|Why am I in Alto de Ipiranga?|
After a three month delay I finally have my temporary visa for Brazil in which I am identified as a pesquisador (researcher) which I find pretty amusing. Anyway, now that I am here on the real visa (as opposed to the tourist visa) I have to do a few things, most notably register with the national police as a foreigner (estrangeiro). Before that, however, I decided to get my CPF.
The CPF is an interesting thing, it is part social security number, part taxpayer ID. In Brazil you need a CPF to make a lot of purchases. For foreigners two of the main purchases you need the CPF for are SIM cards and domestic flights. It used to be pretty hard to get the CPF but not anymore, as long as you know what to do. In São Paulo, I can help.
First and foremost, disregard the information all over the web sites of the Brazilian Receita Federal (their IRS) saying that you can go to the Correios (post office) or any branch of the Banco do Brazil or Caxia (the two state owned banks). Recently the system changed and you have to go to a Correios. There you need only to have your passport, no other documents are required of foreigners. You need to tell them your mother's full name and give them a local address (hotel, for example - in my case I gave the school's address). Done. It takes about 3 minutes. The Correios generate a receipt with a number for the Receita Federal.
Now you have to take the receipt to the Receita Federal in Shopping Light in the center of town. Shopping Light is so named because the power company with the name Light used to be housed there. Now it is a huge multi-story mall. On the Second floor (third to Americans) there is the Receita office. There was a long line when I was there so it took about 45 minutes. But they check your passport again, check again your details entered by the Correios (amusingly, the nice lady at the Correios put may last name first as many Brazilians have Emerson as a first name). Then they print a piece of paper that is your CPF card. In the past they would give you the number but the card would be sent later. Now they print it out and you are supposed to 'plasticar' (laminate) it and you are done. Easy peasy.
Suggestion: go directly to the Shopping Light. On the metro you get out at Anhangabaú on the Vermelha (red) line and Shopping light is right there. Right next door to the Receita is a Correios. Stop first at the Correios and tell them you want to get a CPF and show them your passport. They will charge you R$ 5.70 and generate the receipt. Then you go next door to the Receita immediately and get your CPF. If you do it right it'll take you about an hour (as opposed to three days in my case).
Now for my misadventures. I started by going to a Caxia and, after waiting for 30 minutes being told "oh no, you can't do that here anymore, you must go to the Correios." So the next day I went to a Correios, but it turns out that this one was a limited service office and could not help me. So the next day I went to another Correios where they could and did help me and the incredibly nice lady told me where to go to the Receita and how to get there on the Metro. She gave me impeccable directions, but for some reason I decided when I got to the metro and took the map that Anhangabaú was Alto de Ipiranga. Why? I have no idea - it is not even on the right line - it is on the Verde line not Vermelha. Anyway, as soon as I got out of the station and realized I was not in Centro - I turned around immediately and corrected my error.
Finally I got to Shopping Light but could not find a map of the mall so I just started to go up and it didn't take long to find the Receita (I saw a long line and guessed - correctly - that it must be where I needed to go). So finally, after three days, I have a CPF and can buy a SIM card. Phew.
Soo to sum up:
Getting a CPF in São Paulo
1. Go to Shopping Light in Centro (take the Metro to Anhangabaú on the Vermelha line) with your passport.
2. Go to the 2nd floor (3rd floor in American) and find the Correios.
3. At Correios initiate the CPF process, show your passport and pay R$ 5.70.
4. Take the receipt next door with your passport and get your CPF.
This all should take about an hour with normal lines.
So, even if only in Brazil for a couple of weeks it is probably worth it if you want a phone, buy flights to other places (which, if you are in São Paulo, you should go to other places - my suggestion is Rio or Bahia).