Lazy eyes listen
According to a statement made by the US embassy in Budapest on Tuesday, the US has curtailed Hungary’s participation in its Visa Waiver Program (VWP) after the EU state reportedly failed to resolve security concerns flagged by Washington.
The program permitted Hungarians to visit the United States for tourism or business for up to 90 days without a visa and with simply an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) valid for up to two years.
The ESTA validity term for Hungarian passport holders has been restricted to one year under the new restrictions. Furthermore, for Hungarians, the validity of an ESTA will be limited to a single usage.
According to the US embassy, the expedited naturalization process of the Hungarian government allowed approximately one million persons to get Hungarian citizenship between 2011 and 2020 “without adequate security measures in place to verify their identities.”
When Prime Minister Viktor Orban took office in 2010, he instituted a policy reform that made it easier for ethnic Hungarians living in neighboring countries such as Romania, Slovakia, and Ukraine to seek Hungarian citizenship.
The United States, on the other hand, has called this strategy a “security vulnerability” and has demanded that Hungary adopt severe identity verification methods.
“Despite extensive efforts by the U.S. government over many years to avoid this outcome and resolve longstanding security issues arising from Hungary’s simplified naturalization process, the Hungarian government has opted not to address the concerns raised in order to fully meet VWP requirements,” the embassy wrote, adding that it now has no choice but to modify VWP rules for all Hungarians.
The embassy stated that the modifications are effective immediately and will remain in place until Washington’s security concerns are addressed.
A US government official also told Reuters that the VWP changes would only apply to Hungary and not the other 39 participating nations, but that the move was solely motivated by security concerns and was not intended to send a message about any other difficulties plaguing US-Hungarian relations.
In turn, Budapest has stated that it will not reveal Hungarian individuals’ data outside of its boundaries since doing so would jeopardize their safety. “This is why President Biden’s administration is taking revenge on Hungarians with the new visa waiver limit,” said Zoltan Kovacs, a spokesman for the Hungarian government.