Historically Brazil has been a country of destination, influenced by successive waves of immigrants. Some early initiatives as Decree No. 80 (1824) and governmental programs providing grants for the travel costs of immigrants promoted the growth of communities of European migrants. The abolition of slavery in 1888 led the economy to experience a labor shortage, particularly felt in the coffee plantations. The legal response was Decree No. 528 (1890) which regulated the entrance of immigrants to Brazil, favoring Europeans. Brazil’s main countries of origin at the end of the 19th century were Portugal, Italy, Spain and Germany.

In the early years of the 20th century immigration continued to be intense, and Japanese migration started. However, the 1929 economic crisis was sharply felt, particularly, in the Brazilian coffee industry and the consequent unemployment led to the introduction of tighter restrictions on immigration. Decree No. 19482 (1930) suspended all immigration for one year and the Quotas Law established in the Constitution of 1934 and reinforced in 1937 limited annual immigration from any individual country to 2% of the average level over the previous 50 years. The period extending from the end of World War II to the end of the 1970s saw significant economic growth. Immigration policies again became more flexible, but still privileged Europeans. At the same time, under the government of Getúlio Vargas (1930-45 and 1951-54), migrants were encouraged to assimilate into Brazilian culture with the objective of building a single Brazilian identity.

At present, Brazil is an attractive destination for Latin Americans from various socio-economic and educational backgrounds, particularly following the creation of Mercosur in 1991. Immigration in Brazil is currently regulated by Law No. 6815 (1980) and Decree No. 86715 (1981), which establish the National Immigration Council as the agency responsible for implementing migration policy and issuing visas and work permits. More recent measures have prioritized entry permits for those who have attended at least secondary education.

The last three decades have seen Brazil move from being a country of destination to one of origin. The economic crises in the 1980s and 1990s were factors in this. The most recent census counted more than 670,000 Brazilians living abroad, but official figures from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs estimate the total number at more than 2 million in 2008. Their main destinations are the United States, Japan and Paraguay, and to a lesser extent the countries of the European Union.

Stock of Brazilians in the US

The United States are among Brazil’s favorite destinations, sheltering between 800,000 and 1.3 million immigrants, according to data from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They are mostly in the East Coast of the country, have a high educational attainment when compared to other immigrant communities, and actively participate in the US economy, showing low unemployment rate.

These data resulted from years of research by Brazilians Álvaro Lima and Allani Barbosa de Castro, culminating in the recently released book “Brazilians in the United States – Half a Century (re) Making America (1960 – 2010)”, published by Alexandre de Gusmão Foundation and available for free download at: http://funag.gov.br/index.php/en/ (in Portuguese).

In the Book, Lima and Allani analyze the evolution of the Brazilian community in the United States since 1960s, showing through graphs and statistics the changes in the profile of the Brazilian immigrant, its achievements and the current challenges.

The authors highlight several interesting findings, among them:

• 67% of Brazilians immigrated in search of a better life or a new beginning
• 37% of Brazilians in the United States are naturalized
• The level of unemployment of Brazilian immigrants is lower than that of other immigrants and natives
• 44% of Brazilian landlords and 50% of tenants have housing cost that exceeds 30% of their income
• 41% of Brazilian immigrants in the United States own their homes
• Brazilian immigrants in the United States sent US$ 2.9 billion to Brazil in 2015
• 36% of Brazilian immigrant entrepreneurs reside in Florida

The research shows that Brazilians in the U.S. are part of a middle class that has gained social e economic power and are now in search of political integration. These immigrants are here to stay, build families, businesses and entire communities.

Source: With OECD

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