Jair Bolsonaro seeks six-month US tourist visa to extend Florida stay
Jair Bolsonaro, the former president of Brazil, has applied for a six-month visitor visa to stay in the US as his legal position in his home country becomes precarious.
Bolsonaro’s application was received by US authorities on Friday, according to his lawyer, Felipe Alexandre, who advised the former president not to leave the country while it is being processed – a period that could last several months.
“I think Florida will be his temporary home away from home,” said Alexander, founder of AG Immigration. “Right now, in his situation, I think he needs a little stability.”
Bolsonaro is under investigation in Brazil, both for alleged wrongdoing during his four-year term as president and to determine whether he is responsible for the uprising in Brasilia earlier this month, started by supporters who rejected his electoral defeat.
A close ally of former US President Donald Trump fled to Florida on December 30, missing the inauguration of his leftist successor and nemesis Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. He has stayed in Kissimmee, the home of former mixed martial artist José Aldo, where he is frequented by adoring members of Florida’s right-wing Brazilian expat community.
Bolsonaro was traveling on an A-1 visa reserved for diplomats and heads of state. It expired on the day he left office, with a 30-day grace period.
There are signs that his presence in the US is becoming uncomfortable for the Biden administration. Earlier this month, 41 Democratic members of Congress signed a letter calling on the administration to revoke Bolsonaro’s visa.
“We must not allow Mr. Bolsonaro or any other former Brazilian officials to take refuge in the United States to escape justice for any crimes they may have committed while in power,” the letter says.
Alexander said there was no evidence that Bolsonaro had committed any crime related to the riots in Brasilia, during which the national congress, the presidential palace and the Supreme Court were looted.
Although Bolsonaro has condemned the riots for having “crossed a line”, he regularly encourages his supporters’ “right to protest”.
Alexander said: “If you are going to expel someone from the country, you must have legal grounds for this.”
He described Bolsonaro as “tense and frustrated” but said his spirits were kept up by regular visits from well-wishers. The former president’s first meal during his time in Kissimmee was at a KFC restaurant with sticky tables and fluorescent lighting.
According to Alexander, Bolsonaro may eventually decide to petition for a more permanent US visa than the six-month extension he is seeking.
Flavio Bolsonaro, a senator and eldest son of the former president, said on Saturday that there was no evidence of his father’s return to Brazil.
“It might be tomorrow, it might be in six months, he might never come back. [But] He is not afraid at all because he is not responsible for what happened in Brazil.”