Living in South America, Janisa has collected a number of tips that make it easier to be a foreigner here.
Benefits of Having a Brazilian Bank Account
Regardless of where you are, having a local bank account greatly facilitates your everyday finances, as well as larger purchases.
With a Brazilian bank account, you can deposit, withdraw and save money in the local currency, the Brazilian real. This will help you to avoid costly conversion rates that are offered by merchants and currency exchange agencies.
Brazilian banks offer a number of long and short term investment options with attractive interest rates. This can be another advantage for those who wish to diversify their investments.
A local bank account is a requirement for several major transactions that a non-resident may have interest in carrying out. You are allowed to buy property in Brazil as a tourist and in practice, owning any kind of property in the country can be used to request and receive an investor's visa. Even if you do not have all the money to invest in a home or commercial property of your choice, it is possible to take out a mortgage, even without yet having resident status in the country. The main requirements for this are having a bank account and a proof of income (explained below).
As a tourist (or an illegal immigrant, for that matter), you are allowed to rent a home, get a phone plan, take out loans and even apply for credit cards. All that is needed (and in some cases just strongly recommended) is a Brazilian bank account. Although opening one requires quite a few steps, the process is fairly straightforward and will be explained in detail below.
Brazil's Top 5 Banks
The top 5 Brazilian banks are:
- Banco do Brasil
- Caixa Economica Federal
Brazilian Identity Documents: RG and CPF
General Requirements to Open a Bank Account
This document is the Brazilian ID card. It is valid all throughout the country and is the most common method of proving one's identity. The following information is contained on this document: bearer's full name, names of both parents, ID number (RG), birthdate and place, photo, fingerprint and information on where the document was issued. For foreign residents in Brazil, the alternative is the RNE, which contains similar information.
Social Security Number (CPF)
This is the Brazilian tax number that one must have in order to get an official job, open a bank account, sign up for certain services and member clubs and to receive government benefits, if applicable.
The good news is that anyone can get a CPF. The process takes around 30 minutes and it can be done anywhere where there is a Brazilian consulate. In addition, getting a CPF, is completely free.
Proof of Residency
This document proves that one resides at the address they state they reside at. It can be a document proving that you own the residence, a copy of a lease contract of a water, electricity or phone bill. Internet bills are rarely accepted as alternatives. For those that do not have their name on any of these documents, a residency declaration is required. It is very easy to write up this document following a template and notarizing it costs somewhere between 10-20 BRL. In order for it to be valid, the residency declaration must be presented alongside a document that confirms the address of the person who declared that you live at that address.
Tax declaration form (for checquing accounts)
This document is the Brazilian version of an annual tax return form. It is required if you wish to apply for government benefits or to open a bank account. Anyone over the age of 16 with a CPF and address in Brazil may fill one out, even if you've never worked in Brazil.
Banks need to have a way to contact you in case they need to reach you regarding your bank account or to inform you that you card was delivered. Some banks also offer the option of receiving text message notifications every time your card is used. It is necessary to have a Brazilian number for this part, but local sim cards are around 10 BRL each (empty) or 20 BRL each (with some credits) and anyone can buy one.
The Only Exception
With the exception of the RG/RNE, all of the above-mentioned documents can be acquired by someone who is in Brazil as a tourist. In fact, you can even get all of them while being an illegal immigrant, since no one checks your visa/entrance stamp.
Brazilian banks, regardless of whether they are traditional or digital, in the top 5 or not, unfortunately require a Brazilian-issued identity document in order to proceed with the account opening process.
Asking for an exception is not an option, since the submitted documents are validated by the bank's system and branch employees (and even managers) have no control over it.
However, there is one bank that does not have this requirement. Bradesco allows you to use a valid passport from any country as your identity document. The rest of the requirements are the ones that were mentioned above.
Process to Open an Account in Bradesco
The process to open a bank account in Bradesco is quite straightforward after you have acquired all the required documents (which will be explained in more detail below).
- Gather all the required documents. You do not need to translate your passport, but you should be prepared to help the personal banker that will be opening the account for you in case the format of the information differs from the Brazilian formats.
- Find the Bradesco agency in the most convenient location for you. This will be your home branch. Some processes may only be done at your home branch, such as receiving cards and withdrawing large amounts of money, so this should be a branch that you will be able to go to whenever required. Your home branch does not need to be the closest branch to your declared address, but it should be in the same city.
- Go to your chosen branch during their working hours (usually 10 am to 3 pm). Try to avoid going before or after holidays/weekends as this can increase your wait time. If you do not have a good command of Portuguese, it is a good idea to take a local with you. Most bank employees know a bit of English, but since personal bankers almost exclusively deal with domestic clients, they are not required to know English, so you should either be able to get by in Portuguese and know some banking-related terms or bring a Portuguese-speaking friend.
- When you arrive at the branch, you will be prompted to take a number (senha) to join the virtual line. To open a bank account, you'll need to select "serviçõs diversos" and then "abertura de contas", take your number and wait until you are called. If you are physically disabled, older than 60, pregnant or obese, you can choose "preferencial" on the computer screen in order to get attended faster.
- When you get called, you need to hand over the documents that you prepared and decide if you want a chequings account. Savings accounts have lower monthly fees, but also offer very limited free monthly transactions and account options. In addition, if you have a savings account and you use it frequently to make and receive transfers and withdraw money, the bank may close your account, claiming that they "no longer have interest to keep you account open". A chequings account is slightly more costly per month (around 25 reais monthly at Bradesco), but with this type of account, you have a lot more opportunities.
- You'll be asked to fill in some forms during the process. These are mostly forms where you confirm that you are opening an account, the details and any extra services you may choose to acquire. All of these forms are in Portuguese and your banking assistant will fill out the majority of the paperwork. You'll just be required to sign and write the date in most cases. Nevertheless, it is a good idea to go with someone that speaks the language, just in case you have some questions and it's always a good idea to read documents before signing them.
- The entire process can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on whether or not the particular personal banker that is helping you has worked with foreigners before or not.
- You'll be prompted to choose a 6-digit code that you'll be required to use whenever you use your debit card.
- You will receive a copy of the account-opening contracts you signed at the end of the process. Your account number will be ready the next day. You will also receive a number to call the next day to receive your account information. The other option would be to go to pick it up at the branch.
- Your debit card will be sent to your declared address and should arrive in 10-15 business days. The courrier will be tasked with handing the envelope to someone at the address. If no one is there or if the resident says that the recipient of the mail does not live there, your card will be delivered to your home agency, and no questions will be asked. If you got a friend to make your residency declaration, you can ask them to receive your card for you.
- Once you get your card, you'll need to activate it at your home branch and also register your biometrics. Bradesco requires clients to register their wrist prints, which are also a requirement for withdrawing cash from a Bradesco ATM. In theory, your biometrics could replace your identity document, but many people have problems with having their wrist prints recognized by the machine, so to be on the safe side, it's a good idea to always bring your passport when you go to the bank.
- After you activate your card and register your biometrics, an employee will help you to access the Bradesco app and create a passcode for it.
- If you would also like a credit card, you'll need to use your account often for the next 3-4 months, which is the bank's evaluation process. If approved, applying for the credit card is a very straightforward process. You'll only be required to choose what day of month you want your bill to expire on. The credit card will then be delivered to your residence within 5-7 business days (or to the branch, if the first method fails). You will have a tracking number sent to you by text message, so you'll know when it's time to go pick up your card.
Getting a CPF
Getting a CPF is the easiest and fastest step in the process as it can be initiated online and completed anywhere in the world where there is a Brazilian consulate or embassy.
The first step is to fill out a form on the Receita Federal website
You can find instructions in English here. (Note: You will be required to select a country prior to proceeding to the form. You need to select the country where you will be applying for the CPF, regardless of your citizenship.)
You will need to enter your personal information, such as your name, document number, nationality, birthday, and mother's name. You also need to input your address and contact information.
The second step is to print out the completed form and bring it to your nearest Brazilian consulate or embassy
It is a good idea to contact the nearest consulate before you go, just to make sure if you need to book a time first or if they have specific hours when they offer this particular service.
When you go to the embassy/consulate, you'll need the printed out form and your passport. They may also ask for another identity document, so it's good to bring one just in case, or ask before you go.
After you hand your printed out form and documents to the employee that attends you, you'll need to wait for around 20-30 minutes. Then you will be called to take your documents back and you will receive a print out from the government website confirming your registration in the CPF program.
Like I mentioned above, this service is free.
Acquiring a Declaration of Residency
This part is a bit more complicated, since it requires knowing someone in Brazil, preferably in the city where you plan to reside. This can be a friend, relative or you can just pay someone to do this service for you. The residency declaration is something that you or the Brazilian helping you can type up yourselves.
The following is a template of a residency declaration: Residency Declaration Template
For a foreigner, a passport number can be used instead of the RG
Once that is done, you'll need to print out the declaration and the Brazilian will need to take it to a notary's office, along with their ID and their own proof of residency. The price will depend on each individual Notary office, but it won't be more than 15-20 BRL.
Doing this is completely legal and providing a proof of residency is more of a formality for banks.The personal managers that are responsible for the account-opening process know that not everyone residing in the area has a permanent address or maybe is just living with family/friends or at an airbnb, which is quite common among students or temporary workers. However, the process to open an account is done via a computer program, which requires a proof of residency to be uploaded prior to being able to continue. You can receive all your bank cards, cheque orders and other documents at your home branch and all other communications are sent by email, so you never really have to use your address for anything after you open your account.
Declaring Your Income (optional, but recommended)
The tax declaration form is only required if you wish to open a chequing account. However, if you plan to reside in a border city, the bank may require you to declare your income, regardless of the type of account you intend to open.
You can get an income declaration form even if you've never worked in Brazil before. You just need to declare yourself as self-employed. While you can complete the form on your own, it is more convenient and faster (especially if you don't know Portuguese) to get it done by an accountant or someone with experience in the area. This service can cost anywhere from 75 - 200 BRL, but at the end of the process you will have a document that is guaranteed to be accepted at Bradesco when you go to open your account. Your declaration will also contain a code that you'll be able to use the following year to facilitate the process of declaring your annual income.
The income declaration form is meant to show the bank how much money they should expect to enter your account monthly, however, you will not have any problems higher amounts, as long as they are not significantly higher than the income you declared (anything that's less than 20 times the declared monthly income is fine).
Your income declaration will not be consulted if you choose to apply for a credit card or a loan. They will instead look at your bank account to help to determine the limits that they can offer you.
If you're searching for someone to declare your income, you can visit your nearest accounting office for an estimate, or I can recommend the place that did it for me. You do not have to complete this process in person. It is also possible to receive the completed form online and then print it out. You will only need to provide your CPF, address, personal information that can be found in your passport and some contact information.
Other minor details to take care of
The whole process is quite simple and straightforward, but you should plan to stay for at least 3-4 weeks in the city where you have your residency declaration. Although the time required to receive your card is approximately 2 weeks, things can happen and you may need to request another one.
No one will go to your declared address to check if you actually reside there, but try to not make it appear too obvious that you don't actually live there. You should at least know the neighborhood/city region where your "residence" is located.
Bradesco's debit and credit cards have the Elo logo and are accepted alongside Visa and Mastercard all over Brazil. The cards are also valid abroad, but prior to traveling, you will need to submit a travel notification to unblock access to them.
Bradesco's Mobile App
Functionalities of the Bradesco App
As soon as you receive your debit card, you will also be able to access the Bradesco app, which has a number of options for your everyday banking needs. With the app, you can:
- View your current balance and past transactions
- Transfer money: You can transfer to other Bradesco accounts, accounts in other banks, prepaid cards
- Pay bills: You can pay any bill that has a barcode, such as water, electricity, internet, phone service, installments and others
- Accounts billed to your name & CPF: If you have anything that is billed to your name and CPF (such as internet, credit card installment, cellphone bill), it will automatically appear under the "Boletos registrados" tab, so you can pay it without needing to have the physical bill in front of you.
- Loans: You can consult information about loans and mortgage options and even evaluate your profile to see what loan you would be eligible for.
- Cards (Cartões): Here, you will be able to consult your credit card information, after you've received your card. It will show your limit, statements, payment options and the password for your credit card, in case you ever forget it. Here, you'll also be able to put in a travel notification and also activitate your card when you first receive it.
- Investments: Bradesco will offer you some low and high risk options to invest in, alongside all the details and the fineprint. You will be able to invest and visualize your investments directly through the app.
- Transfer money to your prepaid phone plan: Depending on the value, there is no convenience fee and the funds arrive instantly.
- Deposit cheques
- Schedule transfers
- Consult insurance options and apply for one if you wish
- Update your personal information
- Consult currency exchange rates
- View past receipts
- Request the withdrawal of large amounts of money: If you plan to withdraw more than 5 000 BRL, you have to notify the bank at least 3 days in advance
- And other functions
Thanks for Reading
I hope this article clarified any questions you may have had about opening a bank account in Brazil without having residency status. If you have any other questions or personal experiences, please share them in the comments and I'll do my best to answer them.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Janisa