RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazil is reintroducing the requirement to obtain tourist visas for citizens of the U.S., Australia, Canada, and Japan starting Oct. 1, the foreign ministry said.
Former president Jair Bolsonaro had scrapped the visa requirements in 2019 to bolster the country’s tourism industry, but the four countries continued to demand visas from Brazilians.
The decision to grant the visa exemptions had represented “a break with the pattern of Brazilian migration policy, historically based on the principles of reciprocity and equal treatment,” the foreign ministry said in a statement released quietly late Monday.
“Brazil does not grant unilateral exemption from visiting visas, without reciprocity, to other countries,” the ministry said, while noting that the government is ready to negotiate visa waiver agreements on a reciprocal basis.
Bolsonaro criticized the decision last week after the news outlet G1 first reported the upcoming change. “Another revocation by Lula. Less jobs and less stimulus of the hotel sector,” he said on Twitter.
Unilateral decisions like the one made by Bolsonaro are rare in diplomacy, according to Leonardo Paz, a political scientist at the Getulio Vargas Foundation, a university and think tank. Its reversal is part of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s ambition to reaffirm its foreign policy, an area neglected under Bolsonaro, Paz said.
Still, representatives of the tourism industry were critical of the move.
The chief executive of one of Rio de Janeiro’s top tourist attractions, the cable cars on Sugar Loaf Mountain, criticized the decision. Sandro Fernandes told Folhapress before the official announcement that the decision would be a “setback.”
“Instead of closing the door to four nationalities, we should be discussing which are the next four to release visa exemptions. And then four more. This should be the government’s agenda,” Fernandes said.
Before the pandemic hit, Brazil received 6.4 million tourists in 2019, far below Mexico’s 45 million and less than Argentina’s 7.4 million, according to data from the United Nation’s World Tourism Organization.
Data from Brazil’s tourism ministry indicates that entries of Americans, Australians, Canadians and Japanese people fell between 2019 and 2021, but the pandemic caused the global tourism industry to grind almost to standstill and is largely responsible for the drop.