By Joe Naab
February 28, 2012

Do You Have an Income Strategy?
The most important practical” part of life, no matter where you live, is supporting yourself financially. For most of those who brave the path to start a new life in Brazil, having an income and work strategy in mind before arriving is essential. The Brazilian job market is not like the U.S. job market nor is the mindset of an American immigrant to Brazil like the mindset of a Mexican, Puerto Rican or other latin american immigrant who moves to the U.S. Americans tend to have higher expectations for income and standard of living. There are many jobs in the labor market that they simply won’t do. Further, even the better paying jobs for illegal immigrants in the U.S. aren’t available here to foreign immigrants to Brazil in the same form and compensation.

The Most Common Income Strategies for Foreigners in Brazil
I will list here and briefly explain the most common income strategies I’ve seen foreigners employ here in Brazil. This will be followed by what I think is actually the most important strategy of all – which is to first design the most inexpensive lifestyle you can to reduce the amount you need to earn.

Independent Wealth
Obviously, having oodles of money already makes living in Brazil the most fantastic thing in the world. The issue that arises here is to manage your investments well, whether you bring your money into Brazil or not. The next important issue is getting permission to stay in Brazil. For those who don’t qualify for a marriage visa or other type of permanent visa, the most likely course is to create a small business to get Brazil’s Business Investor Permanent Visa. A wealthy person may not want to run a business. That’s okay. You can create a business that invests in land, for example, buy land in the name of this business and you’ve got your permanent visa. This is how I got mine.

Working Remotely Online
The next best strategy is to work online. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be a technologist, such as a web designer or a professional blogger, etc. These are great, of course, but it can be simpler than that. Many jobs now in the U.S. economy allow for “telecommuting”, taking advantage of email, skype and other web technology to allow them to work from home. Your home can be anywhere. Today, stock brokers can live anywhere in the world, for example. Part of my work is in coaching and small business consulting. My clients all live overseas. With this strategy, think less about finding work in Brazil and more about finding something in your home country or elsewhere that you can do from anywhere in the world. Keep your earnings there and draw it out from an ATM machine here.

Live Here Half the Year and Work at Home Half the Year
I have several friends who have designed their lives such that they live and work in their home country half the year and come to live in Brazil without work the other half of the year. Some of them may do some work remotely from here. This is a great strategy.

Creating a Legal Small Business in Brazil
You can create and run a small business in Brazil and you don’t need a permanent visa to do it. You need the visa to live here more than six months out of the year. So, you can have a manager run your business while you’re away, you can gamble and stay year-round and hope you don’t get caught. The best permanent solution for this, however, is to invest the R$150,000 minimum and get your business investor’s permanent visa in the process. This business can be anything you like- a caf, restaurant, language school, real estate company, web design, construction, etc. Choose wisely. If you’ve never started a business before in your own country expect it to many times more difficult and challenging here.

Getting a Salaried Job in Brazil
Any salaried job requires either a work visa directly from that employer, or that you have a permanent visa that allows you to work, such as a marriage visa. Outside of the major international corporations in São Paulo and other metropolitan centers, the best paying jobs in Brazil are public sector jobs, and you must have a Brazilian passport to qualify (i.e. more than a permanent visa). Further, in order to qualify for a work visa, your employer will have to demonstrate that you have a specialty that requires that they employ you and not a Brazilian. These types of jobs are often lined up in advance.

I wouldn’t encourage anyone to come here thinking that they could get married real fast, get a permanent visa for it, then suddenly find a decent paying salaried job. You’d have to be exceptionally skilled at something to earn a decent wage and in that case you’d likely be an entreprenuer.

Working Under the Table
Working under the table is the career of choice (i.e. necessity) for immigrants all over the world. In order to make this work you must read the next section below to understand how reducing your cost of living can make this work. This type of work doesn’t pay well, but if it didn’t pay enough to live off of, half of Brazil would be living in the streets. Can you teach something- English, music lessons, etc.? Can you build something, such as homes or part of a home? Can you work in a restaurant or bar? People don’t tip here and the pay is very low.

I want to share a caution with teaching English. Just because you speak it, doesn’t mean you teach it well. And if you don’t teach it well you will eventually lose your students and word-of-mouth referrals. The best way to gain clients is to market like crazy, with flyers all over town. This is a double-edged sword. Any great place for you to put a flyer is a great place for a Brazilian individual or language school that offers English lessons to put their flyer. In no time at all they will see your promotion, they will not want you there competing with them, they will assume you are working illegally and they will rat you out right away. You’ll have to leave the country. I’ve seen this happen several times here. You have to be stealth about it.

It is Essential to Lower Your Cost of Living Profile
I have only a small space to touch on this here. A section of my book is devoted to this. The less you spend, the less you need to make. Can you live in a tiny apartment? Can you have roommates? Can you buy whole food at a food market and make your meals at home? Can you go without television? Can you find fun things to do that don’t involved eating out at restaurants and partying at bars? For those who don’t yet know how much money they’ll make, it’s critical to design a low cost lifestyle, and Brazil is a good place to do this.

In Closing
I hope you got some value from this article and video. Brazil is a fantastic place to live and for those with the determination to do what’s necessary to start a new life here, all is possible. Good luck to you in all you do.

Joe Naab is the author of Brazil for Life!, a how-to living guide for those who want to start a new life or have a second home in Brazil. He offers a two-hour private phone consultation for those who want more specialized information to suit their specific needs. He also coaches people through the entire expatriation process and can help those interested to obtain Brazil’s Business Investor Permanent Visa. He can be found at and reached by email at

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