US limits visa waiver for Hungarian passport holders

August 01. 2023. – 10:55 AM



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The United States has severely restricted visa-free travel for people arriving from Hungary, Politico reports.

Under the American Visa Waiver Program, citizens of qualifying countries can travel to the United States for tourism or business purposes without a visa for up to 90 days. All they need is a so-called Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).

However, as of Tuesday, the validity of ESTA for Hungarian passport holders will be reduced from two years to one year and an ESTA will be valid for one-time use only.

The decision will only affect applications received after 1 August, with previously issued ESTAs remaining valid for two years and multiple entries. Of the 40 countries participating in the US programme, Hungary is the only one affected by the move.

According to a statement from the US embassy, the reason for the decision dates back to 2010, when the Orbán government granted citizenship to Hungarians living in neighbouring countries.

According to the Americans, as part of the simplified naturalization process, nearly one million people were granted Hungarian citizenship without proper security checks between 2011 and 2020.

The U.S. ambassador to Hungary said that his government has put in extensive efforts over the years to resolve this issue of “security vulnerability”, but “the Hungarian government has opted not to address these concerns". "This is a really unfortunate day", Pressman said, adding that this was not the outcome the US was seeking.

The change is effective immediately, starting on 1 August, and will remain in effect until the Hungarian government addresses the security risk, the US embassy said in a statement.

The Hungarian reaction

The first reaction to the Americans' Tuesday morning announcement from the Hungarian government was a three-sentence statement from the Ministry of the Interior, which said:

"The United States of America has demanded that Hungary provide the data of dual citizen Hungarians from neighbouring countries. Hungary will not release this information to anyone because the security of Hungarians residing in neighbouring countries is at stake. That is why President Joe Biden's administration is now taking revenge on Hungarians!"

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