The Hungarian government has criticized the United States for imposing travel restrictions on Hungarian citizens in what it perceives as retaliation for not providing personal data on its citizens to American officials. These restrictions are tied to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which allows citizens of 40 predominantly Western nations, including Hungary, to enter the US for business or tourism purposes without the need for a visa for up to 90 days.
Under the new restrictions, Hungarians can only travel to the US once within a one-year period under the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) – an automatic mechanism that determines whether a person can enter the US under the VWP. For subsequent trips, Hungarians will have to re-apply for authorization and pay fees ranging from $4 to $21, depending on the decision issued in each case. This is a departure from the regular VWP rules, which only require authorization every two years and allow for unlimited entries to the US during that period. Hungary is now the only VWP nation subjected to such restrictions.
The US has justified its decision by alleging that Hungary has been granting citizenship to individuals without properly verifying their identities. According to the Associated Press, nearly 1 million people received Hungarian passports between 2011 and 2020, raising concerns among US officials that some of these passport holders may be criminals posing a threat to national security. The Hungarian Interior Ministry has strongly denied these allegations, emphasizing its commitment to the safety of Hungarian citizens abroad and refusing to share personal data with any foreign entity.
Reports suggest that the US is particularly interested in obtaining personal data on Hungarian dual citizens residing outside the European Union, especially in Serbia’s Vojvodina and Ukraine’s Transcarpathia regions. The US is concerned that individuals who would typically require a visa to enter America can bypass this requirement by using the VWP mechanism.
The Hungarian government has condemned the travel restrictions as an act of revenge by the Biden administration. Hungary’s Interior Ministry issued a statement asserting that the safety of Hungarians abroad is at stake and accusing the US of trying to obtain personal data on Hungarian dual citizens living outside the country.
These travel restrictions have sparked anger and frustration in Budapest. Critics argue that the decision unfairly targets Hungarian citizens and undermines the longstanding bilateral relationship between Hungary and the US. The Hungarian government has called for a resolution to the issue, emphasizing the need for open dialogue and a fair assessment of Hungary’s commitment to ensuring the safety and security of its citizens.
In conclusion, the travel restrictions imposed by the US on Hungarian citizens have ignited a diplomatic dispute between the two countries. Hungary’s refusal to share personal data on its citizens has resulted in stricter travel regulations under the VWP, causing inconvenience for Hungarian citizens and strain on bilateral relations. The Hungarian government, while vehemently denying the US allegations, has called for a resolution to the issue through dialogue and a fair assessment of Hungary’s commitment to national security.