Once South Americans looking for residency in the US or Europe would concoct bogus unions with friends. Now in Brazil, the game has flipped.
SÃO PAULO - For Rafael and Mariana, their days are now dominated by final arrangements for their upcoming marriage. He wants to bring his clothes over to her place. Before he does it, she wants to rearrange her apartment to open more space. At first sight, they do not necessarily seem to be a good fit for each other. But when asked, their friends swear they are deeply in love.
Anxious, Rafael hopes to be married in two months at most. The ceremony will be simple, only civil. After signing all the documents, there will be a kiss: a good-bye kiss. He will move back home and wait until he finds the right person to be at his side —a guy, probably.
Mariana*, 36, is a Brazilian housemaid. Rafael*, 31, is a Spanish university student waiting for a permanent visa to stay in Brazil. Their union will be one more in the growing numbers of fake marriages that foreigners use to be able to gain residency here.
"I'm a bit afraid, but I know three Germans in Rio and an American in São Paulo who did the same," he says. "I could look for a job in Germany, where I was before I lost my job. But Europe is getting worse and worse, while the situation here is just the opposite."
After an international marriage, Federal Police usually pay a visit to the couple to see how they are doing. If there is evidence that the union is a fake, the couple may be charged with identity theft, and the immigrant faces extradition. Though the practice appears to be on the rise, police do not yet have official data on the fraudulent marriages.
In spite of the risks, this option seems to be worth it for these couples. To the eyes of the world, Brazil appears to be the land of opportunities, with an unemployment rate half of the European Union's.
Marriage, however, is not the only way to fool authorities and stay in Brazil. It is also possible to claim a stable union, accepted since 2003 to obtain a permanent visa. "When I arrived here, my lawyer showed me how difficult it was to arrange a work visa. He was the one who mentioned the possibility of a stable union with a Brazilian girl. He never mentioned that it was fraud, but he knew I didn't have a girlfriend", says Roberto, 34, of Spain.
He paid R$3,000 ($1,500) to turn a friend into a supposed girlfriend. "We spent four months dealing with bureaucracy, taking pictures of our fake relationship. The lawyer told me we had good timing, because now there are too many requests, and the government is processing things much more slowly."
*Names were changed upon interviewees' request.
Read the original article in Portuguese
Photo - Shayan (USA)