Many professions in Brazil are regulated or fiscalized by councils. This article will cover the main responsibilities of these public autarchies and how foreigners relate to them.
Councils are public autarchies, with responsibility to regulate, supervise, direct and discipline certain professional categories.
It is up to the councils to certificate that a certain individual is able to exercise the profession they´re responsible for. It is also the councils responsibility to make sure that unauthorized people don’t do so. Councils also have a code of conduct and ethics parameters that must be followed.
Certain workers are obliged to be registered at its corresponding council in order to exercise their profession. Anyone that works without a registration is subject to penalties according to Brazilian law.
There are also many professions that are not supervised by councils in Brazil. For example anyone can be a farmer, software developer or a bus driver, if approved by a hiring company.
Differences Between Councils, Associations and Syndicates
Besides the councils, Brazil has a large variety of professional associations, as well as labor unions. Sometimes, these entities play similar roles, but there are vital differences between them.
As previously stated, councils are federal autarchies — an autonomous entity, with its own economic resources, and were created by the State to aid in a particular area that represent and supervise a class of professionals in this profession. They are public organizations, linked to the government, that are legally able to adopt measures in favor or against individuals. For example, a Regional Council of Psychology can fine psychologists or even open legal processes against workers that are not registered.
An association is a private organization which is responsible for bringing together a certain class of professionals. This entity promotes courses and events to help develop members, announce available jobs in the market and serve as an organized way of promoting and protecting the interest of its members.
They are often more specific than councils. For example, there is a Brazilian Association of Telecommunications and also a Brazilian Association of Telecommunications Employees. Usually, professionals are free to choose if they want to join an association or not. A rare exception is when renting a store in a shopping mall where the register is mandatory.
A labor union is a private organization that also represents a class of professionals, but is more focused on working relations. Some of the main concerns of the syndicates are workers’ rights, conditions, and wages. For these matters, syndicates may also have leverage when negotiating with the government and employers’ organizations.
Federal and Regional Councils
Usually, a Brazilian professional is covered by two different councils: the federal and the regional. While the federal one is seen as the supreme institution when it comes to councils, the regional ones are able to take care of more specific and smaller issues.
In most cases, each regional council is associated to a Brazilian state, and receives a number. For example, the Regional Council of Chemistry of the 3rd Region (CRQ3) has its headquarters in Rio de Janeiro.
In some cases, though, various states are covered by a single region. The Regional Council of Chemistry of the 14th Region (CRQ14), for example, is headquartered in Amazonas, but it is also responsible for the northern states of Acre, Rondônia and Roraima.
Besides the regional headquarters, there are also sectional headquarters. They exist to agilize processes and to facilitate requirements by the professionals.
Individuals willing to exercise their profession in a different region of the one where they are registered must request a change at their regional council. Depending on the profession, a permit may be granted to act in two different regions, or the professional might have to completely move his registration to another headquarter.
The difficulty to act in a different state might be more or less complicated according to each profession. In some of them, a simple signature on the workbook is enough, while others require a formal justification and are subject to approval of a council representative.
Also, sometimes an authorization is not needed. Some councils stipulate that a professional can work in another region without any complications if the activity is not exercised for more than a certain period.
Registering at a Professional Council
The basic requirement to be licensed by a professional council is to own a valid undergraduation certificate in the chosen area.
Since there are several different professional councils, requirements to be registered in each one of them may vary. The most common procedure is to visit a regional council or send the necessary documents.
The required documents are usually:
- Completed registration form
- Proof of payment of the registration fee
- Copies of personal documents, like ID, proof of residence, CPF
- Copies of the diploma and of the undergraduate transcript
- Photos to be used on the registration card
This registration has an expiration date, and needs to be renewed periodically, according to the council’s rules.
Can foreigners be registered by a council?
The registration of a foreigner in a Brazilian professional council also varies according to each profession.
Some councils — like the Council of Psychology and the Council of Administration, for example — allow foreigners to be registered. The main conditions for this are the revalidation of the foreign diploma and a proficiency test in the Portuguese language.
Other councils have stricter rules, allowing foreigners to register only in exceptional cases, like a lack of manpower, or only providing temporary permits for the realization of a specific project in Brazil. This the case in the Council of Engineering and Agronomy.
Examples of Professional Councils
Below are some examples of some of the main federal and regional professional councils in Brazil. The first acronym refers to the federal council, while the second acronym refers to the regional one.
- Cofea/CREA - Council of Engineering and Agronomy (Conselho de Engenharia de Agronomia)
- CFP/CRP - Council of Psychology (Conselho de Psicologia)
- CFA/CRA - Council of Administration (Conselho de Administração)
- CFM/CRM - Council of Medicine (Conselho de Medicina)
- CFF/CRF - Council of Pharmacy (Conselho de Farmácia)
- COFECI/CRECI - Council of Real Estate Brokers (Conselho de Corretores de Imóveis)
- CAU - Council of Architecture and Urbanism (Conselho de Arquitetura e Urbanismo)
- CFC/CRC - Council of Accounting (Conselho de Contabilidade)
- CFO/CRO - Council of Odontology (Conselho de Odontologia)
- CFQ/CRQ - Council of Chemistry (Conselho de Química)
- Confere/Corce - Council of the Commercial Representatives (Conselho dos Representantes Comerciais)
OAB - The Brazilian Bar Association
Technically, the Brazilian Bar Association, or Ordem dos Advogados do Brasil, which acronym is OAB, is not a professional council. It was already a federal autarchy, like the councils mentioned previously, but nowadays OAB is an independent organization. It is autonomous, benefits of tributary exemption and its employees are hired like in any other company, not needing to apply for a public service entrance exam — known in Brazil as concurso público, which is basically the selective process for a position offered by the government.
Some of the OAB functions, though, are very similar to the councils’ ones. They also fiscalize and regulate the work of lawyers in Brazil, as well as take part in political questions when necessary.