in the U.S. and abroad.  She recently retired.