Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has filed a request for a six-month visitor visa to stay in the US, indicating he may have no immediate intention of returning home where legal issues await him.
The application was first reported by The Financial Times, citing Bolsonaro’s immigration lawyer, Felipe Alexandre. The law firm AG Immigration confirmed the report when contacted by The Associated Press.
Bolsonaro left Brazil for Florida on 30 December, two days before the inauguration of his leftist rival, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The ceremony proceeded without incident, but a week later thousands of Bolsonaro’s hardline supporters stormed the capital and torched top government buildings, demanding Lula’s election be overturned.
Bolsonaro is being investigated whether he had any role in inciting the rebellion. It is one of several investigations targeting the former president and causing legal headaches upon his eventual homecoming, and which could strip him of eligibility in future races — or worse.
For the first time in his more than three-decade political career as a legislator and then president, he no longer enjoys the special legal protection that any trial in the Supreme Court requires.
It is widely believed – although this has not been confirmed – that Bolsonaro entered the US on an A-1 visa reserved for heads of state. If so, he would have 30 days from the end of his presidential term to either leave the US or adjust his status with the Department of Homeland Security.
Meanwhile, the shape of his political future and his possible return to Brazil have been the subject of rumor and speculation.
Mario Sergio Lima, a political analyst at Madele Advisors, said Bolsonaro’s calculation appears to be to distance himself from hardliners whose destruction in the capital could trap him in the short term, with a view to someday leading the opposition.
Lima said, “He is giving it some time, staying away from the country for a while while he may face legal consequences for the attitude of his supporters.” “I don’t think the fact that he is away is enough. The procedures will continue, but perhaps he thinks he can at least avoid retaliatory punishment.”
Bolsonaro has been living in a home outside Orlando, Florida, and videos show him posing for photos with supporters in the gated community and walking inside a supermarket.
In the wake of the uproar in the Brazilian capital this month, a group of 46 Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to President Joe Biden demanding Bolsonaro’s visa be revoked.
He wrote, “The United States should not shelter any authoritarian who inspires such violence against them, or against democratic institutions.”
Bolsonaro’s son, a senator, told reporters at an event this weekend that he was not sure when his father would return to Brazil.
“It could be tomorrow, it could be in six months, he may never come back. I don’t know. He’s resting,” Sen. Flavio Bolsonaro said.
Asked whether Bolsonaro has filed any requests for help with documentation or visa procedures, Brazil’s foreign ministry referred the AP to US officials. US Citizenship and Immigration Services referred the AP to the State Department, which repeatedly declined to comment on questions about Bolsonaro’s visa status in the US.