On Being Caught By The Federal Police

In early May, I arrived in Brazil for the 5th time since 1998. I prefer to believe that every ticket is really one-way only but I know that’s not the way things work. This is my 3rd time actually living in Brazil (and by “living”, I mean staying the length of my tourist visa).

The nitty-gritty, though, is that I accidentally overstayed my tourist visa by 2 days the last time around. Since tourist visas are good for 90 days at a time, I absent-mindedly converted that time into 3 months and forgot about the actual days, which is what really matters. Upon leaving Brazil, I was caught at the airport by the Federal Police and had to promise to either pay the fine of R$8/day for each day I overstayed or pay upon my next trip to Brazil.

By the way, “being caught” generally involves signing a promissory note either by entering the airport office of the Federal Police or by signing at the general entry/exit window.

Not wanting to leave the secure part of the airport I was already in so that I could find a bank and pay the R$16 fine, I decided on the “pay later” option. After all, who really is going to care about what amounts to US$8 anyways? Well, the Brazilian government does, apparently.

One week before returning to Brazil, I contacted the Brazilian embassy in Washington DC to make sure I wouldn’t run into any kind of problem upon reentering the country and, in so many words, they assured me it wouldn’t be a problem at all. It seems they hadn’t been introduced to the Federal Police officer I met last Friday at 8PM who, by the way, threatened me for over an hour with the prospect of sending “the gringo” back on the very next return flight to the US.

His main argument was that, first, I shouldn’t have overstayed at all and, second, that I shouldn’t have booked a flight that arrives after-hours when everyone has gone home for the day. While I agree in principle, I hardly see how I should pay US$1400 in airplane costs to make up for US$8 in fines that could have been easily solved when I returned for my connecting flight the next morning. Where was the famous jeitinho that I had heard so much about?

Of course, I had the measly fine in dollars in my pocket but what was needed was Brazilian currency and a receipt that it was deposited in a nearby ATM in order for me to be allowed officially into the country. After an hour in the hot-seat, a TAM airlines baggage employee named Hugo happened to wander into the office and overheard my state of affairs. Upon being filled in, he very kindly offered to pay my fine out of his own pocket, even though he was just about to clock-out after a long day at work. All I had to do was to promise to pay him back.

At that moment, the under-the-table and often illicit jeitinho went out the proverbial window and I found myself saved by a simple act of kindness from a total stranger. When he came back with the required receipt, I thanked him profusely and he told me, “it was nothing, don’t worry about it”, after which he let me know who to give the money to once I exchanged my dollars on the outside.

Little did Hugo know, for some odd reason, I ran into every problem conceivable when trying to plan this latest trip. Any and every roadblock a person can run into, I ran into it. Being sent right back after finally stepping foot in Brazil would have been the last straw and I don’t know how I would have handled it. He definitely colored my return in the right light and I owe every experience this time around to him.

Welcome to Brazil.

Originally written for Street Smart Brazil


14 thoughts on “On Being Caught By The Federal Police

  1. Hey Adam,
    Wow, what an ordeal. I always wondered how bad would it be if I were to do that and overstayed. Which is why I was thinking of calculating 85 days or so, just to be on the safe side. But it’s good to know what to expect & I realize…humans are humans, and this jeitinho or any type of compassion is based on personality not limited to a specific group of people, at least it’s not consistent.

    • The reality is I overstayed once in 2005 also, though that time was intentional since I was searching for legal ways to stay. Yes, I was with the idea that I needed to overstay to have the extra time to find a way to stay legally. Sounds off in some way, right? It’s interesting the idea that someone who loves Brazil can disrespect its laws by overstaying and it’s a line I walked.

  2. dude, you totally lucked-out. many of these PF (ou qual quer de farda), are just insane. they don;t know the rules – actually no one does, because the various ministries do_not communicate w/ea other. your jeitiinho, assuming it would have been a “cafe,” would have probably doomed your fate unless it was like R500. lesson: always travel with reais at the ready!

  3. Adam, I feel your pain! As the expiration date of my 3 month tourist visa approached, my Brazilian girlfriend and I decided to go for the 3 month extension. It involved driving to the international airport (way out of town) at 5am and waiting for 6 hours to be seen. It was a tedious and stressful experience. When asking about how we should proceed when the next deadline approached, the PF guy said “You won’t be allowed to return for 6 months. Why don’t you get married?” – we did! :)

  4. i need help where do i pay my fine iam in boston and fllying to Belo thursday can i pay it here or do i bring the paper and brazilian money with me to brazil?? what do i do????

    • I’m guessing you overstayed in Brazil on a previous trip and now wish to pay the fine you didn’t pay upon leaving Brazil. If so, then you can pay the fine when you get to Brazil, in the airport, with the Federal Police. Yes, you’d pay that in Brazilian currency.

  5. I overstayed by 3months (stayed 9months total), left the country, and now plan to return after 5 months of being out. I heard from PF that I can enter one year from my first entry date. Do you know anyone that returned without waiting the 6month or 1 yr period? I have heard so many different rules that I dont know what is true!

    • I believe the PF is correct since you can only stay 180 days total per year (with the year starting on the day you arrive in Brazil). If you already stayed 6 months (and then some), you won’t be let back in until one year after you first entered. The question that remains is did your 3 month overstay make it so that you can only return 6 months after you left Brazil. Personally, I think it goes off of the day you arrived in Brazil, meaning I’d wait it out one more month so that you have 6 months of being out of Brazil. If not, you risk being deported.

      • Thanks for the quick reply. If I was banned for 6months after I left, would they have told me or stamped it somewhere? Nothing was said nor is it said when the PF looks up my passport # (just says I overstayed & have a fine to pay).
        I know its foolish to not wait 3 weeks, but my long distance relationship is falling apart!

      • No problem. I mean, I’m just saying it’s possibly a 1,300+ dollar mistake (as that’s the cheapest that tickets between the US and Brazil are going for last time I checked). Since I’ve never dealt with trying to enter before the legal time limit, I can’t say for sure what will happen. How is a PF looking up your passport # if you are outside of Brazil? They are telling you over the phone or email? Well, that’s beside the point.

        I wish I had an answer for you.

  6. Hi , i here you ,
    Now plesae here me, I tried to extend my visa on monday, 28th April 2004, after waiting hrs i was Rolf i Needed to Pay at the Bank and return with the appropriate paperwork but that it it was now to late to complete the process and can come back tommorrow or asap. I was told it would cost 8 rias wach day over the time. I had to get a Form voller on the Net and hake it to a Bank and pay 67 rias then return from petropolis by Bus to galileo airport des police and apply. I did this and returned on wednesday , 4 am start waited till 1.30 pm and was told it was denied. I am visiting wife and 7yr old daughter. I have booked flight home june 12th . What happens it i Stau till then and pay the fine when i leave. Or should i as the officer said leave in 8 days .
    Plesae rrspond quicky .
    Sincerly stessed Rick.

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