Brazil is not considering granting asylum to Edward Snowden, the former CIA defence contractor who is on the run from US authorities after lifting the lid on a massive government surveillance programme, because he has not made a formal application.

Snowden had written an "Open Letter to the Brazilian People" published by Folha and social media, in which he offered to help Brazilian investigators examine the US National Security Agency surveillance of the president, Dilma Rousseff, major companies and ordinary Brazilians.

"I have expressed my willingness to assist wherever appropriate and lawful, but unfortunately the United States government has worked very hard to limit my ability to do so," the letter said.

"Until a country grants permanent political asylum, the US government will continue to interfere with my ability to speak."

The revelations of the surveillance programme has damaged diplomatic relations between the United States and Brazil and many US allies including Germany and France. Rousseff cancelled her scheduled visit to Washington when it was revealed that she had been the target of US snooping.

Snowden presented evidence of the NSA monitoring Rousseff's email and cellphone and hacking into the network of Petrobras, the state-run oil company. The Brazilian government ordered an inquiry into the spying allegations.

Some members of Brazilian Congress sought permission from Russia, where snowden has been granted temporary asylum, to interview him but received no response, said nReuters.

"Brazil should not miss the opportunity to grant asylum to Edward Snowden, who was key to unravelling the US espionage system", Sen Ricardo Ferragamo, chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, said in a tweet.

Opposition parties did not support granting asylum to Snowden on fears that it would be counter-productive and may harm relations with the US, Brazil's largest trading partner after China.

Snowden did not explicitly mention seeking asylum in the letter but he had hinted that his collaboration with the congressional investigation could lead to permanent asylum by the country.