Hungarian citizens who were born outside Hungary will no longer be able to travel without a visa to the United States, Magyar Hang reports. In a reply to the paper, the US Embassy in Budapest said that the changed procedure is due to “identity management vulnerabilities” in Hungary’s simplified naturalization process that was introduced by the Orbán government in 2011.
Even though EU citizens have been able to travel freely to the United States since November 8th of last year, many Hungarian citizens have had their applications for entry to the US rejected, according to Magyar Hang.
Several readers who were born in neighboring countries of Hungarian nationality who later acquired Hungarian citizenship, told the paper that they have been denied the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) required for a visa waiver.
Those whose passports do not list Hungary as their place of birth have found that even if they try to get an ESTA, the program automatically rejects their application.
The news site reports that many people who have been able to use this option several times before, and have obtained a two-year US travel permit electronically in just a few minutes by paying just over 10 dollars, now get a “travel not authorized” response. The only option is to apply for a visa in person, which is time-consuming and expensive, costing $160.
The new measure is causing a lot of frustration for ethnic Hungarians living in the Carpathian Basin who have dual citizenship and want to travel to the US, but not only for them: there are many Hungarian citizens who were simply not born in the country, although they live here.
Speculation is ongoing as to what might be the reason for this. According to information obtained by Magyar Hang, it might be due to the great amount of misuse regarding the Orbán government’s “simplified naturalization” process that the US authorities have had enough. The decision was supposedly made earlier in February 2021, but it was only revealed when travel restrictions were lifted due to the coronavirus pandemic.
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The Orbán government introduced its simplified naturalization route to dual citizenship in 2011, mainly to help ethnic Hungarians living in the Carpathian Basin obtain their Hungarian citizenship.
The procedure allows the acquiring of citizenship without a place of residence or domicile in Hungary if a foreign citizen can prove Hungarian ancestry or marriage to a Hungarian citizen. Theoretically, they must also demonstrate knowledge of the Hungarian language.
However, the legal route has garnered a lot of criticsm since its introduction. For example, years ago, a series of reports emerged describing the ways in which Russian and Ukrainian criminals have taken advantage of loopholes in Hungary’s dual citizenship program in order to gain an EU passport. Some even managed to buy Hungarian citizenship through the dark web. And the list goes on.
Magyar Hang contacted the US Embassy in Budapest, which wrote in a diplomatic but firm reply that:
“The naturalization process for people of Hungarian descent in neighboring countries led to identity management vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities have allowed criminals and fraudsters to obtain valid Hungarian passports. Since the problem was identified, the United States and Hungary have been working together to mitigate these border security threats.”
The paper has also contacted the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade asking about the issue, but has not received a response.
Featured photo illustration via Hungarian Banknote Printing Company/MTI