The night view of the Botafogo area shows Rio de Janeiro's Sugar Loaf… (Christophe Simon / AFP )
Getting a visa for travel to Brazil – already a tricky task for Americans – got trickier this week.
In the last two days, the Brazilian Consulate in Chicago has suspended issuance of all visas and Brazil’s San Francisco consulate has stopped just a baby step short of that, saying it will process visa applications only in an emergency and blaming “severe technical difficulties affecting the supplies necessary for the Brazilian Consular Services throughout the world.”
The Los Angeles Brazilian Consulate, meanwhile, says only that it “will temporarily decrease the rate of issuance of visas” -- but two visa-expediting companies here say the flow has essentially stopped.
The issue will probably be sorted out within a few days, a Brazil consulate spokesman in Los Angeles said, urging travelers to check the consulate’s website.
But some veterans in the visa-expediting business say they fear the situation could become a major snafu, imperiling travel plans of many southbound Americans. Passport expediting company G3 Visas & Passports said on its website that it expects visa-issuance suspensions “at all other Brazilian Consulates in the U.S.”
Back in Los Angeles, Brazil’s deputy consul general, Eduardo Farias, discounted those worries. Farias said the crux of the problem was simply that the consulate and some others have run low on the visa stickers that officials affix to travelers’ passports.
“We have a limited amount,” Farias said. “Tomorrow there should be quite a lot arriving.... Three days at the most.”
Still, this gives visa-expediters time to worry. The Brazilian consulate “did not accept any applications from us this morning. This is the first time we’ve seen that,” said Peter Krouse, senior visa specialist at Peninsula Visa in Beverly Hills.
In the Los Angeles office of A Briggs, another passport expediter, a representative said the Los Angeles consulate had handed back the paperwork for applicants whose applications were already in the pipeline.
“That’s the first time we’ve seen that happen,” the representative said.
The representative added that Brazil’s consulate in Houston seemed to be handling visa applications normally. But by Thursday afternoon, that consulate, too, was curtailing services.
Going forward, the consulate announced, it would process applications only from travelers who live within that consulate's jurisdiction and have scheduled departures before Jan. 15, 2013.
On the Web page of the Brazilian consulate in Los Angeles, a visa-application appointment calendar shows no openings in November or December. If the slowdown lasts more than a few days, said Peninsula Visa’s Krouse, travelers with upcoming Brazil trips could have trouble getting visas in time and might have to rearrange trips.
Since well before the most recent warning, the Brazilian Consulate in Los Angeles has accepted visa applications only in person by appointment, and applicants have been required to pay only with U.S. Post Office money orders. Brazilian officials note that those are “reciprocity” requirements, mirroring what U.S. officials demand from Brazilians traveling to the U.S.
In June of this year, Brazilian government workers joined in a strike that many said disrupted visa processing. That strike ended in July.
Farias, Brazil’s deputy consul general in Los Angeles, said the current problem is temporary and technical, with no connection to “reciprocity” issues or labor disputes.
With FIFA World Cup finals coming to Brazil in 2014, followed by the Summer Olympics in 2016, the country is sure to be a destination for legions of American travelers in the next few years. Rio de Janeiro, long a global destination, is also a popular port call on South American cruises.
Follow us on Twitter @latimestravel
Like us on Facebook @Los Angeles Times Travel