Update 2/5/18: I originally wrote this post in October of last year but wanted to let you guys know that the site in which US, Australian, Japanese, and Canadian Nationals can process Brazilian tourist visas online is live! This is big in terms of upping the convenience factor. The visa fee has also dropped from $160 to $40, with a $4.24 processing fee, and lasts two years as opposed to six or ten (depending on whether you get it in person in the United States or Brazil).
Travel Brazil! You won’t regret it.
As of January 2018, United States citizens will be able to acquire a Brazilian tourist visa online.
The cost looks like it will remain the same: $160 USD for a tourist visa that lasts ten years. (See update above).
What the Process Looks Like Now
In the past, applying for a Brazilian tourist visa has been a serious pain. Doing so from within the United States required you to either visit a consulate in person or pay to have it done for you by a courier–which involved acquiring various hard documents showing proof of identity, income, etc., and snail mailing them, along with your actual passport. Then you’d have to wait for your passport to come back with the tourist visa inside. My parents went through the process earlier this year and had to pay even more for expedition as the process was notoriously slow and their flight to Rio de Janeiro was impending. They probably didn’t need to have it expedited in the end, but having an impending flight without the proper documentation to enter your destination is stressful.
I applied for a Brazilian tourist visa within Argentina about five years ago, and went so far as to add an extra stop in my travel itinerary along the Brazil / Argentina border (Iguazu Falls) primarily for the purpose of acquiring the visa more efficiently. The immigrations office on the border was known for (as long as you showed up during the narrow two hour time window during the day when they’re open, with all the correct paper work) processing tourist visas much faster than the Brazilian Embassy in Buenos Aires. I did end up getting mine 24 hours after I applied for it, but have a distinct memory of a series of very stressful phone calls to my bank back in the United States from a janky toll both in the jungle to make it happen.
Long story short–it’s going to be a lot easier in the future for Americans to acquire a tourist visa to visit Brazil as you’ll be able to do it all online. I’m sure in return Brazil will see a big boost in tourism.
Miles to Use to Get to Brazil & How to Earn Them
In light of this great news (fingers crossed–let’s hope this policy is actually seen through!) I thought it would be appopriate to highlight award chart sweet spots flying between the United States and Brazil. I’ve traveled Brazil possibly more than any other country. Living alongside it (in Argentina) for five years, I’ve developed a serious affection for the stunning and culturally fascinating destination. All of the many pictures in this post are mine, from my own travels within Brazil. I hope you guys take advantage of the easing of the visa process and consider a trip in the near future!
Below are various sweet spots between the United States and Brazil, taken from the post How to Book a RTW Trip in 2017. Use These Underpriced Awards Around the World.
20,000 Alaska miles on American Airlines flights from March 1 – May 31 or August 16 – November 30 & Business Class for 50,000 Alaska miles on American Airlines flights
By traveling in American Airlines economy during the low season, you can also bring the Alaska mileage price down to 20,000. All year round you can book American Airlines Business Class for 50,000 Alaska miles. Alaska is a 1:1 transfer partner of SPG Points, but you can also earn them via Alaska’s co-branded Bank of America credit cards. Read Are the Alaska Cards Still Churnable? and New Rule When Applying for Bank of America Credit Cards before applying for Alaska Airlines credit cards.
If you have at least 45k Virgin Atlantic miles (or 45k of any the four major transferrable point types, as they all transfer 1:1 to Virgin Atlantic) then you can book a roundtrip in Delta economy. It must be roundtrip for that price, however.
I make the journey between the United States and Southern South America multiple times per year, and consistently see the most Saver Level Business Class award space (therefore bookable with partner miles) with United. Granted, I’m usually checking to Buenos Aires and not to Rio de Janeiro or another big Brazilian city, but I’d wager United has typically got the most Business Class award space to Brazil as well.
That means my #1 recommendation for getting to Brazil in Business Class is the Asiana Visa Signature credit card.
Bank of America issues the Asiana Visa Signature Card that comes with 30,000 Asiana miles after spending $3,000 on the card within three months of opening it. Read the full breakdown of the Asiana Visa Signature here.
By meeting the minimum spending requirement you’ll earn at least 33,000 Asiana miles total (30k for the bonus, 3k for 1x spend) or possibly more if you spend within the categories that earn bonuses (3x on Asiana purchases, 2x on gas station and grocery store purchases). You’ll then need to spend a maximum of $2,000 more on the card to reach a balance of 35k. Alternatively, if you’re eligible for a business card, you could open an Asiana Visa Business card and pay one $80 annual fee for 10,000 bonus points (no minimum spending requirement). Or if you have SPG Starpoints, you could transfer 2k of them to Asiana.
Regarding the 45k price for United First Class–this is bookable only for travel through April of 2018. As of May 2018, United is cutting international First Class and replacing it with Polaris Business Class.
20,000 Etihad miles on American Airlines flights from March 1 – May 31 or August 16 – November 30 & Business Class for 50,000 Etihad miles on American Airlines flights By traveling in American Airlines economy during the low season, you can bring the mileage price down to just 20,000 Etihad miles. All year round you can book American Airlines Business Class for 50,000 Etihad miles. Etihad Guest is a 1:1 transfer partner of Membership Rewards, ThankYou Points, and SPG Points. The SPG Business Amex’s 35k bonus ends tomorrow, FYI. For top Membership Reward, ThankYou Point, and SPG Point earning cards, check out our Top 10 Travel Credit Card List.
I struck through the above award suggestion since, for the moment at least, it’s pretty difficult to book an award touch the United States with Etihad miles flying American Airlines.
I am happy to learn that it should become easier, as of January of 2018, for Americans to get a Brazilian tourist visa as they will be able to process it online as opposed to having pay a courier large fees or traveling themselves to the nearest consulate. Those kind of bureaucratic barriers often frustrate people enough to keep them from even beginning the process.
I love Brazil and think everyone should visit, so I consider this excellent news.
Hat tip One Mile at a Time