Surprise! You’re Brazilian

Awesome citizenship story from an Asahi reporter (translated from page 11 of the Asahi Shimbun April 10 morning edition):

[Correspondent’s Notebook] Sao Paolo, Brazil: A Dubious Fine

I paid a fine the other day.

The reason? It was my duty as a Brazilian.

I was born in Brazil due to my father’s job, but after returning to Japan at age 1 I was raised as a Japanese and never doubted otherwise.

All that changed when the decision was made to dispatch me to Sao Paolo. I headed to the Consulate General Brazil of Brazil in Tokyo to apply for a visa, but they refused to issue one, telling me, “You are a Brazilian.” They said I had no standing to get a visa as visas can only be issued to foreigners.

Brazil is a jus solis country, meaning that you automatically receive citizenship if you are born there. Well I never… Slightly confused, I accepted the green Brazilian passport and headed to my post.

In Sao Paolo, I tried to get my ID card and was told I needed to register to vote. On top of that, since I had neglected to register at age 18, they ordered me to pay a fine. Voting is mandatory in Brazil.

Though I retorted, “Until recently I was a Japanese living in Japan,” the official was ready with a comeback: “Just the other day, a native came in here and insisted, ‘I was living in the jungle until now, so I had no idea about registering to vote.’ But rules are rules!”

Not totally satisfied with the explanation, I gave up and paid the fine of 3.5 real (160 yen or USD $1.60).

(Ari Hirayama)


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13 thoughts on “Surprise! You’re Brazilian”

  1. Very interesting. I guess Brazil is one of those places, like the United States, that doesn’t like citizens to enter as non-citizens, no matter how “technical” their citizenship seems.

    On the other hand, my father and I are both Irish citizens (my father by jus solis and myself by jus sanguinis) and we have both been to Ireland several times on US passports without any questions.

  2. So what happens to her Japanese citizenship now? She has to choose after a year or two, right? And then if she wants to travel to Brazil?

  3. I know two Brazillian guys who also have both passports and have no intention of giving either back.Also told me J-passport is better when travelling around abroad.

  4. I have a Japanese and NZ passport and when I went back to NZ last time they didn’t mind me entering on my Japanese passport. Could only stay 3 months, the Japanese tourist visa limit, though.

  5. According to visa officers at the US embassy, this happens all the time. Japanese born in the US comes in to apply for student or work visa, and ends up haveing to apply for a passport, or renounce their citizenship to apply for a visa. Some people end up not being able to go as planned, getting a passport takes longer than a visa.
    Japanese authorities never ask if you have another citizenship (as long as your born japanese), so in practice she’ll be able to keep both, even though leagally she is supposed to give it up. Remember Fujimori, no one cared if he had always been Peruvian, he still got his Japanese passport because he had nevern formally given up his Japanese one. Most countries would probably allow you to travel with another passport even though you are a citizen, but as soon as you have to apply for a visa, practice get stricter.

  6. I don’t think entering at the border will ever raise any red flags, as long as the passport you’re trying to enter with is allowed to enter without a prior visa. You might get flagged if, like the author of the article, you have to apply for a visa at a embassy/consulate. Especially if you’re applying to a jus solis country and it become clear that you were born in that country. I’m not sure how tight embassy/consulate visa processes are, but I imagine they are a bit more involved than the border checks.

  7. Japanese authorities never ask if you have another citizenship (as long as you’re born Japanese)

    They can and do ask, although they aren’t too methodical about it. Sometimes they will track down dual citizens and ask them to make a declaration of choice. However, from what I understand, one can just tell the authorities “I want to remain a Japanese citizen” and there will be no further questions after that point.

  8. I wrote a long post on the Fujimori citizenship controversy back when it was happening that newer visitors may want to peruse now.
    I don`t believe I have ever met anyone who was surprised to discover they had a second nationality, but I have met plenty of people who were born in the US due to their parents working abroad, moved back to the home country in infancy, but still retained US citizenship. I don`t know anyone who had dual citizenship with Japan and actually gave one up aside from Debito.

    I am, however, reminded of a coworker of a friend of mine in Taipei who is a Taiwan-born Taiwanese (ROC) citizen, but grew up in an African country speaking English as her first language. She studied for a while in Europe but ran out of money so now she`s back in Taiwan, but is having trouble figuring out how to continue university. Not being a foreigner she can`t apply for the plentiful foreign student scholarships in Taiwan that would make it pretty easy to get into a university despite her language situation, but also doesn`t have good enough Chinese to pass the regular entrance exams.

  9. Ari: A lot of people do, especially if they were born with both. From what I hear, most problems occur because of naturalization.

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