How to apply for a CPF number in Brazil

6 minute read

Who wouldn’t want to live in Brazil? With vibrant cities, beaches to die for, and outstanding natural beauty of every kind - it’s a pretty special place. Add in some super friendly people and great opportunities to live, study, work or retire, and you can see why so many foreigners find themselves moving to Brazil for the long term.

If you’re one of the many people considering a new life as an expat in Brazil, you’ll need a CPF number. This is the identifier issued by the Receita Federal - the inland revenue service in Brazil. Without a CPF there are many basic things you’ll struggle to arrange - getting a mobile phone or opening a bank account for example, so if you’re moving to Brazil soon, then getting your hands on a CPF will be one of the first things you’ll need to do.

Here’s everything you need to know about how to apply for a CPF number in Brazil.

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Now, back to what you came here to read.

What’s a Cadastro de Pessoa Física (aka CPF number)?

A CPF number is the identifier that proves you have been entered into the Cadastro de Pessoas Físicas (Natural Persons Register) in Brazil. It’s an 11 digit number, issued by the Brazilian inland revenue service, and is pretty much essential for life in Brazil. It’s issued to all Brazilian citizens, and residents - even if they’re expats.1

You need a CPF to pay your taxes - but you also need one for lots of basic transactions - which might come as a shock if you’re unfamiliar with the system. Buying plane tickets or getting any sort of monthly contract - for a mobile phone, gym or cable, for example - all require a valid CPF number. You also need a CPF number if you want to send money to someone based in Brazil. Luckily it’s pretty easy to get your CPF number, even if you’re an expat in Brazil as a foreigner, or applying from abroad via a consulate or embassy.

If your CPF is suspended for some reason - for example, if you fail to pay your tax on time - the CPF number is rendered useless, and you’ll have to have the number regularised officially once you’ve sorted out the original issue⁵.

Where can I find my Brazilian CPF number?

A CPF number is only issued once. That means that you have to look after your number, or you'll struggle to do anything other than basic transactions in Brazil.

If you’re struggling, your CPF number can be found in the following places:

  • On the certificate or card which was issued to you when you registered for your CPF initially
  • On correspondence such as tax returns or bank statements
  • If you are really stuck, you can get a new card issued for a fee at a Correios (post office) agency, or a branch of Banco do Brasil. However, you’ll need the same documents you used for your initial application, in order for your CPF number to be retrieved

What if I don’t have a Brazilian CPF number? Why do I need it?

You’ll be asked for your CPF when you try to open a bank account, buy a property, make any investments, or buy a vehicle. In practise, this means that it can be very hard to get settled in Brazil until you have your CPF number arranged - simple things like arranging banking or utilities for your home could prove tricky⁵.

It’s mandatory to get a CPF number under some circumstances - if you earn income in Brazil, if you want to apply for any government support in Brazil, or if you have certain assets like property of shareholdings there, for example.2 It’s worth taking professional advice if you’re unsure whether or not you need a CPF number as the list of reasons you might have to get one is pretty extensive.

How do I get a CPF number in Brazil?

You can get a CPF number either once you arrive in Brazil, or at your local consulate or embassy. Having a number issued outside of Brazil can take a month or so depending on the embassy, whereas getting your CPF card or certificate in Brazil should be relatively quick and simple to do.2

If you’re a Brazilian citizen and were born there, the chances are that you have a CPF number already. Although they’re not automatically issued, many parents get the CPF number set up for their children while they’re still minors, to make life easier once they need to get a bank account or pay any taxes. If you’re a naturalised Brazilian citizen, and for some reason have never had a CPF number, then you’ll have to follow the relevant process depending on whether you’re in Brazil or not at the time of application.

If you need help when applying for your CPF number, there are numerous agencies which will offer to help you, for a fee.

Applying for a CPF number in Brazil

If you’re already in Brazil, the easiest way to get your CPF number arranged is to visit a branch of Banco do Brasil, Caixa Econômica Federal or a Correios (post office) agency.2 If you use this method, there is a small fee for your application - but you get a card issued to show your CPF number, as opposed to a certificate which is issued by embassies and consulates for example. The fee can change so check at the time you’re applying for the most up to date information. 2

If you don’t want to pay the fee, there are other public agencies which can give you a certificate for free. These vary depending on the area of Brazil you’re in but are all set out by geographic location on the inland revenue service website.

You’ll have to take along the following documents:2

  • A completed CPF form - each form has a unique ID which means you can then track its progress online. Complete it online and take it along when you apply for your CPF number
  • Proof of ID - this can usually be a valid identity card or a passport. Documents have to be translated and notarised if they’re not presented in Portuguese
  • Voters registration - if you’re a Brazilian citizen and eligible to vote there

If you’re applying for a minor then you’ll also have to provide your own ID documents and prove your relationship to the child before your application can be processed.2

Take the documents along to the branch of Banco do Brasil, Caixa Econômica Federal or the Correios agency that is convenient for you. They’ll take all your details and issue you a receipt. You can then either collect your CPF number at an inland revenue office or have it delivered to your home. Keep your receipt and all your details on hand if you have to collect the document later.

You can track the progress of your application using the status requirement request function on the inland revenue website.3 You’ll just have to enter the request code you were given, and a few details about where you applied to see how your application is doing. 3

Process for expats - applying for a CPF number from outside of Brazil

If you’re applying from outside of Brazil, you’ll have to follow much the same process as set out above - but you’ll need to visit your local consulate or embassy to show your documentation. If you’re Brazilian but living outside of Brazil, you’ll also usually have to go to your local consulate to have a CPF issued.4

Make sure when you complete the CPF number application form, that you’re using the correct one. The document for foreigners or those asking for a CPF number from outside of Brazil requires you to input the country you’re in at the time of applying, so the details can be passed along. You’ll find the link you need to this access this form just below here.

CPF Form

Getting a CPF number is pretty much essential if you’re planning on being in Brazil for any length of time. There is some paperwork involved, but it shouldn’t be too tricky to do, and you can get it organised in many different bank or post office branches once you’re there. And once you have your CPF number, you can rest assured that day to day life will be much easier.

1. (September 20 2019)
2. (September 20 2019)
3. (September 20 2019)
4. (September 20 2019)
5. (September 20 2019)

This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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