A bill submitted by three Fidesz MPs aims to make it possible to obtain residence permits for EUR 250,000, Fidesz caucus leader Antal Rogán announced on Tuesday, correcting an earlier statement which had referred to citizenship as being available for this amount.
Fidesz MP Mihály Babák, who co-submitted the bill with Rogán and Krisztián Kapus on Saturday, had announced on Monday that it would allow preferential treatment to non-EU citizens to obtain Hungarian citizenship and a permit to settle in the country. The new status would be granted to those who bought a minimum EUR 250,000 in bonds issued by state debt management centre AKK.
Babák said the provisions of the bill aimed to make Hungary more attractive to potential investors, especially from China. “Further direct investment by those applying for this form of settling in Hungary will boost domestic real estate markets, commercial activities and the investment market,” the bill said.
The bill itself is a proposed amendment to national residence requirements set in a 2007 law on rights of entry and residence of non-EU nationals. The new amendment suggests considering applicants as of particular economic interest to the state and deserving special merit if they possess at least EUR 250,000 of minimum five-year, fixed-term “state residence bonds”.
Confusingly, the bill then justifies the move by writing that “linking citizenship acquisition with the purchase of state bonds” is part of “an effort to contribute to state financing”. Rogán, who is chairman of Parliament’s Hungarian-Chinese friendship chapter, confirmed on Tuesday that the bill was a response to Chinese investors, though stressing that nationals of that country, not officials, had complained about the difficulties of obtaining visas to Hungary. Switzerland, some European countries and the US have similar practices, he said.
The move is just the latest in government efforts to refinance its foreign currency debt worth billions of euros and set to mature in the next few years. The initial announcement linking the acquisition of state bonds to citizenship also prompted many to accuse the government of seeking to sell Hungary for cash, not so long after the extradition of an Azeri murderer and his subsequent release by his home country coincided with rumours, officially denied, that Azerbaijan would invest substantially in Hungarian bonds. Residence permits, though they can also pave the way to citizenship, should prove less controversial.
Offering residence to immigrants willing to make an investment is standard practice in Canada’s provinces, and Ireland launched initiatives in April aiming to facilitate residency status for non-EU entrepreneurs willing to invest in government bonds or Irish businesses.