Brazil last year granted 73,022 work visas for foreigners, 3.54 percent more than in 2011 and a 70.15 percent increase since 2009, the Labor and Employment Ministry announced here Wednesday.

"The professionals are highly qualified and came to engage in professions in the areas of management and supervision of companies," said a ministry communique.

Of the total visas granted, 64,682 were temporary and 8,340 were permanent.

The main areas of activity for the foreign workers, the ministry said, were engineering, technology, systems analysis, petroleum and natural gas, civil construction and infrastructure projects.

Portugal, Spain and China were the countries that benefitted most from Brazilian work visa authorizations.

In 2012, the number of work visas for Portuguese citizens jumped by 81 percent, while Spaniards received 53 percent more such visas and Chinese 24 percent.

However, in terms of gross numbers, the United States led all nations in its receipt of Brazilian work visas with 9,209, followed by The Philippines with 5,179 and Haiti with 4,860, with most of the visas authorized for Haitians going to people who came to Brazil illegally after their homeland was devastated by the 2010 earthquake.

The granting of permanent visas for investors increased by 15 percent last year and the ministry said that the government's provision of such visas generated investments of 286 million reais (about $143 million), 40 percent more than in 2011. EFE