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After Residency Bonds, Will Real Estate Investment Be the Orbán Govt’s New Immigration Scheme for Wealthy Foreigners?

2018.05.16.

According to investigative news site Direkt36, days after the elections an advertisement appeared on WeChat, a popular Chinese social media site, promoting Hungary’s new immigration scheme which involves real estate investment and which has many similarities to the Orbán government’s controversial residency bond scheme

The company behind the advertisement is LSP International Ltd, whose owner is Lian Wang. Mr. Wang was also a shareholder of the Hungary State Special Debt Management (HSSDM), the company which was in charge of the sales of Hungarian residency bonds in China. Through other companies, Wang also has several ties with PM Orbán’s advisor Árpád Habony and Cabinet Minister Antal Rogán, who were instrumental in the since-suspended residency bond program’s creation.

Amid Great Controversy, A Last Minute Rush for Hungarian Residency Bonds

The new scheme is known as the real estate investment residency program, and applicants have to invest a minimum amount of €80,000 in real estate in Hungary; the program involves an additional administration fee of €50,000 as well. In return, immigrants would get a residency permit for 5 years. In addition, the ad promises that the whole process wouldn’t take more than 2-3 months and that the real estate is considerably cheaper in Hungary than elsewhere in the EU. Hungarian residency permits allow applicants to travel without restrictions in the Schengen zone as well.

Despite the fact that no information has been revealed by any of government officials regarding the new program, LSP International insists that previous talks with the Hungarian Immigration and Asylum Office guarantee the launch of the project. Likewise, Direkt36 maintains that they contacted a number of lawyers who confirmed the existence of the program.

Local chinese are greeting the visiting Chinese PM in Budapest. Since 2013,15,754 Chinese citizens have received permanent residence permits in Hungary. Image: MTI/Balogh Zoltán

As for the legal background, the scheme would be based on the same law as the residency bond scheme. This law says that foreigners whose entry and stay in Hungary bears a “national economic interest” are entitled to obtain Hungarian papers.

The controversial and much debated residency bond scheme, which purportedly aimed to finance the country’s state debt, was initiated by Cabinet Minister Antal Rogán and was in effect between 2013 and 2017. While the Fidesz-led government has a rigorous, and, according to critics, xenophobic attitude towards migration and immigrants, it has quietly offered residence permits to wealthy foreigners from outside of the European Union who were willing to pay an approximately €300,000 deposit. This amount would be later returned to the new Hungarian resident. According to estimations, some 20,000 foreigners received residency through this scheme; critics noted that there were many among those who entered under the Residency Bond program who may have posed potential security risks due to the program’s “superficial” background checks.

Soon after Direkt36’s article was published, the site became unavailable.

Government Reaction

The Immigration and Asylum office has consistently denied to date that they have any kind of tie or relationship with the aforementioned Chinese company, while the Government Information Office claimed that the program’s existence is “a simple lie”, adding that nobody would get Hungarian residency permit in exchange for real estate investments in the country. Furthermore, they added that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would take legal steps against the company in question.

In addition, the online advertisements of the Chinese company, which Direkt36 referenced, have since been deleted.

 

via direkt36.hu, 444.hu, index.hu

image via MTVA / Jászai Csaba