Jair Bolsonaro, the former president of Brazil, has applied for a six-month visitor visa to remain in the US as his legal standing in his home country grows perilous.
Bolsonaro’s application was received by US authorities on Friday, according to his lawyer, Felipe Alexandre, who has 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 Alexandre, founder of AG Immigration. “Right now, with his situation, I think he needs a little stability.”
Bolsonaro is facing multiple investigations in Brazil — both for alleged wrongdoing during his four-year presidential term and to determine whether he was to blame for an insurrection in Brasília earlier this month launched by supporters who have rejected his electoral defeat.
The close ally of former US president Donald Trump decamped to Florida on December 30, skipping the inauguration of his leftist successor and bitter foe, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. He has been staying at the Kissimmee home of a former mixed martial arts fighter, José Aldo, where he is often thronged by adoring members of Florida’s right-leaning Brazilian expat community.
Bolsonaro had been travelling on an A-1 visa reserved for diplomats and heads of state. It expired the day he left office, with a 30-day grace period.
There are signs his presence in the US is becoming uncomfortable for the Biden administration. Earlier this month, 41 Democratic members of Congress signed a letter urging 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 when in office,” the letter stated.
Alexandre said there was no evidence Bolsonaro had committed any crime relating to the riots in Brasília, in which the nation’s congress, presidential palace and supreme court were ransacked.
While Bolsonaro condemned the riots for having “crossed the line”, he regularly encourages his supporters’ “right to protest”.
Alexandre said: “If you’re going to kick someone out of the country, you have to have legal justification to do so.”
He described Bolsonaro as “stressed and disappointed” but said his spirits were buoyed by regular visits from well-wishers. The former president’s first meal of his Kissimmee sojourn was taken at a KFC restaurant with sticky tables and fluorescent lights.
Bolsonaro, Alexandre said, might eventually decide to petition for a more permanent US visa than the six-month extension he is seeking.
Flávio Bolsonaro, a senator and the former president’s eldest son, on Saturday said there was no estimate for his father’s return to Brazil.
“It could be tomorrow, it could be six months from now, he could never come back. [But] He has no fear at all because he bears no responsibility for what happened in Brazil.”