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.
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.