Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has filed an application for a six-month visitor visa to remain in the US, indicating that he may not immediately intend to return home, where legal troubles await.
The request was first reported by The Financial Times, citing Bolsonaro’s immigration lawyer, Felipe Alexandre. Contacted by The Associated Press, the law firm, AG Immigration, confirmed the report.
Bolsonaro left Brazil for Florida on December 30, two days before the inauguration of his left-wing rival, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The ceremony passed without incident, but a week later, thousands of staunch Bolsonaro supporters stormed the capital, vandalizing major government buildings demanding that Lula’s election be annulled.
Bolsonaro is being investigated for any role in inciting that uprising. It’s just one of several investigations targeting the former president that raise a legal headache over his eventual return home, which could strip him of his eligibility in future races, or worse.
For the first time in his political career of more than three decades as a legislator and later as president, he no longer enjoys the special legal protection that requires any trial to take place in the Supreme Court.
It has been widely assumed, though not confirmed, that Bolsonaro entered the US on an A-1 visa reserved for sitting heads of state. If so, he would have 30 days from the end of his presidential term to 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 has been the subject of rumors and speculation.
Bolsonaro’s calculation appears to be to distance himself from the radicals whose destruction in the capital could implicat him in the short term, with the goal of one day returning to lead the opposition, said Mario Sérgio Lima, a political analyst at Medley Advisors.
“He is giving it some time, getting away from the country a bit at a time when he may start to suffer legal consequences for the attitudes of his followers,” Lima said. “I don’t think the fact that he stays away is enough. The processes will continue, but perhaps he believes that he at least he can avoid some kind of revenge punishment ”.
Bolsonaro has been staying at a home outside Orlando, Florida, and video shows him taking photos with supporters in the gated community and wandering 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 that Bolsonaro’s visa be revoked.
“The United States must not provide refuge to him, or to any authoritarian who has inspired such violence against democratic institutions,” they wrote.
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, it might never come back. I dont know. He is relaxing,” said Senator Flávio Bolsonaro.
When asked if Bolsonaro has submitted any requests for documentation or help with visa processes, the Brazilian Foreign Ministry referred the AP to US authorities. US Citizenship and Immigration Services referred the AP to the State Department, which has repeatedly declined to comment on questions about Bolsonaro’s US visa status.