You can acquire Hungarian citizenship if you have Hungarian ancestors up to the third generation. Hungary allows you to apply based on your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, or even further generations.
According to Hungarian law, there is no limit to how far back in your family tree you can go to find a Hungarian ancestor, similar to Italy’s citizenship by descent program.
The principles of jus sanguinis, Latin for “right of blood,” underpin Hungarian citizenship law, which holds that a person obtains Hungarian citizenship by birth from a Hungarian citizen parent.
It only applies to children born to parents who are either or both Hungarian nationals. It does not apply to children born in Hungary to non-Hungarian parents.
As a result, if either your mother or father is of Hungarian heritage, you can gain Hungarian citizenship through the simplified naturalization process.
The primary advantage of the streamlined naturalization process is that the applicant does not have to live in Hungary on a regular basis for a longer period of time, nor does it require the Applicant to demonstrate that his or her livelihood is secure in Hungary.
To obtain Hungarian citizenship by descent, they do not even need to work or have a bank account. All they have to do is provide documentation to verify their Hungarian ancestry.
The Hungarian diaspora, or persons of Hungarian heritage who do not live in Hungary (some have citizenship, but many do not) is estimated to be 5.2-5.5 million people.
Around 46% of these people live in other EU countries, indicating that they are likely to have Hungarian or other European citizenship.
The proportion of Hungarian citizenship is significantly lower among the remaining 3 million ethnic Hungarians who do not dwell in the EU.
Nearly two million of them live in North America, with hundreds of thousands more in nations such as Serbia, Israel, and Ukraine.
Because of Hungary’s citizenship by descent legislation, which allow those with ethnic Hungarian ancestors to naturalize, frequently without being able to speak Hungarian or spending time in the country, nearly all of them are eligible for Hungarian – and, by extension, European Union citizenship by descent.
Details about Hungarian Citizenship by Descent
Before delving into the specifics, keep the following ideas in mind:
- Hungarian citizenship law is based on the principles of jus sanguinis (“right of blood” in Latin), which states that a person gets Hungarian citizenship by birth from a Hungarian citizen parent.
- As a result, a Hungarian birth certificate merely establishes the fact of birth and NOT Hungarian citizenship.
- Because citizenship rules do not have retroactive effect (unless in very unusual instances), one must always resort to the legislation that was in existence on the date of his/her birth.
- Hungary allows for dual citizenship.
According to the current law – Act LV of 1993 – Hungarian citizenship can arise from one of two principles, the most important of which is the principle of origin: the child of every Hungarian citizen becomes a Hungarian citizen by birth (whether the mother or the father is a [or both are] Hungarian citizens).
Prior to this date, there may have been distinct rules for acquiring and losing Hungarian citizenship.
Before applying, please consider the following as a brief – and by no means full – overview of Hungarian citizenship:
- Between October 1st, 1957 and October 1st, 1993, the infant became a Hungarian citizen if one of the parents was a Hungarian citizen at the time of birth.
- Prior to October 1, 1957, a child could only become a Hungarian citizen if his legitimate father was a Hungarian citizen. The kid of a Hungarian mother and a non-Hungarian father does not automatically become a Hungarian.
- If the child was born outside of marriage (extramarital birth) and the mother was a Hungarian, the infant became Hungarian as well. However, if the child was later acknowledged by a foreign father, he or she could have lost citizenship.
- After marriage, a non-Hungarian wife of a Hungarian husband immediately became a Hungarian citizen.
- If a Hungarian wife acquires the citizenship of her non-Hungarian husband by marriage, she instantly loses her Hungarian citizenship.
- If your Hungarian ancestor emigrated before September 1st, 1929, they may lose their citizenship if they live continuously abroad for more than ten years. This ten-year period began when the person’s last Hungarian passport expired. As a result, in this scenario, a Hungarian official document (e.g., a passport, a written statement made in a Hungarian Consulate, etc.) proving that the person retained his/her citizenship must be produced.
- Trianon Treaty Effects: Those living outside of present-day Hungarian borders lost their Hungarian citizenship and became citizens of the country that got the allotted territory (with few minor exceptions) after 1921.
- For those who left Hungary prior to February 1st, 1949, a Hungarian document (any Hungarian identity document, valid Hungarian passport, school certificate, work certificate, diploma, etc.) proving that they lived in Hungary after September 1st, 1929 is required, particularly for those who left in the 1930s and early 1940s.
- In some situations, the Acts of 1879 and 1939 gave the Hungarian State the authority to strip Hungarians of their citizenship.
As you can see, determining a person’s citizenship can be a difficult undertaking due to the historical changes in boundaries and citizenships in Central Europe during the twentieth century.
The Fundamentals of Becoming a Hungarian Citizen through Descent
Many countries in Europe allow persons having ancestors from the continent to apply for second citizenship simply by filling out papers and paying a fee.
However, the paperwork can be interminable, and the procedure is quite bureaucratic. Fortunately, you are not required to do it yourself if you do not choose to.
Depending on the region and your specific circumstances, these claims typically take six months to two years to process.
Someone with the surname Almasy, for example, one of the most prevalent Hungarian surnames, would almost probably be able to gain Hungarian citizenship.
The distinction between Italy’s program and Hungary’s citizenship scheme is that Italian ancestry can only be traced back as far as Italy existed in its current form.
In Hungary, though, you would be entitled to apply provided you could demonstrate a paper trail that linked one generation to the next, and then all the way to you.
The Application Methodology
First, you should determine whether you are even entitled to apply, despite the fact that Hungary has made it quite easy for its ancestors to qualify.
The important bit is to consider whether the ancestor in question was a citizen at the time that the person applying for citizenship was born.
Fortunately, Hungary adheres to the jus sanguinis citizenship legislation, making it quite simple. This means that children of Hungarian citizens are Hungarian citizens by birth, regardless of where they were born.
That should make it rather simple to assess whether one of your ancestors qualifies you for a genuine European Union passport.
That said, there are a few notable exceptions when Hungarians could’ve lost their citizenship in the past:
- According to the Act on Hungarian Citizenship, Hungarian citizens who left the nation before 1929 and resided abroad for ten years or longer, or who did not apply to retain their Hungarian citizenship within ten years, lost their citizenship.
- Prior to October 1, 1957, Hungarian women who married non-Hungarian nationals lost their citizenship.
- Prior to October 1, 1957, children born to a non-Hungarian father and a Hungarian mother did not inherit Hungarian citizenship. The individual may have become a citizen through a statement, but his or her descendants were then required to be naturalized.
- Furthermore, if the ancestor in question departed Hungary before September 1, 1929, his or her descendants were most certainly not born Hungarian citizens.
If the ancestor lost Hungarian citizenship for any of the reasons listed above (and others), there may be a way to reclaim it by a statement (Simplified naturalization procedure), if the ancestor:
- Was a Hungarian citizen or is likely to be of Hungarian origin; (if you are basing your citizenship claim on a person who was not born in present-day Hungary, you have to go with a simplified naturalization procedure)
- Lost citizenship through expatriation between September 15, 1947 and May 2, 1990;
- Was forced to resettle in Germany.
- Has been married to a Hungarian citizen for at least 10 years, or has been married to a to one for at least five years and has children;
AND, if the applicant:
- demonstrates knowledge of the Hungarian language (this is examined by the authorities receiving the application, and you meet with them for a brief interview in which you will speak Hungarian and tell them a little about yourself, your family, and why you wish to obtain citizenship);
- the applicant has no criminal record and no outstanding criminal actions;
Hungarian citizenship by descent for Jews
Jewish and Hungarian communities have a long history of coexistence. Budapest, Hungary’s capital and home to Europe’s largest synagogue, was once the core of Europe’s Jewish population.
As a result, the benefits of Hungarian citizenship by descent are available to all Jewish people having Hungarian heritage, regardless of where they live in the world.
According to rules made in the context of the Law of 26.5.2010, Jews of Hungarian descent who live in foreign countries on a permanent basis may apply for Hungarian citizenship by descent via the “simplified approach.”
The legislative change is an important part of Hungary’s national strategy, which includes help for Hungarian minority living outside the country and the prevention of advanced assimilation.
What proof do you need?
Before a person acquires Hungarian citizenship, documents from the Hungarian archives will be required to prove that you are a descendant of Hungarian immigrants or that one or both of your parents are of Hungarian heritage.
You can start the process of immigrating to Hungary as soon as you establish and prove a lineage. To be eligible, you must also be able to communicate in basic Hungarian.
Many types of documentation demonstrating that you have Hungarian ancestors are acceptable. For example, historic Hungarian papers such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, and death certificates for your ancestors, a military booklet/certificate, a registration certificate for schooling or graduation, employment registration, and synagogue records.
You must also certify that you have no criminal record under Hungarian law and that no criminal actions against you are currently pending in a Hungarian court.
The authorities will also ensure that your acquisition of Hungarian citizenship by descent does not jeopardize national security.
Can you become a Hungarian citizen if you don’t have Hungarian ancestry?
Yes, one can be a Hungarian citizen without being of Hungarian or Jewish heritage.
However, this route is more difficult and requires a minimum of 8 years of residency in Hungary before applying for this EU citizenship. You will also need to speak basic Hungarian.
Because Hungary does not provide citizenship or residency by investment, if you are not of Hungarian descent, you must go through the “regular” citizenship process.