According to official statistics, after four consecutive years of increase, the number of Brazilians living in Portugal reached its all-time high in 2020, with 183,993 inhabitants. An already expressive figure – it represents nearly 28% of all foreigners in the country – but it is still quite under-represented.
Indeed, the official data of the SEF (Foreigners and Borders Service) do not count as Brazilians those who have dual nationality in Portugal or in another of the 26 countries of the European Union. Those who are in an irregular migratory situation are also excluded.
According to Itamaraty, consular offices are working with an estimate that the Brazilian community in Portugal numbers around 300,000 people. In other words: 63% more than what the statistics indicate.
However, associations supporting the immigrant community estimate that this number could be even higher, reaching double the official figure.
“Three hundred thousand is the minimum. If we think of all the people waiting for the expression of interest talks [primeira etapa de regularização para quem não entrou com o visto adequado], in addition to the people who have not yet been able to enter the process, plus all those who have already acquired the nationality, we see how much the community is bigger ”, evaluates Cyntia de Paula, president of Casa do Brasil in Lisbon.
According to her, in recent years, the profile of Brazilians who choose to live in the country has become increasingly diverse: from students and businessmen to less educated professionals.
At the head of the Lisboa consultancy in Beça, which helps Brazilians move and buy real estate in Portugal, Cariocas Flávia Motta and Leonardo Mesquita, who have dual Portuguese nationality, are part of this “invisible group” of statistics .
“In everyday practice, it doesn’t make any difference to have citizenship, because we open our mouths and are already seen as Brazilian. It is really a bureaucratic facilitation, because we are not going through a series of problems and challenges for those who need to manage residence permits ”, assesses the businesswoman.
Granddaughter of Portuguese, she arrived in the country with dual nationality and, therefore, was never detected by the official Brazilian count. Leonardo has already appeared in statistics for a short time, while his naturalization has not come out.
“Among our customers, 70% have Portuguese or European nationality, so they also arrive without counting the Brazilians here”, adds Leonardo.
Since 2006, Portugal has promoted a series of changes that facilitate access to citizenship in the country. Among them are the granting of nationality to the grandchildren of Portuguese and the reduction of the residence time for naturalization, which is now five years.
Although obtaining citizenship does not necessarily mean living in Portugal, the numbers still show a growing interest of Brazilians in the Portuguese passport. According to data from the Ministry of Justice, between 2010 and early 2018, more than 220,000 Brazilians obtained dual citizenship.
According to a report by Eurostat (statistical agency of the European Union), in 2019 Portugal had the third highest annual naturalization rate – number of naturalizations per 100 regular foreigners – among the states of the bloc: 4.4%.
Sweden (6.9%) and Romania (4.7%) lead the list.
The authorities also draw attention to the number of Brazilian citizens with Italian passports in Portugal.
According to a 2019 SEF report, around 29.5% of Italian residents were Brazilians.
Rio de Janeiro lawyer Roberta Dupin, 32, is one of those who goes into the statistics as an Italian. In Portugal since 2017, she came to do a master’s degree and ended up deciding to live permanently in the country.
“I don’t know if having European nationality was decisive for me to live here, but it made it much easier for me. For the master’s degree, I didn’t have to worry about the visa, and not even later when I started working, ”he says.
She says she loves living in Portugal, but says the move has had some challenges as well, especially professionally.
“When we leave the big centers of Brazil, like São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, we have a lot of career expectations. Here the reality is different, there is a transition to a very different market. For some people this can be frustrating. “
The question of professional integration is precisely one of the main criticisms of Brazilians in Portugal. The subject is a ground for complaints among those who are regularized or have European nationality, but it takes on even more serious contours for people waiting for a residence permit.
A publicist specializing in digital marketing, Luiza Mendes, from Santa Catarina, has been waiting for the regularization process for more than two years. Although the document does not come out, she says she feels vulnerable to exploitation in the labor market.
“Fortunately, I am in great company now, but I have suffered a lot. I have the impression that there is still a strong discrimination with those who graduated in Brazil and had experiences in the Brazilian market. It’s as if the value of our experiences is less, ”he says.
Unlike many European countries, Portugal has a relatively straightforward system of regularizing people who have entered the country as tourists, but who stay to live and work without the appropriate visa.
However, the large number of requests means that people wait a long time for their file to be analyzed by the Foreigners and Borders Service. During this period, they continue to pay all taxes and Social Security contributions, even with more restrictive possibilities to receive benefits.
Although cases of deportation are rare, living in Portugal without proper papers often means being in a situation of greater social and professional vulnerability and having very restricted freedom of movement.
Due to the pandemic, Portugal decided to temporarily regularize all foreigners who had pending legalization requests with the SEF. The aim was to guarantee immigrants’ access to the health system and to the Covid-19 vaccine.
Around 223,000 foreigners have already benefited from it, which already makes it possible to realize the potential size of the undocumented community. Data by country has yet to be released, but Brazilians have been the nationality most affected.
The pandemic further weakened the already slow regularization system with the SEF, which even interrupted consultations and interviews for more than a month due to the deterioration of the epidemiological situation in Portugal.
Although the agency has digitized several processes and instituted the renewal of residence permits directly on the Internet, the news is failing to keep up with the increase in demand.
At the moment, the programming system with the SEF is halted due to a lack of vacancies across the country. In addition to the delay, immigrants also complain about the capture of vacancies by lawyers and brokers specializing in reselling reservations.
To denounce the situation, immigrants even staged a protest in central Lisbon in July, marching through the streets until they reached Parliament.
As the entry of Brazilian tourists has been prohibited in Portugal since March 2020 – only trips classified as essential are allowed, for those who have nationality or legal residence, in addition to a few exceptions – the demand on the migratory body is still caused by the pre. -pandemic.
“I bet when Portugal reopens its doors to tourists we will have a huge damn finish. People are always eager to move here, especially given the gravity of the situation in Brazil. Every day we receive emails and contacts from people asking for the reopening, ”explains Cyntia de Paula, from Casa do Brasil.
In Cyntia’s opinion – herself excluded from the immigrant count because she already has Portuguese nationality – the underestimation of data on the size of the community can have consequences in terms of public policies, which would be formulated without considering the real scale of the issues involving Brazilians.
“Brazilians have very similar problems to the rest of the resident population, but we also experience very specific things. There are prejudices, jokes, linguistic discrimination. If politicians consider that the community is much smaller than its actual size, they may not feel encouraged to address these issues. ”
The historical and cultural ties and the common language make Portugal and Brazil have a frequent exchange of people. It is customary to divide Brazilian migrations to the European country into four waves.
The first, in the 1980s and mid-1990s, featured liberal professionals, with many advertisers and dentists.
The second, much larger, took place in the early 2000s and included many less specialized professionals. The period coincides with the tightening of entry measures in the United States.
The third, even stronger wave dates from the mid-2000s, with a focus on workers and the start of a steady influx of students. The serious economic crisis that the country is going through, which had to ask for an international rescue plan in 2011, has increased unemployment and reduced attractiveness for Brazilians. With Brazil in good economic times, many immigrants have also returned.
In 2015, the scenario was reversed. With Brazil in a scenario of political and economic deterioration, and Portugal in marked warming, the country has again recorded an increase in the Brazilian population.
Changes in the law on access to higher education made it easier for foreign students to enter Portuguese universities, which began to see enormous potential in the Brazilian market.
Since 2014, it is even possible to use the Enem (national high school exam) as a form of admission. Currently, around fifty Portuguese institutions accept the Brazilian test.
In addition to students, the most recent wave of migration includes many liberal professionals who came in search of security and a better quality of life.
The fourth safest country in the world, according to the latest edition of the Global Peace Index, Portugal generally puts safety first as one of its attractions for new residents.
With an aging population and one of the lowest birth rates in Europe, the country is making immigration an important factor in reducing the impact of demographic decline.
Although there have never been as many foreigners as there are today, the influx was not enough to prevent the population from declining by 2% over the decade, according to the 2021 census. recently released.