By Elaine Hartman Reckord
KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) -- Jamaican nationals will find it easier to travel to Brazil for business, tourism and the upcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup, under a special visa cooperation agreement with the South American country.
This agreement was signed by Jamaica’s minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade, Senator A.J. Nicholson, and the minister of foreign affairs of Brazil, Luiz Alberto Figueiredo Machado, during a visit by the latter to the island in February.
Jamaica’s Ambassador to Brazil, Alison Stone Roofe. JIS Photo
Jamaica’s ambassador to Brazil, Alison Stone Roofe, said the exchange of notes on visas signing is a precursor to the abolition of visas for persons travelling to both countries. She said the final visa abolition agreement is to be negotiated over the course of this year, but the revised arrangement is especially for the World Cup in June.
“What will take place immediately is the extension of the validity of visas granted by the government of Brazil to Jamaican nationals and that validity will be for five years. Before, visas were issued for much shorter periods and required persons to apply again and again for visas to travel,” she said.
She advised Jamaicans to visit the Brazilian embassy’s website for information on the requirements for application, noting that there was “a range of exemptions to take place once a ticket was bought.”
The ministry of foreign affairs and foreign trade can also provide information for travelling.
The ambassador also advised Jamaicans travelling to Brazil to get immunized against yellow fever and measles, and recommended that persons obtain a yellow fever vaccination certificate, which is to be presented at the airport in Brazil.
Despite the visa extension, she says, persons must have all the necessary documents required by immigration officers at both Jamaica’s and Brazil’s airports. They must also be able to state their reason for travelling.
“So for any other purpose of travel, as a student or for employment, the appropriate visa will still be required,” she explained.
Additionally, she said persons travelling to Brazil should have a passport valid for six months or longer, and have proof of funds or financial support, such as a credit card, travellers cheques, bank statement, a round trip travel itinerary, and hotel reservation.
Roofe, who is Jamaica’s first resident ambassador to Brazil, noted that one of the main reasons for the new arrangement is to ensure that Jamaican business leaders, academics, and other persons, are able to visit and do business in one of Latin America’s largest markets and experience its vibrant culture, and vice versa.
“What we are trying to push for is the opening up of opportunities for tourism, business, commerce, trade and people to people exchanges and activities,” she explained.
In addition to the visa cooperation arrangement, an air services agreement was also signed between the governments in February.
The ambassador said when this is finalised it should increase the number of flights between Brazil and Jamaica.
Other agreements signed in February include cooperation on education, health, sports, tax information exchanges, and defence related matters.
“So the mission here has been very busy in moving the relationship forward,” she remarks.
The two countries will also be cooperating on the detection of the sickle cell disease in children. Roofe said a mission from Brazil will shortly be meeting with officials of the Ministry of Health with a view to advancing its work programme in Jamaica.
“That’s on the ground and moving forward very quickly,” she adds.
The ambassador said Brazil has also funded a skills training project, which was established with technical assistance from Brazil. This facility was opened in February.
“That is something which we can all be very proud of. It will deal with skill training for young people and youth employment for the entire region starting with Jamaica first,” she said.
She emphasised that this is the largest investment in youth employment that Brazil is making in the English-speaking Caribbean.
“It is a very important project to them and very, very important to Jamaica in terms of our social development cooperation activities,” she asserted.
In order for Jamaicans to take full advantage of the Brazilian market, she said it is important to speak Portuguese. In this regard, she indicated that there are plans for closer cooperation for courses in Portuguese for Jamaicans. This arrangement will be reciprocal.
“This is something we are looking closely at, particularly in the tourism industry. We want to be able to increase the flow of Brazilians who come to Jamaica for tourist purposes and we would need Portuguese speakers on the ground in Jamaica to facilitate their stay and comfort levels there in Jamaica,” Roofe pointed out.
She noted that the Jamaican Diaspora community in Brazil was growing, noting that a recent survey done by the Embassy through the foreign affairs ministry showed that these residents are mainly students, some of whom are married to Brazilians.
Giving an update on the visit to Jamaica by an eight-member Brazilian press corps last year, Roofe said a series of good articles have been written about Jamaica that had “certainly increased the interest that Brazilians have in the Jamaican tourism market.”
“There is the hope that we will have a second visit by another group of journalists, I think in August of this year, again, spearheaded by the Jamaica/Brazil Chamber of Commerce,” she disclosed.
“So there are lots of initiatives happening. I think the results will not be fast and furious but certainly we are chipping away at the areas which make sense for us to have positive outcomes,” she said.
Diplomatic relations between Jamaica and Brazil began in 1962. Nicholson last year officially opened the embassy of Jamaica in the capital, Brasilia. The embassy has been facilitating all negotiations for the slew of cooperation agreements that have been made.
Bilateral relations between Jamaica and Brazil have blossomed since the opening of embassies in the capitals of both countries, and the signing of several cooperation agreements in the areas of tourism, education, health, and commerce.
The 2014 FIFA World Cup is scheduled for June 12 to July 13. The tournament, which is being held in the South American country for the second time in 64 years, will span 12 stadia in as many cities, covering the main regions of Brazil. These include: Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Cuiaba, Curitiba, Fortaleza, Manaus, Natal, Porto Alegre, Recife, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, and Sao Paulo.