As of Tuesday, the United States has tightened visa authorizations for Hungarian nationals, citing security reasons. Until now, Hungarians could apply for a two-year, multiple-entry visa through the U.S.’ Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). Under the tighter rules, the ESTA approval will only be valid for a single entry during one year.
In an interview with Politico, U.S. Ambassador to Hungary David Pressman said, “There are hundreds of thousands of passports that have been issued by the government of Hungary as part of the simplified naturalization program without stringent identity verification mechanisms in place.”
“This is a really unfortunate day. This is not the outcome the United States sought or is seeking,” Pressman said.
Pressman is referring to Hungary granting citizenship to about 1 million people between 2011 and 2020, mainly ethnic Hungarians living in neighboring states, with Washington now claiming that these naturalizations were made without taking adequate security measures to verify their identity.
Analysts Eszter Párkányi and Levente Szikra of the Hungarian think tank Center for Fundamental Rights pointed to the Hungarian Citizenship Act launched on January 1, 2011, which allowed Hungarians living abroad to be naturalized under a simplified procedure.
Under the act, non-Hungarians whose ancestors were Hungarian citizens or whose ancestors can prove their Hungarian origin and Hungarian language skills can acquire Hungarian citizenship upon individual application. A further condition is that the person concerned must have a clean criminal record and that their naturalization must not harm Hungary’s public security and national security.
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“This is why the U.S. argument, which cites security concerns, is incomprehensible,” the analysts pointed out.
Párkányi and Szikra stress that the decision is being used as a false reference point for political ends and that it fits into a series of unfriendly actions by the left-wing US administration in recent years, which can be traced back to ideological differences.
“The left-wing Biden administration wants to put pressure on our country to change our policies: They want Hungary to abandon its pro-peace stance, its anti-migration policy, and its rejection of gender ideology,” they said.