I have this bad habit of taking things down to the wire. For this trip, my housing was up in the air for a little bit because everything was booked. Once it opened up, I had about two weeks to get everything in motion. I had no problem booking tickets and getting my accommodations taken care of. I’ve done plenty of planning as far as familiarizing myself with the area via maps, studying some Portuguese, and putting together my packing list. I was feeling really prepared, which could only mean one thing. Something is about to go wrong.

As I mentioned in another post, you have to have both your passport and a visa from the Brazilian consulate to enter Brazil. It’s supposed to be a simple process, but of course with me nothing ever goes smoothly. I get together all the necessary documents (or so I thought), and head downtown Chicago to the Brazilian consulate. On the site, it does mention that you need an invitation letter or your bank statement if you’re staying more than 30 days. From everyone I’ve talked to, I’ve not heard of one person who was asked for this letter. Well, that is until I went there myself.

So here I am, on a Tuesday, needing my paperwork accepted by Thursday to make my flight, and I have nothing to meet this requirement. I go to the bank and get a bank statement, but the consulate doesn’t feel that I have enough money to live off of for three months. This is after I plainly show them one transaction that was actually all of my accommodations for the trip paid up front. Their answer was “we don’t know that it’s your accommodations”. I have to say that I do understand they are allowing me to come into their country, and it’s not a right. They were just upholding their standards and I get that. It was still frustrating though.

I took the next two days to get a ton of paperwork. I get confirmation of funds that are being put into my account, the actual receipt for my accommodations, and a few other things. I come back Thursday, bombard them with paperwork, and I’m approved. I will make my flight this Thursday, but not without one more trip to the consulate to get my visa. So to avoid all the troubles that I had with this process, I’m going to lay out the steps that I took to get my visa approved.

1. Find your consulate online. There are different consulates for different areas of the country. I went through the Chicago office.

2. Do the online application. At the end of the application, make sure that you print out the application confirmation to take with you.

3. Print out your itinerary. You have to have your flight before you apply for your visa or they will not approve you. This makes it really hard because if you’re turned away for any reason you may miss your flight. Make sure you give yourself ample time between applying and flying out.

4. You will also need a 2 x 2 picture, similar to the one on your passport. They are pretty specific on the website about this. I just went to the post office and had them take a passport photo.

5. You will have to have your passport before you apply for the visa. You will need to leave the passport with the consulate so they can add the visa page to it.

6. If you are staying more than 30 days, you MAY need an invitation letter or bank statement. I say MAY because one person who has been helping people come down there since 2003 has never had anyone asked for this letter. I would get it just to be safe. If you’re less than 30 days it’s not necessary.

7. There is a fee of $140 for your visa. This has to be paid for with a USPS money order. You can pick that up at the post office when you get your passport picture.

8. The last step is getting all of this to the consulate. You can mail the documents in but be aware that takes extra time. If the consulate is close and you go in person, you can get your visa in 3-4 business days. For other time frames, check on the consulate’s website.

One last thing I’ll mention is that there are agencies out there that can help you apply for your visa. I did contact one company after my initial problems, and they said they could get it “expedited” for me in four days. Well, doing it myself, I’m actually getting it back in three. Also, for this “expedited” service they wanted me to pay $600 instead of $140. My advice is to do this all on your own. Hopefully this guide can help anyone looking to get their visa. Feel free to ask any questions. I’ll try to help as much as possible. My next update should be from the hotel waiting to leave!

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