How to Get a CPF as a Foreigner in Brazil

Everyone knows Brazil is a country of bureaucracy, so it comes as no surprise that they love their CPF: cadastro de pessoa física. The CPF is like a social security number; essentially, a unique identifier for every “physical person” in Brazil. However, unlike your social security number, it’s widely and publicly used for anything from registering documents to making purchases both online and in person.

The first time I needed to use a CPF was when I was trying to buy some clothes from an Instagram account via Whatsapp. (That’s another tale for other Americans — ordering clothes via text message. What?!) Later, when we decided to apply for my visa, I knew that getting my CPF was going to be one of the first steps of many into Brazilian bureaucracy.

Unfortunately, I’m not just American, I’m also from New Jersey. In other words, I have no fucking patience, especially when things are complicated or slow for no reason at all. PEOPLE HAVE PLACES TO BE. In case you couldn’t tell, this is rule number one for how not to approach Brazil.

As hard as you may try, there’s really nowhere online to find all of these steps. All of the information I found was from other bloggers. All of the information I received in Brazil was from, well, the cartórios and correios offices themselves — despite all the social media usage, the internet is, in many ways, still in it’s early days here.

  • Find a local Correios office and ask to apply for a CPF. You can explain that you’re foreign and are applying for a new CPF. It’s a nominal fee (BRL$7) and they will give you a receipt that you need to hold on to. You’ll use it later, so don’t lose it!
  • Find a public translator to translate any official documents. For me, that was my passport. You can find a translator by searching “tradução juramentada [your language].” Many of the translators do not have websites or emails, so you will need to call. Cost: BRL$150.
  • Once the translations are done, bring your original documents with you to pick them up from the translator. Because it’s a sworn translation, the translator will need to verify the originals.
  • Then, bring your translated documents (and the originals, just in case) with you to a nearby cartório. Here, the cartório will stamp the papers to say that the translator is reconhecido, or recognized. You’ll see a lot of things that are reconhecida. It basically means that the translator/person/signature are registered and on file at a governmental office so they can prove their authenticity. Cost: BRL$7 per document.
  • Register your documents (in Rio, it’s the Cartório do 6º Ofício de Registro de Títulos e Documentos, Edifício das Finanças, R. do Carmo, 57). This basically says that the state is acknowledges the authentication of each of these documents. To do this, present the verified translation and the original document, as well as a copy of the document your registering. For your passport, bring two copies since they won’t be able to keep the original. This takes about 24 hours because the documents need to go before a jury in order to be recognized. Cost: ~BRL$260 per page, including the translation.
  • Go to a nearby Receita Federal with the registered translation of your passport and the original receipt from Correios. They will issue your CPF here. Don’t expect too much fanfare — it’s just a printed piece of paper 🙂

É voila! That’s it, so to speak. It took me about two weeks, but, like I said, that’s because I’m from New Jersey and kept pressuring Gustavo to check on things for me since he’s able to convey my impatience in a way that is much friendlier than I could ever appear.

As a tip, while you’re at your local cartório, get a firma reconhecida. At my cartório, I needed the aberatura de firma, which is opening a “recognized signature.” They’ll have you fill out some documents and sign a paper, all of which will then be stamped to say that this is your signature that specific cartório recognizes. I specifically recommend doing this at a cartório close by because you’ll need to use the firma reconhecida for many, many documents in the future.

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