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Entrance Procedures for New Students  So you want to do your Master's or PhD degree here at the CBPF?  In this page we describe the experiences of various PhD and Master's students coming to the CBPF and what was required of them. 
This page last modified: $Date: 2001/08/18 18:53:27 $

Since things change quite often (especially in Brazil!), we can't take any responsibility (whatsover!) for the accuracy of information on this page.  Instead, we hope that it will be a useful guideline for anyone interested in coming to the CBPF to study.

Also note that the information on this page was compiled and written around February, 2000, with a slight update in December of 2000.

This page is devoted to those people who are interested in coming to the CBPF to study master's or PhD degrees.  Before going any further, the following minimum is required:

  1. You must have an undergraduate degree (i.e. something like a 4-year college degree) and are ready to do your master's or PhD.
  2. You must understand a bit of Portuguese (not a lot, just enough to take a test written in it.  No problem if you understand Spanish) and be able to write in one of the following: Portuguese, Spanish or English.
If you meet these two requirements, you may eligible to come to the CBPF to study on a study grant from the Brazilian government.

So let's run through the requirements one-for-one, in the order that you will likely confront them:

Almost all of the researchers studying at the CBPF have already completed their undergraduate degrees, and and currently performing either their Master's, PhD or postdoc (or above).

For a more recent handling of the information in this section, see http://www.cfc.cbpf.br/inscricao.html (which also includes examples of last year's exams).

Those students wishing to study at Master's or PhD level must pass an entrance exam, which is administered two times per year:

  1. Apply in June to take the exam in July (usually about the 20th)
  2. Apply in November to take the exam in December (usually about the 10th)
As far as we students have been able to ascertain, the number of people admitted to the CBPF is based principally on the number of available scholarships. At the PhD level, for example, typically 20 students take the exam, from which between 5 and 8 are eventually chosen.
The exams are written in Portuguese, although answers may be written in Portuguese, Spanish or English. (So you must be at least able to understand the questions written in Portuguese)

The exams may be taken at the CBPF directly or administered at some university close to you. You have 3 hours to complete the PhD exam.
For more information on the post-graduate courses, including the exam times, etc., see the "CFC" (Committee of Scientific Formation) pages:

and go to the "Pos-Graduação" section.

To register to take the exams, you must provide the following:

  1. 3 photos 3x4
  2. Xerox of your passport, your CPF and a "comprovante de endereço" (i.e. a copy of a light or gas bill from your current address)
  3. Copy of your school transcript
  4. Curriculum vitae (i.e. Resumé)
  5. Copy of your Bachelor's diploma
(along with a form which the CBPF will give you to fill out).

For anybody outside of a 500km radius of Rio, you can take the exam at your home institution.  Find a physics, math, engineering, etc. professor and have him or her get into contact with the CFC here at the CBPF to arrange for you to take the test abroad.

The PhD exam contains 5 questions: one on classical mechanics, one on quantum mechanics, one on thermodynamics, and two on electromagnetism. You must answer only one of the questions on electromagnetism (you have a choice), so that the total number of questions you must answer is 4.
3 days ahead of each exam, the committee which administers the exam sends out a bibliography which tells you which chapters to study in which references.  This little piece of paper will really be your true guide to the exam.

Most students carefully study the sample exams before taking the exams themselves.  Here are a number of sample exams which have simply been scanned in (sorry about the readability.  Drop us an email if you're unable to read what's written.  We have better copies of the exams, but they take up much more room on the server).

Past PhD Exams:
11/12/95 PhD Entrance Exam
09/12/96 PhD Entrance Exam
08/12/97 PhD Entrance Exam
20/07/98 PhD Entrance Exam
14/12/98 PhD Entrance Exam

Past Master's Exams:
20/07/98 Master's Entrance Exam

Example "topics" paper which was given out 3 days before the 14/12/98 exam, explaining which topics would be covered:
14/12/98 PhD Entrance Exam Topics Paper (Sent out 11/12/98)

Brazilian consulates/embassies:

Assuming that you've passed the exam, then here's where the fun begins. If you're Brazilian, you should have no problems, while if you're from a foreign country, be prepared for some unsavory situations with embassies and the "foreign police" (immigration).
To apply for a visa in your home country, you'll probably need the following documents:
  1. A letter of invitation from the CBPF.
  2. Proof of financial support.
  3. A passport, valid for at least the period of your stay.
  4. A "letter of good conduct" from your local police station/etc. in the country in which you live. To find out exactly what this is or what it looks like, you'll have to contact the nearest Brazilian embassy or consulate in your country.
  5. A tax of between R$40 or US$40. If you're a U.S. citizen, add a reciprocal tax of about US$45 (so you'll pay a total of US$85).
  6. Two photos (if you're applying from the U.S., these must be 2"x2" photos, i.e. the same size you used for your passport application)
A couple of words about the letter of invitation and the proof of financial support. Firstly: if you received a letter of invitation and financial support from Myriam, then you should be fine: she knows exactly what to put in them, from personal experience.
Either way, the letter of invitation must include a number of things. Most importantly, it must include the length of time you are allowed to study at the CBPF. It must also be clear that you are studying (so that you can obtain the study visa). And it probably must include the other bureaucratic stuff: your FULL name (including middle names, completely spelt out), the address of the institution, etc.
Proof of financial support is also critical. The consulate will want to know how much you will be receiving in salary per month, so it must be clear on whatever paper you give them that you will be receiving a "bolsa" (study grant) as well as the amount. With this paperwork, you'll go to the consulate and apply. They'll give you some forms to fill in, called "Pedido de Visto Consular". They may not look like much, but FILL THEM OUT CAREFULLY and DO NOT ABBREVIATE ANY NAMES. (If you do abbreviate a name and get away with it, you'll still be forced to correct it here in Rio, where you'll have to go to a place called "Itamaraty", near "Central", Bus #196, and talk with Dona Aparecida, an elderly and very nice lady who is in the office between 15-18 hrs.)
Handing in these documents (as well as your passport!), the embassy will give you a receipt for the money you paid as well as a piece of paper which is meant as a "claim slip" for your passport.
It seems that the consulates take anywhere from 2 days to a week to process your visa request, during which time you've left your passport with them. When you return, they will hand your passport back to you with a new visa as well as a stamped version of the "Pedido de Visto Consular" which you filled in. DON'T LOSE THIS PIECE OF PAPER! You'll need it for the foreign police in Rio!
By the way, at least in the U.S., you don't necessarily have to return to the embassy: a courier service can bring your newly stamped passport to your home. You simply give them the claim slip, along with some money for their services.
The visa you receive is a one-year (don't worry: you can stay longer than that) visa, which is probably of either type "IV" or "I" for students. Actually, they used to give out almost exclusively type "I" for students, although the law seems to have changed in late 1999: now they give type "IV" to students.
You're now ready to come to Brazil with your new visa and this piece of paper called the "Pedido de Visto Consular".

There should be no problem here with your new visa. There is only one tricky bit: whenever you pass through immigration at the airport, they'll give you a sort of greenish immigration form to fill out. They'll stamp it and give it back to you afterward. ALWAYS KEEP THESE IMMIGRATION FORMS. Apparently, it can be difficult if you've lost it along the way.
By the way, if you're leaving Brazil and have obtained your protocol from the foreign police, then you follow a slightly different process from a tourist.  In your case, you are considered a resident of Brazil, and you are required to fill out one of those green forms when leaving (not entering) the country.  So if you leave Brazil to go to, say, Italy, you would carry the immigration form around with you in Italy and hand it back in to the immigration services when you returned to Brazil.  Obviously, you will end up keeping the very first immigration form you filled in when you first entered the country (whereas normal tourists would hand it back in to immigration when they left Brazil).  Confusing, huh?

You'll arrive at the international airport, which is located about an hour from the town center. To get to the CBPF, you've basically got two choices: taxi or bus. This leg of the journey is sort of critical: we don't want you in a bad situation on your first day, so we'll describe it in some detail.
The taxi should cost about R$20 or so. The taxi driver may want to charge up to R$5 for your luggage. We hate to say it, but taxi drivers like to rip off newly-arrived passengers. Taxis have two fares: type 1 and type 2. (**) If they don't know where the CBPF is, then give your destination as "Shopping Rio Sul": everybody knows where that is, and the CBPF is just next door.
The bus is somewhat easier. Take the "frescao" (airconditioned bus) which is run by Real. It costs R$3.50 (even if you have lots of luggage) and goes right alongside Shopping Rio Sul and continues up through Barata Ribeiro in Copacabana. During the week, it is supposed to run every half-hour from the airport, and every 40 minutes on Saturdays and Sundays. Its schedule is kind of undetermined, however, and it probably only runs from 6.40 or so in the morning to, perhaps, 00.40 at night, but that's only a guess. Call 0800-240-850 for more information if you're in Brazil.
By the way, if you're trying to get to the airport on Sunday from Copacabana and the Avenida Atlantica is closed (the bus usually passes along here), then the bus comes down Nossa Senhora instead.

You have a month after arriving in Brazil to register with the foreign police. Take a big breath and relax before doing so: it's no fun.
Within the CBPF, at least three people have a good idea of what's required of you at the foreign police: Marcia, Miryam and Prof. Helayel.
Myriam CFC 586-7163 Myriam Simoes Coutinho Marcia DIR 586-7260 Marcia de Oliveira Reis
People have theories when is the best time to arrive at the Policia Federal (PF). 10am seems to work well, and sometimes 1pm. Outside of those times, you're likely to spend a lot of time waiting in line.
The Policia Federal will (probably) want the following to process you:

  1. Your "Pedido de Visto Consular" (which you received from the consulate)
  2. Your passport
  3. Copies of the used pages in your passport (i.e. those which are not blank)
  4. Two photos (small ones. These can be made in Shopping Rio Sul if you don't have any on you)
  5. About R$110 in taxes, paid at a Banco do Brasil (see below).
So here's the process: go to the Policia Federal at about 10 in the morning. You'll see an "information desk" as you walk in. The first window to the left of that desk is where you want to be (it's also the window with the longest line of people waiting). You'll hand in the first 4 items above, after which the police will look them over and then give you two things: firstly, a form to fill in (for their own database), as well as some little slips of paper ("GAR/FUNPOL" or something like that) which are payment slips meant to be paid at the Banco do Brasil. You must fill in your name on these forms, although the police fill in the rest (they'll probably fill in a CPF/CGC of "000 000 001/91", a codigo da receita of "008-5", and perhaps a codigo da unidade arrecadodora do DPF of "027-2"). Make sure that the police didn't forget to write in the "CPF" number (your CPF is your social security number. They should have filled in some sort of "general number" for you in the meantime. Just make sure that that space isn't blank).
Although the police will tell you to fill in "all of the blanks from here to here" on that database form, you'll quickly find out that you don't (and couldn't possibly) know half of them. Don't worry: they fill these in. Just fill in what you know.
The other "fun" thing you'll have to do is pay those taxes. For whatever reason, you're not allowed to actually pay at the police station, only at the government-run Banco do Brasil. The payment slips you received are for exactly that purpose. So leave the police station and go to the nearest Banco do Brasil. Show the slips to whomever you can to make sure that you're standing in the correct line (they're often long lines, by the way). You'll give them cash (by the way, the total will come to slightly more than what's written on the slips) and they'll give you some of the slips back with computerized stuff written on them.
Now back to the foreign police. Back in line, now you hand in all of the documents. They'll paste your pictures on the form you filled in and give you back the form so that you can get your fingerprints taken. This is done off to the right-hand side of the information desk. Ask the people at the information desk if you don't know where to go.
After adding your fingerprints to the form, you return to the same window as before. You'll have to wait a bit, after which they'll give you back your passport and a little slip of paper with your photo on it. This (some would say "ridiculous") little slip of paper is what's known as a "protocol", and will be your I.D. for months to come.
Your protocol is valid for 180 days. Effectively, this means that you must return to the foreign police in 5 months (more on this below), but for the meantime, relax knowing that you've passed through the foreign police!!

Your CPF will be your social security number, and you'll need it to open such things as bank accounts.
To open your CPF, you will probably need the following documents:

  1. Your passport
  2. Your protocol from the federal police
  3. A "comprovante de endereco", i.e. a light or gas receipt from your house (or wherever you're living). This doesn't have to be in your name.  You should also bring a copy of this with you.
To register, take these documents to the "Secretaria da Receita Federal", located at:
Secretaria da Receita Federal
Rua das Laranjeiras 28
Bus from CBPF: take bus 569 or 571
Metro: get off at Largo do Machado

Every once in a while, the Secretaria da Receita Federal asks people to step forward and show that they are still present (known as a "recadastramento do CPF"). This seems to happen in about December. You must then re-register your CPF in some form. Lots of people tend to miss these recadastramento periods (as they are not very well publicised), and, for example, the period was extended 4 times (to at least 19 January, 2000) in 1999-2000 to accomodate the people who missed the December 17, 1999 deadline. Now, the worst thing is knowing WHEN you have to step forward.  This happened toward the end of 2000, in about October or so.  Apparently, this date is advertised on TV and in newspapers: be sure to ask brazilians that you know when you have to reregister your CPF!
As of 2000, you can reregister yourself on the internet, in lottery agencies, in post offices or by telephone (although it's practically impossible to get through on the phone).  The best, by far, is by the internet, located at www.receita.fazenda.gov.brwhere you can pretty much do everything.

You'll want to open a bank account to receive your study grant. CNpQ and Capes students receive their grants at the Banco do Brasil. To open an account at the bank, you'll need (at least) the following things:

  1. Passport
  2. Protocol
  3. CPF
  4. A letter (to be obtained from Myriam) for Capes/CNpQ. Obviously, these agencies will want to know what your bank account number is where they will be depositing your grant.
Try to open your bank account at the tower at Rio Sul instead of opening it at Botafogo: once you have your account number into which your fund is being deposited, if you want to change bank agencies (which requires changing account numbers!) you'll have to contact CNpQ or Capes and tell them to deposit into this new account.  Since this is so much of a hassle, you're much better off just starting off at the tower of Rio Sul, or perhaps at the little agency inside the military complex in Urca.
Another thing you'll probably want is a credit card, if you want to get health insurance from the SBF, that is. The health insurance costs R$100,00 per month, but you can only pay with a VISA credit card.
You'll also want cheques, since most payments for physics congresses, etc. are almost always made by cheque.  On the other hand, I've been here for about 2 years and don't have cheques, so perhaps you really don't need them that badly after all.

Have 5 months passed since you went to the foreign police? If so, grind your teeth and get ready for yet another trip to the foreign police.
Let's explain why. As far as we can ascertain, this is how the process works. That form you filled out at the consulate, the "Pedido de Visto Consular", is a request for the government to give you a visa. The police receive it and send it off to the government in Brasilia. They make a decision and publish the results in this little official booklet known as the "D.O.U." (Diario Oficial da Uniao). The police are supposed to read this little newspaper and if your name appears on the "visa approved" list, they make up a little identity card for you.
Chances are, however, that after 5 months either your name has yet to appear in the D.O.U., or the police haven't seen your name yet. So after 5 months, you will return to the police station and present your passport and protocol. They will probably say that your identity card isn't there yet, and tell you to come back in anywhere from a week to a month.
Lots of people end up coming back every month for the next 6 months while their card still hasn't arrived. This appears to be quite normal, so don't despair.

If you plan to stay in Brazil more than one year, then you must extend your visa (what's known as a "prorrogação"). This must be done BEFORE 11 MONTHS HAVE PASSED since you first went to the Policia Federal. (If you don't, you have to pay a fine)
So it's back to the Policia Federal. This time, they'll probably ask for the following documents:

  1. Your passport
  2. Copy of your protocol (or I.D. card) validated by a cartório.
  3. Copy of all (INCLUDING unused or blank pages) of your passport, also validated by a cartório.
  4. More taxes.  In December of 2000, these were about R$22,00.
  5. A letter of invitation from the institution (CBPF), where the following must be evident: your profession, when you arrived and until which date you intend to stay, and how much you receive (per month).
  6. Copy of a "Concessão da Bolsa" from Capes/CNpQ/etc. (This may also be included in the letter from the CBPF in the case of a Capes scholarship, which comes directly from the institute).
Here's an example of a letter from the instutition (which also served as a "Consessao da Bolsa") which was given to me:


DECLARO, por solicitacao da Policia Federal, que o Senhor PATRICK JOHN BROCKILL e aluno regularmente matriculado no Programa de Pos-Graduacao em Fisica (Doutorado) deste Centro Brasileiro de Pesquisas Fisicas - CBPF desde marco de 1999 e recebe proventos mensais, como bolsista da CAPES, no valor de R$1.072,89 (hum mil e setenta e dois reais e oitenta e nove centavos).  O Senhor Brockill, teve bom aproveitamento neste periodo e tendo as Bolsas da CAPES a duracao de 48 (quarenta e oito) meses e o Programa de Doutorado do CBPF a duracao de 72 (setenta e dois) meses, podera, portanto, permanecer no curso ate o mes de agosto de 2004, podendo receber proventos mensais ate agosto de 2002.
Rio de Janeiro, 29 de junho de 1999
By the way, when you're doing this "prorrogação" (extension) of your visa, you don't have to wait in that huge line you waited in when you first came to Brazil.  In December of 2000, you went to window 21 instead, where the line is a lot shorter!
Although I'd like to know the answer to this question myself, a cartório seems to be some sort of legal agency which verifies the validity of documents (at least, that's pretty much its function as far as foreigners are concerned).  Believe it or not, it appears that a cartório is passed down from parents to their children, so that they can simply rake in the money!   (And given the prices for their services, I'm sure they do!)
Of the various cartórios I've been in, the system seems to work like this: say you've got a passport which you need validated copies of (by the way, they'll charge you for copies if you haven't made them yourself.).  You give your documents to some clerk behind the counter, who gives you a slip of paper.  Then you wait while they put little stickers on your passport.  Then you stand in the line to pay, and you receive the copies you made with little stickers on them indicating that it's been validated.  (However, on at least one occasion, I didn't even have to show them my passport.  That, despite the fact that they are confirming that the copies are truly copies of the original!)

Remember that you pay a fee PER PAGE (i.e. per A4) that they validate, and the price can vary GREATLY and depends on which cartório you go to.  The current price seems to be about R$2.00 per A4 verified.  (However, when I arrived in São Paulo in 1998, I paid only R$0.20 per page!)
For instance, I went to a cartório in Copacabana (across from the "Barao de Pao" on Nossa Senhora) and paid a (ridiculous?) R$2.50 per page of my passport, meaning that I had to pay more than R$65 to have the copies validated!  At that time, some places only charge R$1.00 per page, so be sure to ask beforehand how much they charge! (Actually, I've understood that things have been "normalized" since then, and that the prices don't vary as much as they used to.  So now they're all expensive!)
If you make your own copies, then make sure that the space around your passport isn't black (i.e. don't leave the lid of the copier open while you make the copies).  If it is, the cartório has no place to put their little stickers.
Now, there is a large controversy surrounding the number of passport pages you can put onto one A4.  The Policia Federal, at least as of 7 December 2000, accepted both of the formats pictured in the images on the left and the right.
Now, when I first arrived in Brasil in 1998, I was told that you could NOT put four pages of my passport on one A4.  All of a sudden, in 2000, I understand that it is no problem.  Some cartórios charge per A4 which is validated, so putting four pages onto one page could save you a lot of money!  Other, less reputable perhaps, cartórios, will try to charge you twice for putting four pages of your passport onto one A4.  If so, then just walk away and go to a different cartório.
Here are just a couple of cartórios in Rio:

  1. Centro: Rua Buenos Aires, 24: "Cheap", R$2.00 per page, but they tried to charge me R$4.00 per page when I put 4 pages of my passport on one A4.  (Other peruvians tell me that didn't happen to them, however)  Within walking distance of the Polícia Federal.
  2. Centro: Avenida Presidente Vargas, 435, on the 22nd floor: expensive (R$2,53), but they did accept putting 4 pages onto one A4.  Within walking distance of the Polícia Federal.
  3. Centro: Rua México, 42: Never been here.  Recommended by a secretary.
  4. Copacabana/Leme: 24 Ofício de Notas, Praça Demétrio Ribeiro 17, Lojas C-D-E: Recommended by a secretary.
  5. Copacabana: Nossa Senhora de Copacabana, across from the "Barão de Pão": Pretty expensive.  A while ago I paid R$2.50 per page there, and that was when the going price was a lot lower!
  6. Botafogo: Rual Real Grandeza, just after the intersection with Rua Voltários da Pátria, going towards the intersection with Henrique Novaes.  Actually, this was by far the best, although I haven't been there recently.  They were charging R$1.00 when other people were charging R$2.00 a while back.

If you've been in Rio for a while, but need to stay a bit longer, you'll have to go through the process of re-applying for your visa.  This has to be done OUTSIDE OF BRAZIL.  So you'll be off to Argentina, Peru, etc. if you've stayed this long!
The process of reapplying for a visa is the same as the original process of applying for a visa, with a couple of complications.  I understand that you need the following:

  1. A letter of invitation from the CBPF, VALIDATED IN A CARTÓRIO.
  2. Proof of financial support.
  3. A passport, valid for at least the period of your stay.
  4. A "letter of good conduct" from the Brazilian police.  See below.
  5. A tax of between R$40 or US$40. If you're a U.S. citizen, add a reciprocal tax of about US$45 (so you'll pay a total of US$85).
  6. Two photos (if you're applying from the U.S., these must be 2"x2" photos, i.e. the same size you used for your passport application)
The trick to this process is the letter of good conduct from the police.  Apparently, the law has recently (at least in December of 1999) changed, and the police no longer simply give out letters of good conduct.  Your embassy or consulate in Brazil has to request one for you.  This can be difficult, as most embassies and consulates in Brazil have never heard of this.  One researcher here at the CBPF went to his consulate and was forced to write the letter of request by himself, after which the embassy signed it (and gave it back to him to give to the police).  The police weren't satisfied with the letter and sent him back, etc.  Finally, he ended up just getting angry until the police finally agreed to give him his letter of good conduct.  Then he took the letter of conduct to a cartório and had it validated, which is perhaps required.
Hearing some stories of what can happen at the embassies and consulates (they can be pretty hard sometimes), you'd be well-advised to have a system ready to send documents from the CBPF to you fast if they decide that you'll need them (CEDEX).  Some consulates/embassies don't have faxes (i.e. Cidade do Leste near Foz de Iguaçu), so you'd best not rely on faxes.