U.S. limit visas for Hungarian citizens, including for Romanians naturalized by Hungary


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On Tuesday, the United States imposed restrictions on Hungarian passport holders within the Visa Waiver Program, Reuters informs. The unprecedented measure comes in response to security concerns, according to Washington, and targets travel documents issued between 2011 and 2020, POLITICO notes. Hungary is the only country out of the 40 participating in the Visa Waiver program targeted by the US decision.

Under the Visa Waiver Program, citizens of participating countries can travel to the US for tourist or business purposes for a period of up to 90 days without a visa, the travel documents being registered in the Electronic Travel Authorization System ( ESTA).

In a statement, the US Embassy in Budapest announced that the period of validity offered to citizens of Hungary under the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) will be reduced, with immediate effect, from two years to one year and only one-time visits will be allowed within the system, not multiple ones, thus, Hungarian citizens having the right to a single entry in the USA.

A senior US government official said the changes do not apply to any of the other 39 participants in the Visa Waiver Program and are “unique to Hungary”. “There is a systemic problem, namely that hundreds of thousands of passports were issued between 2011 and 2020 without any identity verification requirements,” the US official said.

Hungary granted citizenship to approximately one million people between 2011 and 2020, most of them ethnic Hungarians living in neighboring states, “without adequate security measures in place,” the US embassy said. That includes the Romanians naturalized by Hungary.

According to Politico, after coming to power in 2010, Orbán’s government implemented a major policy shift granting citizenship to ethnic Hungarians abroad, including in Romania, Slovakia and Ukraine.

The granting of citizenship was a political move by Prime Minister Viktor Orban that brought him votes in subsequent elections.

“There are hundreds of thousands of passports that have been issued by the Hungarian government as part of the simplified naturalization program without strict identity verification mechanisms in place,” U.S. Ambassador to Budapest David Pressman told POLITICO.

Relations between the US and Hungarian governments are strained after Budapest postponed a parliamentary vote on Sweden’s NATO membership and restrictions on LGBTQ rights imposed by Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s nationalist government.

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