The Visa Waiver Program allows citizens of certain countries to travel to the U.S. without a visa for up to 90 days for tourism and limited business activities. Since 2008, Hungary has also been one of the current 40 member countries worldwide. The prerequisite for visa-free entry is ESTA approval, which must be applied for online in advance and is usually granted for two years. This means these individuals can enter the country visa-free during the approved ESTA period.
The program is designed to strengthen border security and facilitate immigration processes.
As of the beginning of August 2023, Hungarian nationals now find it more difficult to enter the U.S. with ESTA by limiting the validity of the travel authorization. As of August 1, 2023, the ESTA authorization is only valid for a maximum of one year for Hungarian citizens and must be reapplied for each entry. If Hungarian citizens apply for an ESTA permit, it will only be issued for one year and entitles them to enter the country only once during this period. This is in contrast to other VWP nationals whose ESTA is usually issued for two years for multiple entries during this period. The announcement was made by the U.S. Embassy in Budapest.
The Hungarian government granted Hungarian citizenship to nearly one million people between 2011 and 2020 by using a simplified naturalization process. According to U.S. authorities, this was done without providing adequate identity verification safeguards. Despite security concerns from the U.S. side, the Hungarian government decided not to fully close the existing loopholes in the naturalization process. As a result, requirements for access to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) have now been tightened for Hungarian passport holders.
In early August, the Hungarian government was informed that the validity period of the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) for Hungarian passport holders will be reduced from two to one year. In addition, the possibility of using an ESTA for holders of Hungarian passports will be limited to a single use.
Despite ongoing efforts by the U.S. government to prevent these measures, the Hungarian government has so far refrained from addressing U.S. security concerns in order to fully meet the requirements for continued participation in the VWP. The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) is based on a comprehensive security partnership between the United States and selected countries... The U.S. imposes strict (security) requirements on participating countries, in return for which their nationals enjoy visa-free entry. If requirements are not met, countries can be excluded from the program or - as in the case of Hungary - face restrictions.
By the way, this is not the first time for Hungary: Already last year, the U.S. authorities reacted to their security concerns by imposing sanctions on the VWP country. Since then, for example, only Hungarian citizens who were also born in Hungary have been allowed to participate in the VWP.
These restrictions are extremely rare; to date, for example, only nationals from Brunei have been affected. Since July 2023, they too have only received an ESTA travel authorization for one year, but unlike Hungary, they are allowed to travel multiple times during this period.
These changes, which went into effect for Hungarian travelers on August 1, 2023, bring with them new requirements that must be followed.
These ESTA restrictions take effect immediately and will apply until the underlying U.S. security concerns are sufficiently addressed.
We strongly recommend all Hungarian VWP travelers to check existing ESTA authorizations for validity (online) prior to travel to prevent problems.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) also recommends checking ESTA statusbefore making travel plans or beginning travel to the United States.
More information is available at www.dhs.gov/visa-waiver-program and at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/tourism-visit/visa-waiver-program.html.
Updated on 14.8.2023