Former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has filed a request for a six-month visitor visa to stay in the US, indicating he may have no immediate intention of returning home, where legal issues await.
The application was first reported by The Financial Times, citing Mr Bolsonaro’s immigration lawyer, Felipe Alexandre.
Contacted by The Associated Press (AP), the lawyer’s firm, AG Immigration, confirmed the report.
Mr Bolsonaro left Brazil for Florida on December 30, two days before the inauguration of his leftist rival, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
The ceremony proceeded without incident, but a week later thousands of Mr Bolsonaro’s die-hard supporters stormed the capital and trashed the top government buildings demanding that Mr Lula’s election be overturned.
Mr Bolsonaro is being investigated for whether he had any role in inciting that uprising.
It is just one of several probes targeting the former president and that pose a legal headache upon his eventual homecoming, and which could strip him of his eligibility in future races – or worse.
For the first time in his more than three-decade political career as a legislator then as president, he no longer enjoys the special legal protection that requires any trial be held at the Supreme Court.
It has been widely assumed – though not confirmed – that Mr 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 either leave the US or adjust his status with the Department of Homeland Security.
Meantime, the shape of his political future and his potential return to Brazil has been a matter of rumour and speculation.
Mr Bolsonaro’s calculus appears to be to distance himself from the radicals whose destruction in the capital could implicate him in the short term, with the aim of some day returning to lead the opposition, said Mario Sergio Lima, a political analyst at Medley Advisers.
“He is giving it some time, staying away a bit from the country at a moment when he can begin to suffer legal consequences for his supporters’ attitudes,” said Mr Lima.
“I don’t think the fact of him staying away is enough. The processes will continue, but maybe he thinks he can at least avoid some sort of revenge punishment.”
Mr Bolsonaro has been staying in a home outside Orlando, Florida, and video has shown him snapping photos with supporters in the gated community and ambling around inside a supermarket.
In the wake of the rampage in the Brazilian capital this month, a group of 46 Democratic legislators sent a letter to President Joe Biden demanding Mr Bolsonaro’s visa be revoked.
“The United States must not provide shelter for him, or any authoritarian who has inspired such violence against democratic institutions,” they wrote.
Mr 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, he might never return. I don’t know. He’s relaxing,” Senator Flavio Bolsonaro said.
Asked whether Mr Bolsonaro has filed any request for documentation or help with visa processes, Brazil’s Foreign Ministry referred AP to US authorities.
The US Citizenship and Immigration Services referred AP to the State Department, which has repeatedly declined to comment on questions about Mr Bolsonaro’s visa status in the US.
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