Nearshore Americas

As Economy Grows, Brazil Still Makes It Hard on High Skilled Foreigners

Luis Rasquilha: Tied up in red tape.

By Filipe Pacheco

Luis Rasquilha and Giampiero Censori have many things in common. Both of them are European immigrants, and they both work for Brazil’s booming technology sector in São Paulo.  Luis is from Portugal and Giampiero from Italy. As the Euro Zone slipped into unprecedented crisis and countries in the region started cutting back on spending, they took flights to Brazil in an effort to jump aboard the Brazilian economic express.

Soon they realized that the Latin American country is running short of qualified professionals but getting a work visa turned out to be a daunting task. “The huge bureaucracy was definitely a problem, mostly due to the time everything takes and the amount of documents required,” says Rasquilha, CEO of AYR Consulting Worldwide, the company he co-founded.

His trouble started when immigration officials got his name wrong. As a result, he had to struggle to convince the Brazilian bureaucracy that his documents were indeed authentic. “Bureaucracy was and still is the biggest problem for me,” said Giampiero, showing visa papers he has recently received from the government.

Their cases are examples of how high-skilled laborers from around the world are streaming into a range of Brazil cities, seeking to overcome what could have been long term career interruptions back home.  And their story also shines a light on Brazil’s cumbersome labor laws and notorious red tape.

In Brazil, a work visa costs about US$ 2,500 and the paperwork takes up to eight months to be processed. According to the federal government, foreign-born professionals make up less than 1 percent (0.3%) of Brazil’s workforce. Yet in one of the most stunning ironies of all – Brazil at one time was a well known magnet for foreign laborers, giving rise to a rich hue of traditions and ethnic backgrounds, including Japanese, Italian, German, African, Chinese, Middle Eastern and – recently other Latin America countries. Foreigners accounted for 7.3 percent in 1900, when Brazil saw its economy soar to new highs attracting global attention to its domestic industry.

Changing Laws and Perspective

“It’s Giampiero with a G,” says an exasperated Mr. Censori.

Figures released by the economic consulting firm, LCA Consultores, suggests Brazil’s GDP can expand by another 0.5 percent if the economy absorbed a million more qualified workers from overseas. The consultancy firm has cited the lack of skilled labor as a key hurdle to Brazil’s economic growth. The IT segment alone is expected to run short of 90,000 professionals by the end of this year. But Brazil’s unemployment rate is also on the rise, hovering currently at 5.8 percent.

The Brazilian government is aware of the problem and is talking more seriously about overhaul its labor laws and investing to revive the country’s IT infrastructure, according to a local newspaper O Estado de S.Paulo. “Brazil has to have an immigration policy just like the developed countries,” told Wellington Moreira Franco, secretary for Strategic Issues at the Federal Government.

The new rules are likely to recognize ‘diploma degrees’ earned from foreign universities. Moreover, the proposed changes to the labor laws are likely to make getting a work visa easier and cheaper, officials say.

Increasing Foreign Laborers

However hard it is to get a work visa and launch a career, there are many foreign professionals working for different industries in cities like São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte.

Giampiero decided to emigrate to Brazil in 2011 as he found it extremely difficult to find a job in Italy. He says he writes software for a variety of companies in Brazil. Today, he is the only foreigner at a mid-size Brazilian software company where he is working. Having spent seven months working for his company, he recently went to Italy to collect his work visa from the Brazilian consulate in his native country.

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“Brazil offers a lot of opportunities, and there are perspectives of professional growth. I believe that importing talented IT professionals is a good solution for the near term. But, at the same time, it is also important to train local professionals,” he said.

Luis Rasquilha came to Brazil in 2011, and he now lives between Lisboa, Madrid, Miami and São Paulo – cities where his company has offices. But his official home is São Paulo.

“Brazil is the economic motor of South America and one of the most promising and powerful economies in the world. And the upcoming global events (the Soccer World Cup and the Olympic games) make this country unique. I love the people here, the way of life, the quality of life and the dimensions of the country, and of its opportunities,” he said.

Narayan Ammachchi

News Editor for Nearshore Americas, Narayan Ammachchi is a career journalist with a decade of experience in politics and international business. He works out of his base in the Indian Silicon City of Bangalore.

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