Hungary: Golden Visas Take New Form in Orban’s Government

Published: 16 May 2018

Parliament Budapest direkt36Parliament in Budapest (Photo Credit: direkt36)

By Alex Cooper

A Hong Kong-based company is advertising a new, even cheaper immigration program than the one suspended last year, promising Hungarian residency permits to those who invest US$92,000 in real estate and pay almost $60,000 in fees, OCCRP partner Direkt36 reported on Wednesday.

Hungary’s old Gold for Visa program, launched in 2013, was suspended due to allegations of corruption. It had allowed foreigners to move to the country if they purchased a residency bond worth $350,000.

More than 24,000 foreign nationals, mostly from China, obtained permanent or temporary residency permits between 2013 and 2017, according to the Ministry of Interior. That is almost 20 times more people than the 1,300 asylum seekers Orban and his government so vehemently opposed on the grounds that they threatened Hungary’s very culture.

Some aspects of the scheme may have been illegal, according to a new investigation by OCCRP and

Although Budapest has not announced any new programs, the ad appeared in April, two weeks after Viktor Orban’s re-election as Prime Minister.

According to Direkt36, Hong Kong-based LSP International Limited claims the new scheme is guaranteed based on negotiations with Hungary’s Immigration Office. But the Office denied it was even in contact with the company.

Called Home Purchase Immigration, the program advertised on Chinese social media app WeChat offers a residence status that would allow investors to live in the country for up to five years without needing Hungarian language skills or revealing the source of their funding.

The permit would also enable them to travel freely throughout Europe’s Schengen-zone.

The man behind LSP International Limited is allegedly Lian Wang who participated in the Hungarian residency bond scheme.

In 2007, the government passed legislation allowing foreign investors to get residence if their stay is of national interest.

Then in 2012, the residency bond program, by which state bond purchases counted as such an interest, was rushed through Parliament without substantial debate and quickly became one of the most controversial initiatives of the Fidesz government.

Despite the large payments by those seeking residence permits, it is still unclear whether the program made any profit for the Hungarian state.

“The rules have always been vague; the conditions are not specific enough. The [Immigration] Office has a big room for maneuvering,” a immigration lawyer with two decades of experience helping foreigners stay in Hungary told Direkt36.

The bond project was spearheaded by Antal Rogan, an official from Orban’s Fidesz party who now heads Orban’s cabinet.

A law firm that has previously worked for Rogan and has helped mostly Chinese applicants obtain a residence permit through the suspended program is now working for Wang’s Budapest real estate company, according to Direkt36.