US restricts visa-free travel for Hungarian passport holders because of security concerns

Aug 1, 2023, 12:32 AM | Updated: 3:32 am

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — The United States imposed new travel restrictions on citizens of Hungary on Tuesday over concerns that the identities of nearly 1 million foreigners granted Hungarian passports over nine years weren’t sufficiently verified, according to the U.S. Embassy and a government official.

The restrictions apply to the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, which allows passport holders from 40 countries to enter the United States for business or tourism without a visa for up to 90 days.

The validity period of travel for Hungarian passport holders under the Electronic System for Travel Authorization was reduced from two years to one year, and each traveler will be limited to a single entry into the United States. They are the only such restrictions among the 40 participating states in the Visa Waiver Program.

A senior U.S. government official said the change followed years of failed efforts by the U.S. to work with Hungary’s government to resolve the security concerns. The official spoke anonymously in order to candidly characterize diplomatic engagements.

Hundreds of thousands of Hungarian passports were issued without stringent identity verification requirements, some of them to criminals who pose a safety threat and have no connection to Hungary, the official said.

Hungary’s government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, began offering a simplified naturalization procedure to those claiming Hungarian ancestry in 2011, even if they didn’t live or intend to live in Hungary.

Hundreds of thousands of the at least 2 million ethnic Hungarians living in neighboring countries — primarily in Romania, Serbia and Ukraine — acquired Hungarian citizenship through the simplified procedure.

Critics said the program allowed non-taxpaying ethnic Hungarians residing in other countries to vote in Hungarian elections, giving Orban’s ruling Fidesz party an electoral edge.

The United States earlier recategorized Hungary as a provisional member of the Visa Waiver Program because of the concerns.

Hungary’s government responded to the restrictions Tuesday in a statement from the Interior Ministry.

The statement said the United States had demanded the personal data of ethnic Hungarians abroad with dual citizenship, and that Hungary’s government was unwilling to provide that information in order to protect those citizens’ security.

“This is why President Joe Biden’s administration is now taking revenge on Hungarians,” the statement said.


FILE - President Joe Biden meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the Oval Office of...

Associated Press

Biden suggests he has path around Congress to get more aid to Ukraine, says he plans major speech

WASHINGTON (AP) — Facing a likely roadblock from House Republicans on aid for Ukraine, President Joe Biden said Wednesday he’s planning to give a major speech on the issue and suggested there may be “another means” to provide support for Kyiv if Congress continues to balk. “I’m going to be announcing very shortly a major […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

US officials to meet with counterparts in Mexico on drugs, arms trafficking and migration

MEXICO CITY (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other top officials from the Biden administration will visit Mexico on Wednesday to discuss shared security issues, foremost among them trafficking of the synthetic opioid fentanyl, but also arms trafficking and increasing migration. The latest round of the High-Level Security Dialogue brings together Blinken, […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

The House is left paralyzed as divided Republicans search for new leader after McCarthy’s ouster

WASHINGTON (AP) — The stunning removal of Kevin McCarthy as speaker left the House effectively paralyzed Wednesday as Republicans struggled to bring order to their fractured majority and begin the difficult and potentially prolonged process of uniting around a new leader. The House opened briefly then went into recess, with North Carolina Rep. Patrick McHenry, […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

The US sent Ukraine 1.1 million rounds of ammunition seized from Iran

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. has transferred to Ukraine 1.1 million rounds of small arms ammunition that it seized from Iran, U.S. Central Command said Wednesday. The much-needed ammunition has been sent at a time when continued U.S. financial support for Kyiv’s fight to defend itself remains in question. And while Ukraine will use the […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Trump lawyers go after accountant and appeal major pretrial ruling in New York fraud case

NEW YORK (AP) — Warned to mind his out-of-court comments, former President Donald Trump returned to his New York civil fraud trial Wednesday as lawyers on both sides closely questioned an accountant who prepared financial statements at the heart of the case. Outside the courtroom, Trump’s lawyers appealed a key pretrial ruling. The civil case, […]

5 hours ago

FILE - A man walks through wildfire wreckage in Lahaina, Hawaii, Aug. 11, 2023. Federal authorities...

Associated Press

Cleanup from Maui fires complicated by island’s logistical challenges, cultural significance

Cleanup of areas destroyed in the Maui wildfires could end up being one of the most complex to date, federal officials said, given the island's significant cultural sites, its rich history including a royal residence and possibly remains of people who died in the disaster.

7 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Swedish Cyberknife...

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

September is a busy month on the sports calendar and also holds a very special designation: Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

Ziply Fiber...

Dan Miller

The truth about Gigs, Gs and other internet marketing jargon

If you’re confused by internet technologies and marketing jargon, you’re not alone. Here's how you can make an informed decision.

Education families...

Education that meets the needs of students, families

Washington Virtual Academies (WAVA) is a program of Omak School District that is a full-time online public school for students in grades K-12.

Emergency preparedness...

Emergency planning for the worst-case scenario

What would you do if you woke up in the middle of the night and heard an intruder in your kitchen? West Coast Armory North can help.

Innovative Education...

The Power of an Innovative Education

Parents and students in Washington state have the power to reimagine the K-12 educational experience through Insight School of Washington.

Medicare fraud...

If you’re on Medicare, you can help stop fraud!

Fraud costs Medicare an estimated $60 billion each year and ultimately raises the cost of health care for everyone.

US restricts visa-free travel for Hungarian passport holders because of security concerns