So that’s why Gilliam named his movie “Brazil”.

My trip to the Brazilian consulate this morning was an exercise in frustration, and didn’t really make me feel encouraged to visit the country. I arrived with what I thought was proper documentation: My passport, filled out form, photos, vaccination, bank records and loads of cash to pay the visa fee. The pinched woman behind the glass (bullet proof glass it seemed, and after dealing with her I can understand why) asked me where I would be staying in Brazil. I told her that I didn’t know precisely, but that I hoped to visit Sao Paulo, Rio, and Salvador. She then asked to see my proof of transport into and out of the country, and I informed her that I wasn’t sure exactly when and where I would be entering the country, but that it would be near the end of November, leaving near the end of December. She then informed me that without this information, she would not even submit my visa application to be processed as it would surely be refused. Bewildered, I asked if it didn’t strain credibility just a little to think that no one ever enters Brazil without having this precise a plan? Is there no room in the bureaucracy for some leeway in planning? I am on vacation after all. She pursed her lips, said “No.”, and pushed my docs back under the glass.

So I am a little unsure of what do do now. I can probably come up with an address of a friend in Brazil to fill out the “where are you staying” part of the application. But the ticket in/out is a little harder. It would mean that I would have to make a decision about those dates exactly right now, which I am loathe to do. I realize that part of the reason this exchange had me somewhat annoyed is that it touches on one of the things I find problematic with modern life: The obsession with planning and precision. It sucks most of the joy out of life, especially when related to travel. It leaves nothing to chance or the imagination, and is the sterilized, pre-packaged world we increasingly live in. This world is increasingly estranged from the possibility of appreciating a changing and organic life experience.


  1. Daniel says:

    Steph, I can help you with the address and etc…
    Brazil is just doing the same that the US Embassy does with us: you wait 2 months for an interview, long lines, they ask every single details of your life, paycheck, exact dates of travel, employee, prove of all the information, air tickets and etc, etc, etc…
    The address is easy, but buy a ticket that you can change a date later…..
    Talk to you later…

  2. Stephen says:

    Dan, two wrongs do not make a right. But thanks for any help you can give me :)

  3. john mims says:

    I warned you about Brasil. Hopefully it all works out and you have a much better time there than I did. JM

  4. Mom says:

    “Changing” and “organic” are unknown terms in bureaucracy-land.

  5. Gabe says:

    Uh, dudes (Daniel included) – let’s not jump to conclusions.

    The vast majority of countries require that you have proof of a return journey on request. You may not be cognizant of this because you don’t get stopped when you cross the border into France or Canada, but even those countries have that requirement on entry (and you can be refused entry if a border official chose to ask for your itinerary). It is a *basic* and *elemental* part of travel that you should expect to prove an onward connection, and you should never travel anywhere without carrying some proof of that.

    You can even book a fully refundable ticket, print out the itinerary, and then return it after you’ve got your visa or have arrived in country….for example. :)

    Now, on the specific issue – the address is no biggie, Stephen – don’t get hung up on details. :) Just put down the address of the Sheraton in Rio and be done with it. They don’t care – it’s just a formality (and also required by every country, pretty much).

  6. Daniel says:

    Gabe is right, you show up there without the basic information. I was not trying to say that because the US Embassy ask us so many things and make us wait months, that gives the Brazilian Embassy the right to do the same. But usually if one country asks some visa requirements to another country, this other country has the right to ask for the same. But, if you bring the right documents, you should not have any problem. It is not a big deal.

  7. Juan Carlos says:

    Welcome to Ineedavisa.com to travel around the world!
    good luck and don´t give up

  8. Stephen says:

    Hey kids, I already did show up without the basic info and was turned away, remember? And hey, this is far from my first time at the rodeo. I am well aware of what the “basic” or “elemental” requirements are, yet have still never been denied a visa on this basis. I am really not worried about the address, that is the easy part. But Gabe, those of us not traveling in Business Elite™ class have a harder time getting a %100 refundable ticket, fyi. Again, not the end of the world, I will just have to bite the bullet and get a ticket and hope I don’t get screwed too much when/if I have to change it. This is far from the most difficult thing in my travels, sorry if my post made it appear thus. Just a small PITA, nothing more.

  9. Gabe says:

    Stephen, what I’m advocating that you do is buy a *fake* refundable ticket. :) Fake, as in *not a ticket you plan to use*, but you will need to put forward the money on your credit card for at least a few weeks. :) Simply issue the ticket for a future date. Make a copy of your itinerary. Keep the itinerary live until after you’ve entered the country. Then cancel the ticket completely. As in, you never use it. Make sense? :)

    Make sure the date on the ticket is within the timeframe allowed for max stay by the country you’re entering. Also, make sure you are issuing a fully refundable ticket (usually, checking the box on the orbitz website/checking the fare rules should do it).

    And, FWIW, I rarely fly BusinessElite. Friends don’t let friends fly Delta. :)

  10. Walter says:

    Judging a country of 188 mn by the behaviour of 1 bureaucrat is a bit of a stretch, don’t u think? I was almost deported from the US because a custom halfwit official (this was in the Miami Airport – the officer’s badge reveal a Latino background, and I think he wanted to make an Argie sweat for a bit).

    Gillian’s allusion to Brazil is, I think, quite the opposite: a land of lush environment, with people that seem to be less constrained by social mores, and in general very happy. I hope you’ll have that experience too when u go there.

  11. Stephen says:

    Sarcasm is hard to make come through in a blog post apparently…

  12. Ricardo says:

    Hey Stephen. As some people have already pointed out, this are the usual policies regarding visas anywhere in the world. And this policies have been mostly implemented by the US. Also, shall I add, is in US (and European) embassies where you find the most obtuse bureaucrats ever.
    Anyway, may I suggest that you don’t even buy a ticket. As I have learned from this policies, they don’t require the actual ticket, but a reservation of it, as nobody with some common sense would actually buy a ticket if he/she doesn’t really know if he will get the visa. What we do, here in Peru, is go to a travel agency and ask for a complete tour reservation (accomodations included), print it and then ask for the visa. Once you have it, you cancel your reservation, and that’s it. You are set for the trip, the satori way.
    Good luck with the paperwork!

  13. Running says:

    Felt ‘Sudaca’?
    Welcome to our world!