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Foreign-born population – 2017

0.5 million, 50% women

5% of the population

Evolution since 2007: +49%

Main countries of birth:

Romania (40%), Ukraine (11%), Serbia (8%)

In 2017, 19 000 new immigrants obtained a residence permit longer than 12 months in Hungary (excluding EU citizens), 50.5% more than in 2016. This figure comprises 43.4% labour migrants, 16.3% family members (including accompanying family), 29.2% who came for education reasons and 11.1% other migrants.

Around 5 300 short-term permits were issued to tertiary-level international students and 4 900 to temporary and seasonal labour migrants (excluding intra-EU migration). In addition, 13 000 intra-EU postings were recorded in 2017, an increase of 13% compared to 2016. These posted workers were generally on short-term contracts.

Ukraine, Romania and Germany were the top three nationalities of newcomers in 2017. Among the top 15 countries of origin, Ukraine registered the strongest increase (5 100) and Romania the largest decrease (-200) in flows to Hungary compared to the previous year.

In 2018, the number of first asylum applicants decreased by 79.6%, reaching around 600. The majority of applicants come from Afghanistan (300), Iraq (200) and Syria (50). The largest decrease since 2017 concerned nationals of Afghanistan (-1 100) and Iraq (-600). Of the 1 000 decisions taken in 2018, 38% were positive.

Emigration of Hungarians to OECD countries increased by 2.1%, to 87 000. More than half (55.6%) of this group migrated to Germany, 15.2% to Austria and 9.2% to the United Kingdom.

In June 2018, the Hungarian Parliament passed a legislative package to tighten asylum conditions and make it illegal for individuals or organisations to help irregular migrants or asylum seekers. Under the law, providing interpretation, information on asylum procedures, or legal support to irregular migrants, or carrying out border monitoring is liable to up to one year imprisonment and fines. A 25% “special tax on immigration” was imposed on transfers to support operations of organisations registered in Hungary which conduct “activities to promote migration”. This could potentially affect all funding for human rights groups and NGOs. The Act also amends the 2007 Asylum Act and the Act on the State Border. Following these amendments, asylum applications from applicants arriving from third countries where they were not subject to persecution or serious harm became inadmissible and anyone in Hungary under criminal proceedings for unlawfully crossing the border is subject to expulsion. In opposition to EU resettlement plans, constitutional reform has rendered it illegal to resettle foreign population in Hungary.

This package was the first major legislation passed by the Hungarian parliament after the April 2018 elections, which gave a sweeping majority to the ruling party Fidesz and its coalition, granting enough support for constitutional reform. The text justifying the bill presenting draft legislation took note of recent election results and referred to the legislation as an action plan or “STOP Soros” package meant to “combat illegal immigration and activities that facilitate it” and to “prevent Hungary from becoming a migrant country”. The law entered into force on 1 July 2018.

In July 2018, the European Commission referred Hungary to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) over asylum provisions and, notably, for excessively long retention of asylum seekers in transit centres without proper access to asylum procedure, and for carrying out expulsions without appropriate safeguard mechanisms.

In 2018, Hungary terminated its Hungarian Investment Immigration Programme that was introduced in 2013, which allowed non-EU citizens to obtain permanent residency in Hungary with a minimum of EUR 300 000 investment in special five-year government bonds. Bonds were sold through intermediary companies registered outside of Hungary, which charged commission to the Hungarian State as well as fees to the applicants. The programme attracted almost 6 600 principal applicants and 13 300 family members until sale of the bonds was suspended in March 2017.

The tight labour market in Hungary, with low unemployment and shortages of workers in some sectors, has led to an increase in the number of foreigners holding work permits. According to the State Secretary for Labour Policy, there were about 30 000 permit-holders at the end of 2018, an increase of about 5 000 from the previous year. Hungary sets annual quotas on the number of new work permits which can be issued. The quota was set at 57 000 for 2019, up from 55 000 in 2018. However, the actual number of new work permits issued is much lower; about 11 000 permits were issued in 2018, almost 2 000 more than in 2017.

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Key figures on immigration and emigration - Hungary
Key figures on immigration and emigration - Hungary

Notes and sources are at the end of the chapter.


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