We hereby call the attention of all Hungarian citizens intending to travel to the United States to acquire detailed information on the rules of entry and the conditions of legal stay before departure. The U.S. authorities apply the relevant statutes and regulations strictly to foreigners wishing to enter the country and for those who are already residing there. Violation of the immigration regulations has an immediate impact as well as long-term disadvantages on travelers violating these regulations.

To avoid such problems, we strongly advise to closely observe the destination and timeframe approved by the U.S. authorities during your stay in the United States! The ESTA Entry Permit entitles the holder to a maximum stay of ninety days while the validity period for each visa is indicated on the admission stamp. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials determine the length of stay the visitor is allowed in the country. It is important for the visitor to check the dates and leave the country before the deadline expires. A single day of overstay already implies sanctions, which will endanger the traveler’s future entry!

If you are currently within the United States and have already violated the conditions of your stay - e.g. by overstaying, or carrying out activities unauthorized for the original purpose of your stay - it is suggested that you leave the country voluntarily in order to avoid more severe sanctions.

If a person, who is unlawfully present in the United States, has come to the line of sight of the authorities, he or she may immediately be detained for the duration of removal proceedings, then removed from the country. The Hungarian missions cannot provide assistance in such cases!  Visitors who violate U.S. laws generally cannot visit the United States for lengthy periods, generally at least for 5 to 10 years, and in some cases the ban may be of longer duration or permanent. Please be sure to review U.S. Travel and Immigration instructions before or during your stay in the United States to avoid any serious consequences.

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 ESTA - travelling to the United States with the Visa Waiver Program 

Hungarian citizens with biometric passports (e-passports) may be able to travel to the United States for a maximum stay of 90 days for tourist and business purposes or transit through the country without obtaining a visa. For other purposes – e.g. studies, employment - a visa is still required. Business purposes is narrowly interpreted, covering most notably participation in business events, meetings and negotiations.

As of January 12, 2009, authorization for travel from the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) became a requirement under the Visa Waiver Program for entering or transiting the United States. A link to the official ESTA website (esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/application.html?execution=e1s1) is available on the website of the U.S. Embassy in Budapest (hu.usembassy.gov/).  A small number of ESTA applications are not approved, so Hungarian citizens planning to travel to the United States are kindly strongly advised to apply for an ESTA at least 72 hours prior to their departure. Please be informed that the ESTA is not a visa!  The travel authorization is valid for two years from the date of approval. Within the two-year ESTA validity period, travelers generally are allowed to enter the United States as a visitor for tourism, business, or transit purposes, for a period of not more than 90 days for each visit. During the two-year validity period, the holder of the authorization may enter the United States multiple times.

For education, employment or any other purpose, including any visit for tourist and business purposes longer than 90 days, travelers must first apply for a visa at the U.S. Embassy Consular Section. In these cases, visa-free travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program is not permitted.

If the ESTA application for Visa Waiver Program travel is rejected via the online system, visa is required, in most cases a B1 or B2.  In this case, the application can be submitted at the Embassy of the United States.

Entry and transit with the old type (blue) passport and temporary passport is still subject to a visa requirement.

For Hungarian citizens who travelled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen or Syria on or after 1 March 2011, or who are dual nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria, a visa application must be submitted at the U.S. Embassy.

Upon applying for admission to the United States at a U.S. Port of Entry

The approved ESTA or visa do not guarantee admission to the United States. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials verify the conditions for admission at the Port of Entry. The CBP officials can decide to refuse entry to the United States when, among other reasons, they suspect abuse of  the Visa Waiver Program on the traveler’s part, and initiate the traveler’s detainment and removal. In such cases the Hungarian missions cannot provide any assistance to the Hungarian citizens! It is important to note that all Visa Waiver Program travelers must possess a valid return ticket to depart the United States within the potential 90-day admission period.

During the admission process, travelers who possess a valid visa or an approved ESTA, and are admitted to the United States, will receive a stamp in their passport with an admitted until date and the appropriate class of admission. An electronic automated I-94 document will also be created stating the period of admission to the United States.  Travelers entering under the Visa Waiver Program must depart the United States on or before the 90th day of their stay. An admitted until date is stamped in their passport as well, and listed on their electronic I-94W form.  Travelers’ Electronic I-94 documents can be found at i94.cbp.dhs.gov

In the case of ESTA, the visitor cannot  apply for a change of status or request an extension of stay. The possibility of a change of status is also very limited in the case of travelers who are admitted to the United States with visas!

Consequences of overstaying

According to United States law, admission of foreigners and determination regarding the length of their stay is the responsibility of the U.S. authorities.  Abuse of the entry permit and the abuse of visas (e.g. academic, employment reasons) is penalized by law in all cases.  Please note that, with very limited exception, there is no possibility of review or appeal of the determination of admissibility under the Visa Waiver Program. Overstaying (even for 1 day!) under the Visa Waiver Program (ESTA) or with any Visa Type may result in serious consequences:

  • If the visitor accrues unlawful presence by virtue of overstaying under the Visa Waiver Program, the visitor will be permanently barred from the program.  In order to travel to the United States thereafter, such individuals would have to apply for a visa at the U.S. Embassy and may face the refusal of their visa application.
  • If the visitor accrues unlawful presence by virtue of overstaying by more than 180 continuous days, but leaves before any official, formal removal procedures (i.e. deportation) are instituted, the visitor will be barred from reentering the United States for a period of three years.
  • If the visitor accrues unlawful presence of 365 or more continuous days, then leaves the United States, the visitor will be subsequently barred from reentering the United States for a period of ten years.

Deportation process  .usa.gov/deportation

The deportation process may be used by the authorities of the United States against any foreign citizen who, among other things, has committed a crimebeen convicted of a removable offense in the United States or who is deemed a danger to public security, or who overstays their allotted time of admission.  U.S. federal law enforcement agencies have the right to detain and initiate proceedings against individuals staying in the United States unlawfully (expired period of stay, VWP (ESTA) overstay, illegal employment).

This may mean a detention for the duration of removal proceedings.  After being detained, the individual may be subject to removal by an immigration judge (for entries by travelers with visas).  This decision involves the annulment of the visa of the individual and a bar on re-entering the country, generally for 5 or 10 years.   There may be similar or even stricter penalties for illegal employment.  Those who overstay the terms of their entrance on the VWP may be automatically removed from the United States.

Working in the United States

In order to work lawfully in the United States, all non-U.S. citizens are required to obtain an appropriate work visa in advance.  Eligibility for an employment visa/authorization typically depends on a job offer from a legitimate American employer. The employer typically must first obtain documentation (Form I-797) from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in order to employ a foreign worker.  If a Hungarian citizen accepts such an offer, he or she must then apply for the appropriate work visa from the U.S. Department of State before seeking admission to the United States to assume the employment.   

With a tourist visa or an ESTA authorization, you may be denied entry if suspected of having an intention to work, which may lead to an immediate return or removal.  Since 2017, all border crossing points in the USA have been subject to more stringent monitoring of entry and residence conditions.

Please note that an ESTA permit does not entitle the holder to work! Advertisements that offers work possibilities with ESTA (e.g. au-pair, hotel facilitator) are fake and dangerous. Those who travelled on these bargains have often been in a vulnerable position; many become victims of human traffickers. If you intend to work in the United States, you will need to have a work visa!