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Saturday, January 07, 2012

Let’s Welcome Visitors From Brazil

Harry's Note - Glenn Cooper wrote this in the Tallahassee Democrat today. Lulu and I went to Brazil in November 2011. A visa to enter Brazil cost us $150 each. When I asked why - they said the USA charges them - so they charge us. he only other country I have paid to enter is Cuba. In 2001 - according to our country - we sneaked into Cuba. Cuba said we were welcome if we just paid for a $20 entry stamp - and spent a couple hundred dollars there. Brazil is a booming country - it is rich and growing richer every year by 6%. It is time to treat them as partners.

People from Brazil are eager to visit Florida and the U.S., but we’re not making things easy for them. It’s time that we did.

More than a mil­lion Brazil­ians visited Florida in 2010, and they spent about $1.4 billion while they were here. That puts Brazilians very high on the fans-of-Florida list. For example, the United King­dom sent 1.3 million peo­ple to the Sunshine State in that same year, but the Brits spent only about half the money that the Brazil­ians left behind in Florida.

We shouldn’t for­get about our very best friends, the Canadians.

Canada sends more visi­tors to Florida than any other country, and Canadi­ans spend more than any other foreign visitors, as well.) But here’s an important factor to keep in mind: If
the U.S. government would make a relatively simple and easy adjustment to its policies, the number of Brazilians coming here to visit would expand sig­nificantly. The U.S. would benefit from that change.

Brazil would benefit. And Florida would see an almost immediate and dra­matic increase in visitors from that country.

The change involves visa requirements.

People now living in 36 foreign lands can visit the U.S. without having to obtain visas. Unfortunate­ly, we have not extended that privilege to Brazil­ians. (Brazil also requires visas when Americans vis­it their country. That poli­cy needs to be changed, as well.) The U.S. maintains only four consulates in Brazil, a country roughly the same geographic size as the U.S. If you are a Brazilian who wants to visit the U.S., you must visit one of those consulates, a requirement that may involve travel­ing many miles. Also, you must make an appoint­ment
to visit the consulate, and the waiting period can exceed 100 days. For some Brazilians, this lengthy, expensive and difficult process is simply too much; it prevents many Brazilians from realizing their dream of a visit to the U.S.

Dropping the visa requirement by provid­ing a visa waiver to Brazil could double the number of Brazilian tourists who come here, Florida tour­ism officials estimate.

That could mean an addi­tional $1 billion in spend­ing by Brazilian visitors in Florida, money the Flor­ida economy desperately needs.

The visa issue doesn’t apply only to tourists.

Brazil’s economy has been expanding at a rapid rate for the past 10 years.

It is a major trading part­ner for both the U.S. and the state of Florida.

Here are some econom­ic facts:

Brazil is the largest economy in South Ameri­ca, in the world.

and the seventh-largest

Brazil’s total trade with the U.S. in 2010 totaled $59 billion; $13.9 billion of that was with South Florida.

South Florida is the home of 15 Brazilian mul­tinational companies, including Odebrecht Con­struction, Banco do Bra­sil, and Embraer Aircraft Holdings.

The Port of Miami serves 14 Brazilian ports, and Miami International Airport offers flights to and from six Brazilian cit­ies.

Some Americans may feel a sense of discomfort over Brazil’s increasing power and influence. But the U.S. would be better able to influence Brazil­ian policies if the econom­ic and social relationship between the two countries were stronger, something that a visa waiver could bring about. Since Brazil holds about $160 billion in U.S. bonds, it is very inter­ested in America’s future financial health.

Glenn Cooper is a part­ner with the statewide law firm of Fowler White Boggs, P.A.. His practice focuses on assisting foreign companies and investors with the legal and immigration aspects of establishing and maintain­ing business and investment in Florida.

to Brazil early in 2011 for discussions with Bra­zilian President Dilma Rousseff. This past fall, Florida Gov. Rick Scott led a weeklong, 200-person trade mission to Brazil.

While these gestures were important, we won’t be successful if we ask people to do business with us and invest in our coun­try while putting obsta­cles in their path. Remov­ing the visa barrier would stimulate visitors to our country, would encourage Brazilian trade and invest­ment in Florida, and would send a strong signal that the U.S. values its relation­ship with Brazil.

Best of all, it wouldn’t
cost us a dime.

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