The US says criminals also obtained Hungarian passports, while Hungarian authorities claim they have dealt with every case

August 02. 2023. – 03:11 PM



Copied to clipboard

The US State Department cited the Hungarian passports issued under the simplified naturalization procedure prior to the introduction of the biometric passport as the reason why the US government decided to restrict Hungary's participation in the US Visa Waiver Program (VWP). At a press conference on Tuesday, spokesman Matthew Miller said that the only criterion behind the move was compliance with the visa waiver programme.

According to the American authorities, there are criminals who have obtained Hungarian passports because the verification of the identity of those applying for Hungarian citizenship was not adequate prior to 2020.

While the spokesman didn't mention any specific cases of individuals of a questionable background entering the US with Hungarian passports, he claimed that the US government took into account that some individuals had obtained Hungarian passports without a thorough screening and that Hungary had not responded to these concerns being raised.

Five years ago Direkt36 reported that nearly 700 foreigners had fraudulently obtained Hungarian passports, thus enabling them to enter the United States. Hungary has been a member of the US Visa Waiver Program since 2008, which allows holders of Hungarian passports to travel to the US almost freely, after an online registration.

Reacting to Matthew Miller's statement, State Secretary at the Ministry of Interior, Bence Rétvári said:

"The statement of the US Foreign Affairs spokesperson is misleading and false, as Hungary has dealt with every single specific request from the US law enforcement authorities, criminal prosecutions have been carried out and the violators have been deprived of their Hungarian citizenship. It is despite this that the US government is now demanding the data of Hungarians abroad".

According to Rétvári, the United States of America is demanding the data of 900,000 Hungarians living beyond the country's borders who have dual citizenship, but Hungary will not provide this data to anyone because it would threaten the security of Hungarians living abroad. The State Secretary added that

there is no guarantee that if we were to comply with this request, the data of Hungarians in Transcarpathia wouldn't be handed over to Ukraine,

which would have serious consequences for Hungarians there because of Ukraine's ban on dual citizenship. “It is clear that they are taking revenge on Hungarians because Hungary is not complying with the unjustified request of the United States of America.”

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

According to a Tuesday announcement, as of 1 August, the validity of the ESTA for Hungarian passport holders has been reduced from two years to one year and will be valid for one entry only.

For more quick, accurate and impartial news from and about Hungary, subscribe to the Telex English newsletter!