Dear Friends,

I wrote an article for Brazzil Magazine in 2001 regarding my experiences teaching English in Brazil. Since then I have received many e-mails from native English speakers from all parts of the world asking for more information. I`ve put this simple site together to give some tips and general information to anyone who is interested in teaching English in Brazil.

You can read the original article here.

This information is taken from my personal experiences and is not intended to be professional advise. I cannot be held responsible for any actions taken by anyone as a result of the information on this page. I also am not suggesting anyone do anything illegal.

It is illegal to work in Brazil on a tourist visa. It is also illegal to overstay an expired visa. Got it?

If you still have questions, please feel free to contact me and I will do my best to add that information to this site.

The Visa Issue

Tourist Visa

It is fairly simple for most Westerners to get a tourist visa to visit Brazil. You will need to contact your local Brazilian Consulate and apply through them. I don`t know specifics but I do know that a valid passport and a round-trip airline ticket are required as well as a fee payable at the consulate. A tourist visa is valid for three months and is renewable for three more months at any Federal Police office in Brazil. A foreigner may visit Brazil for the maximum of six (6) months out of every calender year. That means that, even if you come and go between Argentina or any other neighboring country, you still cannot legally stay in Brazil for more than six (6) months out of every year.

How well does the Brazilian government control who enters and leaves? I don`t know but I don`t think it could possibly be compared with the United States. If you overstay your visa you will really only have a problem when you leave the country. You may be banned from re-entering the country. I honestly don`t know the penalty. If you decide to live here permanently, realize that you will not have the freedom to come and go as you please until you have resolved your visa situation.

Can I work with a tourist visa? No, not legally. Will anyone ever give you a problem if you do work while on a tourist visa? No, I doubt it.

Can I change from a tourist visa to a work visa? I believe you can. You will need to have a sponsor first, of course.

Work Visa

Many people write to me asking if I know a way for them to be sponsored for a work visa. I have never known of an English school to offer sponsorship. It is very expensive and complicated for a company in Brazil to sponsor a foreigner. I do not know of any way for a person wishing to teach English in Brazil to be sponsored while they are in a different country.

If you are a professional in another area such as information technology, engineering, etc. you may have a chance of finding a company to sponsor you but then you would not be teaching English.

Should you wish to stay in Brazil for an extended period of time you might find an English school or course which would be willing to sponsor you if you pay for the entire process. This is a possibility and one that you will have to discuss with someone you trust once you have been in Brazil for a while.

Marriage Visa

Sure, if you find someone willing to marry you, the foreigner, will become a Brazilian citizen. Of course marriage fraud is a serious offense so be careful.

My Visa Experience

I came to Brazil on a tourist visa in 1998. I was preparing to renew my tourist visa for a second three-month-stay when I heard rumors that the Brazilian government was going to give amnesty to anyone who was illegal in the country. I went to the Federal Police in São Paulo and told them that I wanted to renew my visa but that I also wanted to get amnesty when it was offered. The officer who attended me said that I should not renew my visa because if I did I would then be legal in the country thus, unable to apply for amnesty. He recommended I become illegal first so that I could then apply for amensty. It worked.

After several hundred Reais, lots of paperwork, and about a year of waiting I finally received my provisional citizenship which is valid for four years. After that time I will be able to apply for Brazilian citizenship.

Brazil does not offer amnesty often. They offered amnesty in 1988 and then only again in 1998. Who knows if they will offer it again in 2008?

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Finding Work as a Teacher

Many people write and ask me to send them names of schools, internet web addresses, and personal contacts so that they may set up classes before they arrive in Brazil. As I wrote in the article for Brazzil, I recommend you simply come to Brazil and start your search here. An English school or course will most likely not hire you until you are here in Brazil because:

1.) the school or course has no guarantee that you will really come to Brazil and stay for a sufficient period of time to merit the investment of classes and students with you and

2.) classes and students come and go very quickly. If a school needs a teacher for a class on Monday morning they will probably start calling on Friday evening to get that spot filled. Normally students are not kept waiting until a professor is available.

Plus, they won`t hire you legally so how can you trust them to hold classes for you until you arrive?

In my experience the best way to go is to simply arrive with a few resumes (in English) and hit the streets. In large cities like Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo there are many English schools and courses. Also, buy O Globo on Sunday and check out the classifieds. You will see lots of advertisements looking for professores de inglês.

I know it sounds strange, to leave all of what you have behind in your native country on the hope that you will find work here in Brazil as an English teacher. You will. There is work here.

Once you have been working for a course or school for a while you will start getting private students. I have found ''word of mouth'' to be the best advertisement. You can print up some business cards and pass them out to your students. You could also advertise in the newspaper or on a community bulletin board. There are plenty of Brazilians willing to pay a native English speaker for English classes. Keep your eyes open and give good classes. That way you will have lots of work.

When?

The months of December, January, February and July are notoriously slow months. As you can imagine Christmas, New Year`s and Carnaval steal a lot of our students away from us. July is a vacation month for school kids so a lot of parents take some time off as well. These months can get rough financially and I wouldn`t suggest you start looking for work during these months.

The best months are March (everyone is excited to get back to the grindstone) and August (the kids have gone back to school too.)

Paying to Teach in Brazil

A lot of people have asked me what I know about these organizations that you pay to come and give class in some rural part of Brazil. I don`t know anything about them really. I have checked out a couple of web sites and what I noticed was that they generally do not pay well and that their estimates of the cost of living are below what is accurate.

If you think one of these organizations is better for you then you should definitely utilize their services. However, I do not feel that any organization is necessary. Just come to Brazil.

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Experience

I did not have any experience teaching English when I first arrived in Brazil. I couldn`t even remember what the difference was between an adverb and an adjective or when to use the gerund form of a verb. What was most important was the fact that I spoke English as my native language.

Many people ask me if it is necessary to get a teaching certificate. I do not think so. I always say, if you feel it will help you give better English class then I don`t see anything wrong with it. However, if you don`t feel it is necessary than just come without it. I have never been asked for a certificate of any kind.

You will learn as you go. All teacher`s editions have the answers in the back. You too will soon remember when to use the present perfect and when to use the past. Most of your students will probably already speak English well. They need you to become more fluent. I always try to stay away from beginner students because much more preparation is required which translates into more work for the teacher.

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How Much?

The editor of Brazzil felt it best to quote in dollars the wages I wrote about. The only problem with that is how quickly that article became dated. As you probably know, the exchange between the dollar and the Real change daily.

You can expect to make between R$15 and R$20 per hour working for a course or school and between R$25 and R$40 per hour with private students.

Remember, you will probably not be able to work eight hours a day. Most students want class early in the morning, at lunchtime, and after work. You will also have to spend some time on buses and the subway to get to and from each class. In my experience five to six classes per day is about all your time will allow.

Keeping all of that in mind I will tell you that I make about R$2.000,00 per month. Now, for a common Brazilian this is not a bad salary. However, if you are coming to Brazil with nothing and starting from scratch it is not very much money. You will not become rich teaching English in Brazil. That is one promise I can make. You will not be able travel all over South America whenever you`d like on what a teacher makes either. Heck, I have lived here for four years and I still don`t have an air conditioner, cable television, or a microwave. As you can see, you will earn a lot more experience than you will money.

Remember, we are normally only payed once a month. So, if February was a slow month (as it usually is) you can expect March to be a ''tighten the belt'' month. You should always work out payment with your students or the course beforehand. Some may pay in advance but this is not common. Some students may pay you cash after each class. Great, but this is not common either.

You can accept checks but make sure the student or course does not ''cross'' the check. This means that they do not put two lines on the upper left-hand corner of the check. Without these two lines you can go to the student's bank branch and cash the check using your foreign i.d.

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Cost of Living

This is of course all relative but let me give you a general idea of what things cost for a person living alone in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The amounts are pretty much the same for São Paulo.

Studio apartment (unfurnished) - R$350 to R$400 per month

If you are coming to live in Rio and intend to survive on what you make as an English teacher I would suggest you check out the neighborhoods Botafogo, Flamengo, Largo do Machado, and Gloria. These neighborhoods are considered safe, cheap, and are close to all forms of transportation.

If you must live in Ipanema, Copacabana, or Leblon you should have plenty of savings as these places can be very expensive.

Furnished apartments are available on a temporary basis. The good side is that they already come with furniture (obviously) plus a refrigerator, stove, and maybe even a telephone. The down side is that it is more expensive (or course) and most are located in the tourist section of Rio. Great in the beginning but there is no subway for all of Copacabana, nor is there a subway for Ipanema, Arpoador, and Leblon.

Remember, you will often have freetime between classes. By living close to transportation you have the chance to run home and eat, watch t.v., surf the web, whatever you`d like until your next class.

Roommates are not common in Brazil. You may find someone who is willing to share an apartment but the custom here is to live with one`s parents until marriage. You may find some other foreigner to live with but…why did you move to Brazil in the first place? Not to live with other English speakers I would imagine.

Condominium - R$150 to R$300 per month

What the heck is a condominium charge? It is a necessary evil here in Brazil. You would never consider living in an unguarded builiding or house. This fee pays for the doorman and the person who cleans up the halls, elevators, etc. Be sure to ask what this cost is when negotiating an apartment. Just because the rent looks cheap it may come out much more expensive because of this charge. You may find, like I have, that what you get for what you pay for is very little. What can you do?

The condominium charge may include water and gas. Then again, it may not. Be sure to verify this information as well. Also see if the IPTU (a tax by the government which the renter pays) is included. This usually runs about R$10 per month.

Electricity - R$50 per month (no air conditioning)

Gas - R$10 per month

Telephone - ???

It is getting more and more common these days to have a telephone. The situation has changed dramatically since privatization started in the late 1990s. When I first arrived it cost over R$1000 to buy the telephone line. Nowadays the price has dropped quite a bit. You may even have a good Brazilian friend who could request a free line for you. If you live in a decent area it may only take a couple of days to get your telephone line. If you live in the suburbs it could take you several years to get your telephone line.

I spend around R$300 to R$400 per month on the telephone bill. In Brazil you are charged per ''pulse'', not per minute. What the heck is a ''pulse?'' Your guess is as good as mine. You are charged for local calls. I spend around 70 hours per month on the internet which runs about R$100 plus I call the United States a lot. Sometimes there are deals for calls to the US but you can expect to pay from between sixty centavos to one Real per minute.

Suggestion: If you do not know how long you intend to stay in Brazil I suggest you buy a cellular telephone. The kind where you buy a card with a certain amount towards calls is the best. You pay a flat fee (R$200) and you receive your cel. phone plus your telephone number. This way you can receive calls for free. You will only have to pay when you want to make a phone call. It is much cheaper to use a public telephone to make phone calls.

Refrigerator - R$400

Stove - R$175

Electric Shower Head - R$30

Television - R$400

Food - R$300 - R$400 per month

Of course how much you spend on food is up to you. Food at the supermarket is pretty cheap. What is expensive are prepackaged foods which we are used to in the US. These types of products are new in Brazil and can be quite expensive. I rarely eat out. I often have a snack at a luncheonete which runs about R$1 to R$2.

Beer - R$1 to R$2 per can
Soda - R$1,90 for 2 liters
Chicken breast - R$5 per kilogram
Fruits and vegetables are very cheap.
Milk - R$1 per liter

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Misc. Info.

I`ll be updating this part of the webpage from time to time. You can see Contact Me below to see how to send me questions or suggestions.

Just some quick answers to more common questions:

Attire - I recommend relaxed but business like clothes. I usually wear slacks or a pair of nice jeans. I almost always wear a button down shirt with a collar. I prefer long sleeves but it gets too hot sometimes for that. You can find many options for short-sleeved dress shirts here in Brazil. I never wear tennis shoes unless I am going to a private student`s home and I feel comfortable doing so. Remember, these people are paying a lot of money to have you as their teacher so you should dress the part. I see women wearing sandals a lot. I think the dress code for women is more relaxed. Probably summer dresses would work well.

Brazilians and Foreigners - Brazilians are great with foreigners. They are very open people and are always interested to know why you are here. They will love it if you do your best to learn Portuguese. Few foreigners do so they find it compelling that you are doing your best to learn their language as well. You will have many invitations to barbecues, dancing, etc. Accept and see how real Brazilians live.

Fala portugûes?- Do I need to speak Portuguese? No, you don`t. You won`t use Portuguese in your classes. Sure, it helps for day to day life but as far as teaching English it is not necessary to speak Portuguese.

Que Saudades! - Do you miss home? Yes, very much. But I also love learning new things and sharing new ideas. I see things that shock me, anger me, surprise me, make me laugh, make me cry, make me dance. It`s Brazil!

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Contact Me!

Feel free to contact me with specific questions. I have been really surprised by the number of people who have contacted me after writing that article. I am happy to answer any questions you may have. I will also do my best to put those questions and answers on this webpage.

Please do not ask me general questions like ''What is Brazil like?'' or ''I want to live in Brazil. What should I do?''

I`d love to talk to everyone about these subjects but unfortunately there are never enough hours in the day.

I love to debate so feel free to contact me if you disagree with anything I`ve written. But before you do, read the original article and note that I do not claim to be a real teacher, I do not presume that native speakers are better teachers than Brazilian teachers, and I do not think it right, just, or fair that a foreigner take a job away from a Brazilian. But…It`s Brazil!

You can write to me at bengoogins@hotmail.com.

Um abraço,

Ben

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