Washington cites security concerns as the reason for its move to restrict visa-free travel for Hungarian passport holders. Of the forty countries participating in the program, Hungary is the only one affected. The US embassy says the Hungarian government has not addressed the concerns raised – reports Politico.eu.
The United States has restricted Hungary’s participation in its visa waiver program due to security concerns about new passports issued between 2011 and 2020. Under the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, citizens of participating countries can travel to the US for tourism or business purposes for up to 90 days without a visa, using only an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).
However, from Tuesday, the validity of the ESTA for Hungarian passport holders will be reduced from two years to one year and will be valid for one-time use only. Forty countries are participating in the program, with Hungary being the only country affected by the restriction. The U.S. Embassy statement attributes the decision to the fact that between 2011 and 2020, the Hungarian government granted Hungarian citizenship to nearly one million people under a simplified naturalization procedure without proper security clearance of their identities.
In light of the Government of Hungary’s decision not to fully address the security vulnerabilities created by its earlier implementation of its simplified naturalization process, procedures for all Hungarian passport holders to utilize the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) have been modified.”
They added that the U.S. Government has made extensive efforts over many years to avoid this outcome and resolve longstanding security issues arising from Hungary’s simplified naturalization process.
The naturalized citizens that the U.S. refers to as a security concern come overwhelmingly from members of the Hungarian minority from neighboring EU countries, such as Slovakia and Romania, and some from non-EU Ukraine, close to 150,000 citizens of which the U.S. has welcomed as refugees since the outbreak of the war. There is no evidence that any of these naturalized Hungarian citizens would pose a risk to the U.S., hence demanding their personal details would be a serious violation of their individual rights, something that the Hungarian Government cannot agree to by international treaties. There is no precedent to the U.S. sharing such information of its own citizens with Hungary, or any other country, thus the measure to restrict travel has likely political undertones.
The embassy believes that the Hungarian Government has not addressed the concerns raised.
The amendment is effective immediately and will remain in force until the underlying security concerns are addressed. The reduction in the validity of ESTA only affects new ESTA applications received after the entry into force of this declaration and is not retroactive.
ESTA authorizations issued before August 1, 2023 will continue to be valid for two years and for multiple entries,”
A short statement sent by the Ministry of Interior to MTI reported that
the United States of America has demanded the data of Hungarians abroad with dual citizenship from Hungary, but they would not give this information to anyone because the security of Hungarians abroad is at stake.
“This is why President Joe Biden’s administration is now taking revenge on Hungarians,” they added.
Social media users were quick to comment on the Embassy’s post:
Security issues? WOW! And the southern border is wide open…“,
referring to the fact that migrant border crossings to the United States in fiscal year 2022, topped 2.76 million, breaking previous records.
Some comments even went as far as: “Says a country whose southern border is a gateway and driver’s licenses can be obtained in some states by anyone who successfully swims the Rio Grande with a bag full of drugs.”
Another comment addressed the U.S. Ambassador, noting “Mr. Pressman, dual citizens from abroad have not been allowed to participate in the ESTA program so far; besides, a tiny minority of Hungarian citizens commute between Hungary and your country, mostly the caviar leftists (to borrow a phrase from the great American fiction writer Tom Wolfe) who change the world at the workshops of ‘progressive’ NGOs. This measure will not bring Viktor Orbán down, but it will make the pro-government press cast aspersion upon you and your government. Congratulations on this a massive case of shooting yourself in the foot!”
Still another user wrote “It’s a dirty trick to give the Ukrainians the data of the dual nationality holders! Is this really how the so-called allies behave towards each other?”
There was no reference, however, on the U.S. Embassy’s website, nor its Facebook page, to the alleged request of data of dual citizenship Hungarians living abroad.
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