Reduction of ESTA Validity for Hungarian Passport Holders
On August 1, 2023, the U.S. government announced the limited participation of Hungary in the Visa Waiver Program.
The decision is caused by security concerns regarding the Hungarian passports issued between 2011 and 2020.
The American Visa Waiver Program enables participating countries to travel to the U.S. for the purpose of tourism or business for up to 90 days visa-free.
Instead of a visa, eligible travelers need to apply for ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization).
In general, ESTA is issued for two years and permits multiple entries to the States. From the beginning of August 2023, Hungarian passport holders, however, can obtain ESTA valid for one year and use it only for one entry to the country.
Reduction of ESTA validity affects only Hungary
The move to reduce the validity of the ESTA affected only Hungary as the only one of all 40 countries participating in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program.
The change becomes effective immediately and will remain until the U.S. government decides otherwise.
What is more, the reduced ESTA validity only affects new applications submitted after the date when the decision has become effective and is not retroactive.
In other words, all ESTAs that had been granted before August 1, 2023, remain the validity of 2 years and can be used for numerous entries to the States.
Reasons for reduction of ESTA validity for Hungarian passport holders
Under the leadership of PM Viktor Orbán, the Hungarian government started to offer a simplified naturalization procedure to the people claiming that they have Hungarian ancestors in 2011.
They were entitled to obtain a passport to Hungary even if they did not live in Hungary. Most often, people living in Romania, Serbia, and Ukraine could acquire Hungarian citizenship thanks to the simplified procedure.
A number of Hungarian passports were issued without stringent identity verification requirements.
Some of the passport holders are criminals who may pose a safety threat and have no connection to Hungary.
The United States earlier demanded the personal details of ethnic Hungarians holding dual citizenship, but the Hungarian government refused to provide such data.
In response, the Biden administration decided to introduce restrictions on Hungarians willing to visit the U.S.