Hungarian Citizenship by Descent (Simplified Naturalization)
By Parviz Malakouti-Fitzgerald, Esq.
Ancestors of Hungarians may want to look to their old country roots for a second citizenship.
That’s because in 2011, Hungary enacted a new citizenship law providing greatly expanded eligibility for descendants of Hungarians. This new “simplified naturalization” process has provided a path to Hungarian citizenship for descendants of Hungarians who can speak the Hungarian language.
We’ve written before that Hungary’s law is part of a recent exciting hot trend in Central Europe of liberalizing citizenship by descent. This holds doubly true in the “Visegrád” countries of Hungary, Slovakia, Czechia and Poland.
Notably, this Hungarian simplified naturalization (Egyszerűsített honosítás) path is different from the more limited Hungarian citizenship by declaration which does not require Hungarian language proficiency.
In the eleven years since passing its law, Hungary has naturalized over 1.1 million people through its simplified process. Most of these new Hungarian citizens are from the surrounding neighbors Slovakia, Romania, Serbia, Ukraine, Slovenia and Croatia.
It’s taken longer for news of this eligibility to spread to qualifying descendants in the United States and Canada, but Americans seeking a second citizenship are starting to catch on and claim their heritage right of citizenship.
Let’s get into the details below!
Benefits of Hungarian Citizenship
Residence, Work, Study & Business in the EU
Hungarian citizenship offers all the benefits of citizenship in the European Union (“EU”), including the right of residency and work authorization in any of the EU’s 27 countries. The reciprocal rights of residency offered by EU member countries makes EU citizenship greatly valued by the global elite to low-budget backpackers alike.
Whether staying in Europe is your plan A or a possible plan B, Hungarian citizens have plenty of options. Thanks to the EU’s treaty of Rome, Hungarian citizens can live a life sipping coffee in Paris, eating tapas in Seville or skiing in Switzerland.
Furthermore, university study in European Union countries is generally a fraction of the cost of American higher education. This author personally can attest to the fact from first-hand experience having studied at the University of Versailles School of Law as an exchange student for the equivalent of a rip roaring night out drinking in Hollywood (as this author’s friends have informed him).
Hereditary Gift for Future Generations
Given that Hungarian’s nationality law follows a “jus sanguinis” or “right of blood” system of citizenship acquisition, future children of Hungarian citizens will be born automatically with Hungarian citizenship.
If you’re looking to give a leg up on life to their heir future descendants, Hungarian citizenship is the kind of mobility asset that can be invaluable for future generations. Having the right of global mobility pursuant to Hungarian citizenship can open up doors for lifestyle, opportunities or even survival in certain extreme situations.
Recent developments in Ukraine (along with Yemen, Syria, Venezuela, and other countries beforehand) have shown that freedom of mobility can literally be a life and death matter for millions of families.
In the world of nation-states today’s pariah is tomorrow’s darling and today’s darling is tomorrow’s pariah.
Also, for some applicants, pursuing Hungarian citizenship satisfies a deep calling to their past. Learning the Hungarian language and experiencing the cultural journey that accompanies it, can be deeply pleasing for applicants seeking ancestral community. You often learn extensively about their grandparents, and great-grandparents, as well as both the contemporary history of Hungary and its modern day culture.
Additionally, Hungarian citizens are able to travel visa-free to 180+ countries including Euope as well as destinations such as Japan, Mexico, and Japan.
If you’re coming from a country with medium and low tier passports, this visa-free access can be an enormous benefit. The visa-free rights can even be attractive for American citizens, many of which are smarting from severe restrictions on their passport experienced for the first time during covid. European visa-free travel as well as rights of indefinite residency have made millions of Americans start poking around for a second citizenship for the first time.
Hungarian simplified naturalization is broadly available to descendants of Hungarian citizens, given the language caveat (discussed in detail below). Amazingly, there is no generational limit for eligibility for Hungarian simplified naturalization.
Notably, descendants of people from the modern day area of Slovakia also qualify for Hungarian simplified naturalization. This is due to the fact that modern day Slovakia was part of “Hungary” before the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Many descendants of ethnic Slovaks who were pre-1920 citizens of Hungary have been naturalized as Hungarian citizens under the simplified naturalization process.
A much narrower group of people qualify for citizenship by verification, which does not require any competency in the Hungarian language.
Hungarian Language Proficiency
A critical requirement for simplified naturalization and one that acts as a bottleneck for otherwise eligible applicants, is the requirement to be able to speak Hungarian.
While there is no standardized examination, your language skill is evaluated by the consular office receiving the application. Typically, you’re expected to submit your application while verbally engaging, presenting documents, and answering questions about his life circumstances…all in the Hungarian language.
Furthermore, you are often expected to write a short, one page autobiographical essay in Hungarian during the application process, in the presence of the receiving Hungarian consular officer.
In this author’s experience, the level of Hungarian language competency required is in the level of B1 to B2 in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. Many applicants have started learning Hungarian from scratch and successfully passed their interviews, becoming Hungarian citizens.
As with any application for citizenship by descent, applicants must identify, gather and submit all necessary documents for their application.
All documents submitted in English or any other language other than Hungarian must be translated in Hungarian by an official Hungarian translator or an unofficial translator in the event that your Hungarian consulate is willing to certify the unofficial translation for an additional fee.
In the list below, the qualifying family member is your ancestor who was a Hungarian citizen. For a simplified Hungarian naturalization application, the following documents are required:
Certified copy of applicant’s birth record (birth certificate or baptismal certificate);
Certified copy of qualifying family member’s birth record;
Certified copies of ALL birth records of relatives connecting applicant and qualifying family member;
Marriage certificates of female ancestors in the chain of connection between applicant
Marriage certificate of applicant;
Completed simplified naturalization application;
A pair of passport sized photos of the applicant;
Completed one page biography, written in Hungarian;
Although not required, it is recommended you come with a family-tree drawn out to help you explain your connection to your qualifying Hungarian ancestor.
Additional supporting documents might be required based on your individual circumstances. As always, you should consider contacting a professional for assistance if you are unsure of your eligibility or the required documents.
So how does the application process actually look?
Once you have your supporting documents in order and feel confident regarding your language skills, you contact the closest consulate to request an appointment. Hungarian simplified naturalization applications must be submitted in person.
Once an application appointment is scheduled, you attend the appointment with all of their required documents. As mentioned, you hand in your documents in person at the appointment. You are then also typically interviewed in a casual conversational style about their family history, current life circumstances and motivations for becoming a Hungarian citizen.
During the interview, you may be informed that your Hungarian language skills are not satisfactory. In that case, you can take time to keep studying and then schedule another appointment in the coming months.
Unexpected Call from Budapest
If you are not rejected at the consulate, your application is forwarded on to Budapest for processing. This period of processing usually lasts between five to twelve months but can last even longer.
During this period, some applicants receive a call from the Hungarian citizenship authorities testing his Hungarian proficiency. This step is fairly new, having been taken as a secondary verification measure to check your language proficiency.
In the call, you are usually tasked with having a short conversation with the caller to prove their skill in Hungarian. Some applicants have reported having the call come a blocked number and/or at odd hours of the day so one should be on guard!
Approval or Denial
If you are ultimately denied, you can apply again once the defect in his application is remedied. For most applicants, this tends to be a failure to prove proficiency in the Hungarian language. In this case, it’s recommended you take a few additional months to continue studying Hungarian and then apply again.
If your citizenship application is approved, you must set up an appointment with their local consulate to take a Hungarian oath of citizenship, and submit additional documentation to request a naturalization certificate as well as a shiny, brand new burgundy “magyar útlevél” (Hungarian passport).
After that, you are off to the races to make your next life plans secure in the knowledge that you have a new top tier mobility asset added to your family’s portfolio.
If you think you might qualify for Hungarian simplified naturalization, it can pay to have a consultation with an expert with years of experience with immigration and citizenship. In a consultation, you can have your case screened for eligibility as well as potential problems - including ones you may not be aware of.
During the consultation, you can have your questions answered about the process, and find out how much it would cost to have the case handled for you by our firm, putting your mind at ease.
When you’re ready, book a consultation right away.
The Law Office of Parviz Malakouti does not guarantee the accuracy of information presented nor assume responsibility for actions taken in reliance of this information. The information in this page could become outdated. Each immigration case is particular and you should consult with a qualified, licensed immigration lawyer about your case before taking any steps.