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Money Transfers for Expats in Brazil

Submitted: May 2014

In theory, there are no legal restrictions on capital flows to and from Brazil. In practice, things may be a bit more complicated.

All transactions must be registered with the Brazilian authorities. Furthermore, Brazilian policymakers are happy to use tax policy to curb cross-border flows. The financial transactions tax (Imposto sobre operações financeiras – IOF) is a good example of this.

As is generally the case for cross-border transactions, fees may apply. You can of course withdraw cash from an ATM in Brazil with your foreign debit card, but this option is both unfriendly and expensive. It should be viewed as temporary and best avoided.

Practical steps

The best thing to do in order to save money is to:

  • Plan for the money transfer in advance – otherwise, fees may quickly pile up
  • Compare the market and consider using a specialist money transfer company.

The easiest way to transfer money is to have an account in Brazil opened, and then to proceed with an international wire transfer. While this is the easiest way, this is not necessarily as cheap as going through a money transfer company. The issue is, you will need a Brazil-based bank account in both cases.

In practice, you will not be able to open an account with a Brazilian bank until you are settled in Brazil. In the interim period, you will therefore need to have some cash with you.

Cash control rules

There are no restrictions as to the amount of cash you can bring to, or take from, Brazil. However, you must make a declaration to the customs authority if you carry at least BRL10,000 worth of cash (or foreign currency equivalent) when you cross the Brazilian border.

Cash includes hard currency and cheques but not international wire transfers.

 

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