The United States Implements Travel Restrictions on Hungarian Citizens Over Passport Identity Concerns
Photo Credit: Photo credit: Anna Hunko

Photo Credit: Photo credit: Anna Hunko

The United States Implements Travel Restrictions on Hungarian Citizens Over Passport Identity Concerns

hungary , passports
Rafael Peña
Rafael Peña Aug 1, 2023

The United States has imposed new travel restrictions on certain Hungarian citizens in response to worries about the country’s identity verification process. Nearly 1 million foreigners with Hungarian passports over the past nine years are on the receiving end of this restrictive news. Revealed by the U.S. Embassy and a government official, concerns center on the lack of proof for these passport holders.

What Is The U.S. Visa Waiver Program?

The travel restrictions pertain to the U.S. Visa Waiver Program. The system enables passport holders from forty countries to enter the United States for business or tourism without a visa for up to 90 days. Hungarian passport holders will now have their qualification period under the Electronic System for Travel Authorization reduced to one year. They are also limited to a single entry into the United States. These are the sole restrictions among the forty countries in the Visa Waiver Program.

The travel restriction update comes as a result of multiple unsuccessful efforts by the U.S. to collaborate with Hungary’s government. Addressing security concerns is one of the primary issues, as stated by a senior official who preferred anonymity. The U.S. has expressed worries that a significant number of Hungarian passports were granted without sufficient identity verification, raising potential safety risks, as some of these passports were issued to individuals with no ties to Hungary.

Claims Of Hungarian Ancestry

In 2011, Hungary’s government, under Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s leadership, introduced a simplified naturalization procedure for individuals claiming Hungarian ancestry. Whether they lived or intended to live in Hungary, this facilitated the acquisition of Hungarian citizenship by hundreds of thousands of ethnic Hungarians residing in neighboring countries.

Critics have raised concerns that this program allowed non-taxpaying ethnic Hungarians in other countries to vote in Hungarian elections.

Hungary Denied U.S. Request

In the past, Hungary was provisionally categorized by the United States as a member of the Visa Waiver Program, citing the aforementioned concerns. However, Hungary’s government has since issued a statement in response to the imposed restrictions. The Interior Ministry asserted that the U.S. requested personal data of ethnic Hungarians holding dual citizenship abroad. Hungary chose not to comply with this request to safeguard its citizens’ security. The statement further suggested that the actions of the Biden administration might be perceived as retaliatory against Hungarians.

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