New Hungarian Citizenship Law to Take Effect in January 2011
The new procedure could bring down processing time from several years to a matter of months.
Over the coming year, up to 400,000 people are expected to take advantage of a simplified path to gaining Hungarian citizenship. It is presumed that the majority of applicants will be individuals who reside in surrounding countries but can lay claim to Hungarian ancestry.
A mixed reaction
The reaction to the measure in the region is varied. Some border states have voiced concerns regarding the implications of the new measure on sovereignty and territorial issues. Slovakia is particularly sensitive, announcing that it will automatically revoke the Slovakian citizenship of anyone who acquires citizenship of another state “by [an] act of will” other than marriage or birth. Ukrainian nationals – though not subject to automatic revocation – also face the possibility of losing their right to Ukrainian citizenship.
Conversely, Romania has officially welcomed the change. It has similar legislation in place, which extends Romanian citizenship to certain residents of Moldova. The pragmatic value of eased travel and access to the Hungarian educational system is widely recognized as a potential boon for successful applicants. This is despite the government’s claim that access to Hungarian citizenship will be a primarily symbolic asset.
The new procedure
Hungary’s streamlined procedure represents a significant departure from the past. Once put into effect, the accelerated process could potentially bring down processing time from several years to a matter of months.
Some notable changes include:
- Individuals of Hungarian extraction will not have to reside in Hungary in order to apply.
- A test on the Hungarian constitution will no longer be required.
- The Ministry must submit applications to the President for approval within three months of completion (with some exceptions for document and opinion acquisition).
- The Office for Immigration and Nationality will be reorganized and no longer handle nationality issues. Instead, such issues will fall under the competence of the Ministry of Justice and Public Administration.
Applicants must still have a clean criminal record and Hungarian language knowledge will still be tested.
Although the new legislation does not enter into force until January 1, 2011, requests may be submitted anytime after the August 20, 1010. The office that will process citizenship applications is set to open on October 15, 2011. A website will be set up to include information about the procedure as well as to provide a downloadable application.
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