New Immigration Law passed by Congress

Bill simplifies regularization procedures and guarantees equal rights for immigrants

The Senate unanimously approved this evening, April 18, the Lower House Substitute Bill No. 7/2016 that repeals the Foreigner Act, created during the military dictatorship, and replaces it with the new Immigration Law.

Drafted by the former senator Aloysio Nunes, currently the Minister of Foreign Relations, the bill abandons the idea that immigration is a threat to national security and instead addresses it from a human rights perspective. The bill will now be sent to President Michel Temer to be signed into law.

“Today’s approval is a decisive step towards making Brazil a reference and placing it at the forefront of the global debate on immigration. The Foreigner Act was not just outdated, it was also discriminatory. It urgently needed replacing and Congress was correct to pass a law that guarantees equal rights and protection for people who come to the country in search of a better life,” said Camila Asano, coordinator of the Foreign Policy program at Conectas Human Rights.

Last week, on April 9, more than 80 civil society organizations released a public statement reinforcing their support for the bill. According to the document, the new law “is consistent with a more just, free and democratic society” and it “modernizes the system for receiving and registering immigrants”. It also emphasized that the law is the result of a broad process of public debate and a response to a long-term demand of the organizations.

Click here to read the public statement in full.

Two of the main changes introduced by the new Immigration Law are the simplification of the immigration regularization process and the institutionalization of the policy of humanitarian visas, which is currently provisional and only available for Syrians and Haitians. This policy permits at-risk people to come to Brazil safely and, once here, apply for refugee status or some other form of international humanitarian protection.

The text guarantees immigrants, among other things, the right to participate in protests, to join unions and to access education and healthcare services. The new law also puts an end to criminalization for immigration reasons – which means that immigrants cannot be detained simply for being undocumented.

Senator Tasso Jereissati, the sponsor of the bill in the Senate, made some alterations to the text to expand access to justice for immigrants and their right to a defense. Article 60, for example, which lists the situations in which deportation is forbidden, was given a much broader wording than the original version – this section of the bill had been suppressed in the Lower House.

“We hope that President Michel Temer signs the bill without watering it down. The law is a response to a long-term demand of Brazilian civil society and it respects international human rights norms and standards,” added Asano.

If it is signed by the president, the new law will come into effect six months after its publication in the Federal Gazette.

Click to read: The SUR file on migration and human rights


See what changes with the new law:



Foreigner Act (1980) Immigration Law (2017)
Unconstitutional and outdated compared to international law. Respects the principles of the Brazilian Constitution of 1988 and the international treaties ratified by Brazil.


Views immigrants as a threat to national security (article 2). Views immigrants as rights-holders (articles 3 and 4).


Denies immigrants rights, such as the right to participate in protests and join unions (articles 106 and 107). Eliminates discrimination and guarantees immigrants the same human rights as Brazilians (article 4).


Discriminatory and economically selective, since it gives preference to “specialized labor” (article 16). Establishes condemnation and prevention of xenophobia, racism and other forms of discrimination as principles of Brazilian immigration policy (article 3).


Makes it difficult for immigrants to regularize their status (article 38). Simplifies immigration regularization procedures and grants amnesty to immigrants who are already in the country (articles 3 and 119).


Criminalizes immigration in at least two ways:1) does not guarantee a full defense for immigrants and authorizes the detention and deportation of people for being undocumented – including in cases of vagrancy (articles 57, 61, 62 and 66);

2) does not guarantee access to justice and due legal process;


Governed by the principle of non-criminalization of immigration:

1) guarantees due legal process for immigrants facing deportation or immigrants on the border being denied entry to the country (articles 47 and 49);

2) establishes comprehensive access to justice and full and free legal counsel (article 4);


Does not permit visas for humanitarian asylum. Permits humanitarian visas to be issued for immigrants who need special asylum, such as the case with Haitians and Syrians (article 4).


Does not give immigrants access to public services and social rights, which makes it difficult for them to integrate into Brazilian society. Provides for the formulation of public policies and access to public services (article 4).



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