Adventures of a foreigner in the south of Brazil.

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Brazilian immigration extortion racket

"Dear mother, I am writing from an unknown destination in the country.." Ha! Don't I wish I were! In fact, I am writing from Guarulhos airport in São Paulo, where I found out about an entirely new get-rich-quick scheme perpetuated by the Brazilian government.

So....there I am, trying to pass through immigrations. Passport and Visa are OK, and the registration stamp from the Federal Police is also in there. I fulfil all requirements to be legally in Brazil. However, there is a protocol slip you get when registering with the Feds, a temporary replacement for the RNE (Registro Nacional de Extrangeiros) that I also need for entering. And this is where it gets ridiculous. Neither RNE nor the protocol carry any additional information. My visa and the RNE are linked to my passport number, and the passport clearly shows that all required registrations are done. This requirement is idiotic. The equivalent would be to require passport and identity card in European countries. I am legal, visibly so, and I only need an entry stamp.

So now I am told to wait, together with two fellow sufferers who made the same mistake of leaving the protocol in the country when they left. Then an official appears, takes our passports and tells us to wait some more. When he reappears after a while he carries a stack of declarations and bank transfers. I now have the very same entry stamp in my passport, only the privilege costs 165,55R$, due within the next five days. So for a couple of minutes of work the government made almost 500R$ on the three of us. For nothing. Not shabby at all! The monthly minimum wage is around 300R$. And to add insult to injury they cannot even be honest about it and make it a round sum like 100R$, but instead try to make it appear that there was a real value incurred in this, or some real transaction costs, which somebody has carefully calculated. 55 cents, I ask you!

It's a money-making scam, no less. Motto: "Because we can." Considering that a lot of foreigners who live here are likely to walk into that trap at least once it should be quite lucrative.

As it happens I do right this moment have some creative ideas for a new motto on the Brazilian flag which I'm willing to sell to the government for lots of money.