Types of residency and how to choose them in Hungary

Dr. Varga Detre


What is the difference between types of residence permit and which one to choose?

Being specialized in EU immigration law among other legal fields, I often notice that sources online mix the cathegories of visa, residence permit and permanent residency, though the legal background is very similar in the whole European Union.

1. Visa

A visa is a permission given by a state to enter a specific territory one or multiple times, and stay there for a short time (in Hungary this is maximum 90 days) without the purpose of settling there. It's usually the first type of residency everyone receives, so if you belong to a country with a visa-must, and you've ever entered Hungary, you’ve already got it once. This is very positive, because if you've passed the national security scrutiny once, and you have not overstayed (this is how we call staying more than your visa permits) your second visa will be given more easily.

Hungary is a Schengen border country, which means that it's affected by illegal migration on it's borders. Due to this, hungarian consuls interview people in little more details than others. Visa is the right residency title for you if you are a tourist, a visitor, come to a project not more than 90 days, or have a company that you intend to check every once in a while, but not more than 90 days in half a year (180 days in a year). In any case, a multiple entry visa is always more convenient, as  it allows more entries in the given time span.

Knowing the practice of the hungarian consulate, many second timers request a visa to Austria or Czech Republic, eventually Italy or Greece, and come to Hungary primarily. This is a minor offence (false statement in the visa procedure) but still a wide spread practice. 

In price-value rate, a multiple entry visa is worse than a residence permit of the lower budget cathegory, as it allows a shorter stay, so one day of staying in Hungary costs more. However, it makes sense to start with a visa first, and after your business stabilizes, request a residence permit. Consulates have close ties with agencies that are booking tourist visas. To set up a small business that will later become your residency goal, a tourist visa is enough and cost saving. 

2. Residence permit

A residence permit, representing the second level, is a title to stay between 91 days and even 5 years in some cases, depending on the goal of your residency. Oddly to stay in Hungary for more than 90 days, you have to verify the goal of your stay, and your request may easily be turned down, if you can’t verify your goal. This is quite absurd, as one of the goals the law specifies is „other”, which can be anything on the earth you can imagine, nevertheless, you have to prove it.

It’s important to know, that a residence permit is a right to stay in Hungary more than 90 days, not a must. You may have this kind of document and not stay in Hungary at all. Many applicants stay in other EU countries with their hungarian residency, instead of staying here, and since there is no border control, nobody questions them. However, the terms of getting a residency shall be fulfilled during the whole stay. If you’ve once stated in a request that you have an adress of residence where you can stay during your stay, and you’re fulfilling a goal, and you have salary and savings, and health insurance, you have to comply with these requirements during your whole stay.

In practice, the monthly expenses of maintaining a hungarian residency may be reduced to as low as 300 EUR per month in average. On the contrary, any european country would cost at least double. In addition, Hungary has a very high rate of positive decisions, 22 applicants in 23 receive their residence permit in the end, if the paperwork is done right. There are not many foreigners holding a residence permit in Hungary (they would not fill a smaller city if added) which makes the residency policy softer. 

3. Permanent residency in Hungary

Permanent residency is a closer tie with Hungary. It means you have a registered adress like a citizen here. In this case, you shall stay and live dominantly in Hungary. This does not necessarily mean you have to be here physically. You can be one of the members of the crew of the international space station, or work on a cruise ship, but your invoices shall be mailed here, you’re registered adress shall be here, your personal income tax shall be paid dominantly here in Hungary.

To get a permanent residency, you shall stay at least three years with a residence permit, and stay most of the time in Hungary. In the EU this is hard to track. Foreigners, that are basically afraid of being repatriated once to their country of origin, request this type of residency, but for an average expat, it hasn’t got too much extra advantages compared to a residence permit. Having a right to participate in the local elections, buying real estate without permission and a farm house outside cities and a restriction of sentenced to be expelled if committing a crime are among these advantages.

States are sometimes selling permanent residency for money, this being nicknamed residency for „investors”. Hungary’s first „permanent residency for sale” program has started in 2015., and is currently doomed to be winded up in 2017., provoking controversy. This „product” hasn’t got the best price-value rate and reputation in the market of residency, so we regard it rather like a curiosity.

Is there anything else you’d like to know, and you think it concerns many expats in Hungary? Feel free to ask it, and we’ll try to answer as soon as possible.