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US tightens Hungarian visa exemption

US tightens Hungarian visa exemption

Changes to Hungary’s visa-free program will take effect on Tuesday, due to security concerns regarding new passports issued between 2011 and 2020. The justification is that Budapest has not addressed the security vulnerabilities repeatedly raised by Washington, so criminals and fraudsters can also obtain valid Hungarian passports due to the simplified naturalization program, according to the US embassy’s argument, according to Reuters.

Citizens of countries participating in the US Visa Waiver Program can stay in the United States for up to 90 days without a visa for tourism or business purposes, and this requires a passport and Electronic Travel Authorization (ESTA).

The US Embassy in Budapest announced in a statement that the period of validity provided to Hungarians under the Electronic Travel Authorization (ESTA) system will be immediately reduced from two years to one year, and that under the system, only one visit will be possible, not multiple visits.

This unprecedented step in response to security concerns affects Hungary as the only country among the forty countries participating in the American program.

The American ambassador in Budapest said:

The US ambassador to Budapest said, “The United States will pay more attention to Hungary from now on.”

The Hungarian government issued hundreds of thousands of passports as part of the simplified naturalization program, without strict oversight – Al said Politiconac David Pressman, US Ambassador to Budapest.

Pressman also added that the Hungarian government had been informed of the problem years ago, but had not taken serious steps in the matter.

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The US Embassy wrote on its Facebook page:

“Over many years, the United States government has made significant efforts to avoid this amendment and address long-term security risks arising from the simplified naturalization process. Despite this, the Hungarian government has decided not to address the concerns raised and has done nothing to fulfill the requirements of the Visa Waiver Program from all Ways”.

However, in the official information, attention is drawn to the fact that the reduction of ESTA validity only affects new ESTA applications received after the entry into force of this declaration, and not retroactively. ESTA permits issued before August 1, 2023 are still valid for two years and for multiple entries.

Reuters indicated that the restrictions entered into force a day after the Fidesz party boycotted a parliamentary session called by the opposition parties that was supposed to vote on Sweden’s application to join NATO.

The Ministry of Interior responded

The United States of America has asked Hungary to obtain data on Hungarians abroad who have dual citizenship, the Interior Ministry told MTI on Tuesday.

They wrote that Hungary would not publish this to anyone, because the safety of Hungarians abroad was at stake. “This is why President Joe Biden’s government is taking revenge on the Hungarians,” they added.

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