Overview of current status and available options for people fleeing Ukraine towards Hungary – March 20, 2022March 21, 2022
Who are the people currently fleeing Ukraine and entering Hungary?
At the moment, Hungary is receiving people from Ukraine who fall into four major categories:
- Dual Ukrainian / Hungarian citizens: these are people mainly from the region of Zakarpattia who have acquired Hungarian citizenship based on their Hungarian ancestry. Since they are Hungarian citizens, they do not need any special permission to enter Hungary and remain here indefinitely, regardless of the war.
- Ukrainian citizens holding a biometric passport: Since 2017, Ukrainians who have a biometric passport have been permitted to enter the Schengen zone without a visa, and they can spend a maximum of 90 days in a 6-month period here without requiring a resident permit or any other special permission. This means that these people can now enter Hungary (or any other Schengen country) without any special measures and if they spend their time in the Schengen zone, they can stay for 90 days.
- Ukrainian citizens without a biometric passport: This includes people who have no passport at all (e.g. children, or people who have not traveled), or have an older passport that is not biometric, or do not currently have access to their passport (e.g. people who were forced to flee the country without getting their passport from a different location). Such Ukrainians are currently allowed to enter Hungary holding any kind of valid identification (e.g. a Ukrainian state ID) because the visa requirement has been waived in light of the war. They receive a 30-day permission to stay in Hungary, during which they can seek another, more permanent status (more on this below).
- Men between the ages of 18 and 60, who are subject to the military draft, are allowed to enter Hungary if they have managed to leave Ukraine but the issue is that they will not be allowed to go through Ukrainian control unless they have special permission.
- For a short period, Ukrainians without a biometric passport were only allowed into Hungary if they entered directly but not if they came through Romania; to our knowledge, this is now not the case and they can enter at the Romania-Hungary border.
- Third-country (i.e. non-EU) citizens who were residing in or otherwise spending time legally in Ukraine: They are currently allowed to enter Hungary as well, waiving the usual visa requirement, and receive a 30-day permission to stay.
Crucially, while colloquially it has become common to refer to all of these people as “refugees”, technically none of them are refugees, nor do any of them have a long-term legal status in Hungary at the time of crossing. In fact, categories 1-2 would have been able to enter Hungary and stay for an extended period ((1) indefinitely, (2) for 90 days) regardless of the war situation, while categories 3-4 can initially stay for only 30 days (see their option below).
What will happen to these people once their time frame noted above expires?
- Hungarian citizens: Nothing, as they are Hungarians and can stay here indefinitely. They do, however, need to acquire a resident address that will be their official address in Hungary. At the moment, they are eligible to apply for temporary protection from the Hungarian state; they do not need any permit to live, study or work here.
- Ukrainians with a biometric passport: During the 90 visa-free days, they need to secure a more permanent status in Hungary if they wish to stay here longer. This can be temporary protection (which is valid until the end of the war as decided by the Hungarian state, and which grants them certain state support but does not allow them to travel to other states), or any usual type of resident permit (work permit, business permit, student permit, white card, or family unification), possibly even Hungarian citizenship based on ancestry. They can apply for these statuses within Hungary anytime during the 90-day period, and if they are approved, they can live here according to the usual rules of these permits (e.g. they can travel freely in the Schengen zone, spend max. 90 days in each 6-month period in other Schengen countries and so on). If their 90 days expire while the permit application is being processed, they can legally stay here until they get the new permit but they cannot travel to other states after the expiry of the 90 days until the new permit is issued. The main concern with such applications is that they normally require various documents from the home country (e.g. a birth certificate or a school diploma etc.) and these may be hard to acquire during the present circumstances. It is unclear whether any special consideration will be granted to Ukrainian applicants for work or resident permits during the war time. The processing time of such permits varies; for example, Ukrainians are eligible for expedited work permit processing (30-40 days).
- Ukrainians without a biometric passport: Same situation as above; however, they have only 30 days to apply for a new status, and during this 30-day period they cannot travel to other states. They can solidify their stay in Hungary by applying for temporary protection (this is available to them based on coming from the war zone alone), or by submitting an application for a work permit or other resident permit as soon as possible (student permit, business permit, white card, or family unification), and thereafter staying legally in Hungary while this permit is being processed.
- Third-country (non-EU) citizens: These people fall into two categories
- Citizens of countries that are non-EU but normally allowed into the Schengen zone without a visa (e.g. US, Canada, Serbia etc.) – in their case, the same applies as for Ukrainians holding a biometric passport as in (2), with the caveat that they are currently not eligible for temporary protected status in Hungary, only the other, normally available residency types (work permit, business permit, student permit, white card, or family unification), and (with the exception of Serbians) their processing time for a work permit is not expedited (takes up to 70 days). Just like Ukrainians, they are allowed to submit their application for residency within Hungary (work permit, student permit, business permit, white card, family unification), so they do not need to travel home for handing in an application and can wait out the processing time here.
- Citizens of countries that normally require a visa to enter the Schengen zone – they are currently given a 30-day permission to stay; however, they are not eligible for temporary protection in Hungary at this time, and while they can technically apply for other statuses (work or business permits, student permits and so on) just like before the war, they are required to submit their application in their home country or country of residency (the latter currently unrealistic if they are residents of Ukraine). If they do not wish to return to their home country, or go back to Ukraine after 30 days, their only options are traveling on to another EU country that does offer them protection until Ukraine is safe to return to, or ask for special consideration in Hungary to be allowed to submit a residency application here. This “special consideration” or “leniency” is subject to approval, and is normally not easy to get – normally, it is only granted if the person’s home country or the travel is unsafe, or there are health considerations against travel. However, we do not yet know whether this type of special consideration will be granted more freely now, in light of the war, and larger numbers of third-country nationals will be able to submit residency applications within Hungary. Since Ukraine is not a member of the EU, dual residency is possible, so by acquiring residency in Hungary, the person would not give up their residency in Ukraine, and they will be able to return to their life there.
NB: Actual “refugee status” is basically unavailable to all these people since, as of May 2020, the application process for refugee status for Hungary can only be initiated in Belgrade or Kyiv, and processing times are extremely long, so even if the person were to make it to Belgrade to submit their application at the Hungarian consulate there, they would need to be prepared to spend months in Serbia waiting for an appointment and then for their application to be processed.
Where people fleeing Ukraine can turn to?
Applications for all of the above described statuses are processed by the Immigration Office. Since 11 March 2022, the Immigration Office at Harmat utca, Budapest is open every day, including weekends and holidays, to people coming from Ukraine, whether they are asking for temporary protection (available to Ukrainian citizens) or for temporary residency (available to third-country nationals).
Address: 1108 Budapest, Harmat utca 131.
Open: every day from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Find information in Ukrainian from the Immigration Office here (general) and here (detailed).
Download the application form for temporary protection in Ukrainian or in English/Hungarian.
If you are looking for assistance with applying for temporary protection in Hungary, you can ask the Menedék – Hungarian Association for Migrants or the Hungarian Helsinki Committee.
If you need help with applying for any of the above described regular residency options in Hungary, fill in the form below to contact us.