Acquiring Hungarian Citizenship by naturalization

Naturalization is one of the titles of the acquisition of Hungarian citizenship, which is available for non-Hungarian individuals who have not previously held Hungarian citizenship. There are additional types of naturalization due to the fact that, in some cases, the legislation provides preferential conditions. Our article focuses on traditional naturalization and gives specifics on preferential cases as well.

“There shall be no discrimination between Hungarian citizens on the basis of whether it was acquired by right or otherwise.”

From this principle of the Act LV of 1993 on Hungarian Citizenship, a conclusion can be drawn that there are several ways to obtain citizenship. It also indicates that regardless of the way one becomes a Hungarian citizen, the related rights are the equal.

Hungarian citizenship can be obtained automatically by right or by request. In some cases, it may also be obtained by addressing a declaration to the President of the Republic.

Hungary applies the ius sanguinis and the ius soli principles, which are the two ways citizenship can be obtained by right. Therefore, children of Hungarian citizens and children born within the territory of Hungary may be entitled to Hungarian citizenship.

By declaration, Hungarian citizenship shall be granted to the declarant effective on the day it is filed in the following cases:

a) if having been deprived of Hungarian citizenship by virtue of Act X of 1947 and Act XXVI of 1948 on the Deprivation of Hungarian Citizenship of Certain Persons Residing Abroad, or under Act LX of 1948 on Hungarian Citizenship or Act V of 1957 on Citizenship, or if having lost his/her citizenship by virtue of Decree No. 7970/1946 ME, Government Decree 10.515/1947 Korm. or Government Decree 12.200/1947 Korm., furthermore, whose Hungarian citizenship was terminated by expatriation between 15 September 1947 and 2 May 1990;

  1. b) if born in the territory of Hungary and was not awarded his/her parents’ foreign citizenship as a birthright, under the law of the State where the parents hold citizenship, provided that the declarant’s parents resided in Hungary on the day of his/her birth and has been residing continuously in the territory of Hungary for at least five years prior to the submission of the petition;
  2. c) if the person was born before 1 October 1957 to a mother who was a Hungarian citizen and a father who was a foreign national and if no Hungarian citizenship was granted at birth.” [Act LV of 1993 on Hungarian Citizenship]

The procedure starts upon request of citizenship in the case of repatriation and naturalization. Repatriation is available for individuals whose Hungarian citizenship was terminated, if certain conditions are met. Naturalization is for foreign citizens or stateless people, who haven’t previously held Hungarian citizenship.

The criteria to be examined during the traditional naturalization process are as follows:

I. Duration of residency

“A non-Hungarian citizen may be naturalized upon request if:

  1. a) the applicant has resided in Hungary continuously over a period of eight years prior to the submission of the application

This text clearly states that the required duration of residency must be realized prior to submission. Nevertheless, the words reside and continuously have underlying meanings as well. What the law considers residency must be scrutinized, the clearest answer being that the duration starts with the registration of the address after obtaining one of the eligible titles (including, for example, certain types of residence permits).

The continuous residency requirement does not mean that the applicant cannot leave the country for shorter periods, but rather implies that the cumulated duration or the length of each absence may be taken into consideration.

II. Clean criminal record

“A non-Hungarian citizen may be naturalized upon request if:

b) according to Hungarian laws, the applicant has a clean criminal record and is not being indicted in any criminal proceedings before the Hungarian court”

In simple terms, having a clean criminal record is when the applicant have not committed any documented crime; however, this is an overly simplistic statement which necessitates comprehensive information be correct. Moreover, a certificate of good-conduct in Hungary (erkölcsi bizonyítvány) is permissible as proof of a clean criminal record. Documents issued in foreign countries with the same or similar probative value must be examined in comparison.

III. Subsistence and accommodation

“A non-Hungarian citizen may be naturalized upon request if:

c) the applicant has sufficient means of subsistence and a place of abode in Hungary”

IV. National security considerations

“A non-Hungarian citizen may be naturalized upon request if:

d) his/her naturalization is not considered to be a threat to public policy or to the national security of Hungary”

V. Basic constitutional studies exam

“A non-Hungarian citizen may be naturalized upon request if:

  1. e) the applicant provides proof that he/she has passed the examination in basic constitutional studies in the Hungarian language, or that of being exempted by virtue of this Act”

A committee appointed by the body delegated by the Government by means of a decree fills the part of the board of examiners. The purpose of this exam is to prove basic knowledge of the Hungarian language, the Hungarian constitution, as well as the country’s history and literature. The set of requirements is based on the citizenship knowledge of 8th graders in elementary school. This indicates that third-country nationals who graduated in the Hungarian language have this knowledge, meaning that the exam fee and the administrative burden to the authorities is unnecessary. Therefore, the legislation specifies exemptions from the obligation in case of individuals who graduated in the Hungarian language in an educational institution or institute of higher education. In some cases, limited legal capacity for those over the age of 60, as well as permanent and irreversible sickness can be a reason for release of this obligation.

VI. Naturalization on preferential terms

If certain conditions are met, an application for citizenship can be submitted after five or even three years of continuous residency. In some cases, family status, age, or blood-relationships may give an opportunity to apply preferential terms. There are several variations of preferential naturalization depending on what causes the situation based on which preferential terms may apply.

A. Adoption

In the case that somebody is adopted by a Hungarian citizen, the application can be submitted after three years instead of eight. If the person adopted is a minor, it is possible to make an exemption to the requirement of Hungarian residency as well.

B. Children with Hungarian citizenship

If the applicant is parent to a minor who is a Hungarian citizen, the application may be submitted after three years. Furthermore, if the other parent of the applicant’s child is a Hungarian citizen at the time of submission and have been married for more than five years (assuming the applicant does not pose a national security risk to Hungary and has a clean criminal record), proving knowledge of the Hungarian language is enough.

C. Existence of state interest regarding the naturalization of the applicant

The President of the Republic may grant exemption from naturalization requirements – except the ones mentioned in section II. and IV.  of this article – if naturalizing the applicant is in the interest of Hungary. This can be initiated by the competent minister.

D. Extent of legal capacity

Language proficiency requirements may be waived in case of limited legal capacity or incapacity of the applicant.

E. Granted refugee or stateless status

The application can be submitted after three years of residency if the applicant is stateless or has been recognized by the competent Hungarian authority as a refugee.

F. Hungarian origins

A non-Hungarian citizen whose ascendant was a Hungarian citizen or who is able to substantiate being of Hungarian origin may be naturalized on preferential terms if he/she has a clean criminal record and his/her naturalization is not considered to be a threat to public policy or to the national security of Hungary. Proficiency in Hungarian language is also required.

An application for naturalization on preferential terms can be submitted after 5 years of residency if the applicant was born in the territory of Hungary. In this case, it is also necessary to have language proficiency in the Hungarian language, a clean criminal record, and a clean criminal record to prove there is no threat to the public.

G. Marital status

If the applicant has been married to a Hungarian citizen for more than ten years, preferential terms may apply. In case of having a child together, this time is five years. The spouse has to be a Hungarian citizen at the time of application.

Another condition for naturalization when married to a Hungarian citizen is that the applicant also lives in Hungary. Three years is the minimum requirement regarding both circumstances to be eligible for naturalization on preferential terms.

H. Minority (considering age)

If the applicant is a minor and submits the application at the same time as a parent, or the parent has already received citizenship, the duration of residency in Hungary is not a relevant aspect in most cases.

In the aforementioned case, being a minor is not necessary when submitting the application; rather the application of preferential terms is based on the fact that he/she had established residence in Hungary before reaching legal age and resided in Hungary for more than five years before the submission.

If you have further questions on Hungarian citizenship or any type of residence permit, do not hesitate to contact us!

Disclaimer: We provide our services in accordance with the Hungarian and European laws in effect. We only assist our clients in lawful entry and residency in Hungary, and do not support illegal immigration.

Dobos István attorney at law (ügyvéd; Budapest)/ Kőhidi Ákos attorney at law (ügyvéd; Győr)/ Laczó Barbara


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