Licensing for Architecture Companies in Brazil

An Expert's View about Business Management, Management Consultancy in Brazil

Posted on: 11 Nov 2012


As one of the fastest growing countries in Latin America, Brazil is experiencing major growth in the infrastructure sector. The country will capture global attention as its major cities are undergoing a construction boom in preparation for the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016. Architectural design projects around the country, from roads and stadiums to airports and retail space are abundant. Although there is strong competition from local firms, American ACE firms with a niche expertise are welcome to do business in Brazil, provided they understand the procedures for being able to work in Brazil.

There are two general options for U.S. architectural firms to do business in Brazil. The first possibility is for a U.S. architectural firm to partner with a local architectural firm that is licensed to provide architectural services in Brazil. As with most services imported to Brazil, the Brazilian architectural firm using the design services will have to pay additional costs of up to 40% of the price of the services rendered. To avoid this process, a U.S. firm may prefer to set up a business in Brazil directly and obtain the license to provide architectural services in Brazil. This option works for U.S. firms looking to do business in Brazil over the long-term, as starting a business in Brazil and obtaining the necessary approvals to do architectural work is not a short-term process. The following report provides information on the regulatory and licensing requirements for U.S. architectural firms that would like to business in Brazil.

The New Council for Architecture and Urbanism of Brazil

Until recently, the Brazilian entities in charge of licensing a foreign architecture or engineering company to work in Brazil differed at the state and federal levels. The Regional Council for Engineering and Architecture (CREA) played this role at the state government level, while at the federal level it was the Federal Council for Engineering and Architecture (CONFEA). Since 2012, CREA and CONFEA cover only the Engineering and Agronomy sectors. CREA has become the Regional Council for Engineering and Agronomy, and CONFEA is now the Federal Council for Engineering and Agronomy. This is largely in response to the creation of a new entity called the Council for Architecture and Urbanism of Brazil (CAU/BR).

Enacted by Federal Law n° 12,378/10, available in Portuguese at uploads/anexos/leisdecretos/Lei-12378-2010-Cria-o-CAU-BR-e-CAU-UF.pdf, CAU/BR is the entity that regulates the practices of architecture and urbanism in Brazil. Like CREA, CAU is based on the state model. For example, the CAU for the State of Rio de Janeiro is the CAU/RJ, which became operational on January 2, 2012. At the federal Level is the CAU/BR, based in Brasilia. Each state chapter of the CAU is able to supervise, recommend, and/or offer suggestions, but not regulate. This role lies in the hands of the Federal Council headquartered in Brasilia.

The Registration Process

Registering with the CAU is not the only requirement for an architectural company interested in working in Brazil. By law, a company looking to do business or establish an office in Brazil must be registered with the commercial board of the state in which the company's office will be located.

Also, a federal and state tax number, known as the CNPJ number, must be obtained from the Secretariat of the Federal Revenue of Brazil. These are procedures required to open up any business in Brazil and not unique to the ACE sector.

The World Bank website provides a detailed summary of the bureaucratic and legal hurdles entrepreneurs might face when registering or incorporating a new firm in Brazil. It details the procedures, time, and cost involved in launching a commercial or industrial firm with up to 50 employees. The suggested start-up capital is ten times the economy’s per-capita gross national income. This website can be found at:

The licensing and registration process for non-Brazilian architects to work in Brazil can be lengthy, taking, on average, upwards of a year. Foreign school records must first be notarized by the Brazilian Embassy or Consulate in the company’s home country. They must then be translated into Portuguese by a sworn translator, and sent to a Brazilian public university for validation. Each educational institution may vary on how much time is required for such validation.

The Approval Process

The architectural project must be registered with the CAU of the state where the project will take place before being approved. Online registration can be done through the CAU Information and Communication System (SICCAU). For more information about registration regulations, please see resolution 28 from July 6, 2012, available in Portuguese at 2012.pdf. For information about the necessary documents for registration, please see resolution 15 from February 3, 2012, available in Portuguese at uploads/anexos/resolucao/RES-15(FORMA-REGISTRO-PJ)CAU-BR(FINAL).pdf.

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Posted: 11 November 2012