The US government has tightened the ESTA requirements for Hungarian citizens. They can no longer automatically travel to America without a visa.
It has been possible for European citizens to travel to America again for some time. On 8 November 2021, America opened its borders to tourists and business travellers from Europe. The COVID-19 travel ban was therefore lifted, and travellers could again apply for visas or an ESTA to travel to America.
Until recently, all persons with Hungarian nationality could travel to America without a visa. Hungary is part of the American Visa Waiver Program. Countries that are part of this system, including the Netherlands and Belgium, can travel to America without a visa. Instead, they can apply for an ESTA, which is much cheaper and is also granted much faster.
However, since 2021, Hungarian travellers have noticed that many of these ESTA applications have been rejected. Although the exact reason is not yet clear, the US Embassy in Budapest has made it clear that Prime Minister Orbán‘s ‘simplified naturalisation‘ policy is leading to massive fraud in visa applications. The policy was originally intended to make it easier for people with demonstrable ties to Hungary to obtain Hungarian citizenship. However, over the years the system has been abused by criminals in order to easily obtain Hungarian and European passports.
New ESTA requirements for Hungarian travellers
The new conditions have been in place since 2021, but due to the low volume of travel caused by the coronavirus, this went unnoticed for a long time. According to the new rules, only Hungarians who were born in Hungary may still use the ESTA system. This means that persons with a Hungarian passport who were born outside Hungary can no longer apply for an ESTA. Instead, they must apply for a visa at the US Embassy, for which an appointment must first be made. Unlike ESTA, which is often granted on the same day, it can take months to get to the embassy for an interview. A visa is also much more expensive than the ESTA: while the ESTA only costs £49.95 per person, a standard visa for America costs 160 GBP.
The new requirements are in addition to the already existing ESTA requirements for visa-free travel to America.
ESTA requirements remain unchanged for other countries
For the time being, only Hungary seems to be covered by the new rules. There are no reports that other countries will also be subject to stricter ESTA conditions. This means that both Dutch and Belgian travellers will be able to apply for an ESTA if they do not reside in the Netherlands or Belgium. As long as they meet the other ESTA requirements, such as having a valid passport, they will have no problems applying online.
Take note: this news article about the ESTA for the USA is more than one year old. It might contain outdated information and advice, and no rights can therefore be derived from this article. Are you going on a trip soon and do you wish to do know what rules currently apply? Read all about the up-to-date information about the ESTA for the USA.