On December 11, 2012, the National Assembly amended the law on “the admission and right of residence of third-country nationals” in order to make it possible for the latter to gain permanent residency in Hungary through the purchase of government “residency bonds” in accordance with the Fidesz–Christian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP)-sponsored Hungarian Investment Immigration Program (source in Hungarian).
According to this program, third-country nationals can obtain permanent residency in Hungary for themselves, their spouses and children under the age of 18 if they purchase 300,000 euros in special residency bonds from the Government Debt Management Agency via an intermediary company that the National Assembly Economic Committee has designated to serve their home country. The Government Debt Management Agency repays the entire sum of 300,000 euros to the purchaser via the relevant intermediary company after a period of five years (source in Hungarian).
In May 2016, the Orbán government eliminated with retroactive effect the previous condition of the Hungarian Investment Immigration Program stipulating that participants could apply for permanent residency in Hungary only after spending six months in the country as temporary residents (source in Hungarian). This enabled participants in the program to move directly to any country in the European Union following their purchase of residency bonds.
The intermediary companies, which the Economic Committee selects unilaterally without bidding, receive a participation fee of between 30,000 euros and 60,000 euros from all of those who purchase residency bonds through the Hungarian Investment Immigration Program. These companies also retain a two-percent interest fee as well as the difference between the nominal value of the “residency bonds” that they collect from the purchaser and the discount value of the bonds that they pay to the Government Debt Management Agency (sources A and B in Hungarian).
Prime Ministerial Cabinet Office chief Antal Rogán, who devised the Hungarian Investment Immigration Program as chairman of the National Assembly Economic Committee in 2012, said that intermediary companies were necessary in order to prevent people who may pose a national security risk from gaining permanent residency in Hungary through participation in the program (sources A and B in Hungarian).
Three companies serve as intermediaries between the Government Debt Management Agency and purchasers of residency bonds: the Cayman Islands-registered, Hong Kong-based Hungary State Special Debt Fund for purchasers in China; the Liechtenstein-registered VolDan Investments for purchasers in Russia and other post-Soviet states; and Hungary-registered Arton Capital for purchasers in the Middle East and Africa.
Opposition sources estimate that these three companies had generated between 65 billion forints (210.5 million euros) and 80 billion forints (259.1 million euros) in revenue via their intermediary roles in the Hungarian Investment Immigration Program through August 2016 (sources A and B in Hungarian).
Government-critical websites have linked Prime Minister Viktor Orbán‘s chief strategic adviser, Árpád Habony, to both the offshore intermediary companies, the Hungary State Special Debt Fund and VolDan Investments: according to 444.hu, one of the owners of the Hungary State Special Debt Fund reserved a 3,000-euro helicopter tour over the city of Hong Kong for Habony and his girlfriend (source in Hungarian); and according to válasz.hu, Habony maintains direct and indirect contacts with two businessmen whose company infrastructure VolDan Investments uses (sources A and B in Hungarian).
Both Habony and Prime Ministerial Cabinet Office chief Rogán are indirectly linked to the Hungary-registered intermediary company Arton Capital: Habony and the company engage the same legal adviser (source in Hungarian); and one of Rogán’s longtime friends is the owner of the company (source in Hungarian).
Neither Habony nor Rogán have denied these reports.
According to official data from the Government Debt Management Agency and the Office of Immigration and Nationality, 3,649 people had acquired residency in Hungary via the Hungarian Investment Immigration Program through July 1, 2016 (source in Hungarian).
In October 2015, Interior Minister Sándor Pintér released data showing that 2,778 people had purchased residency bonds through September 30 of that year. According to this data, 89.5 percent of these purchasers were from China, 6.2 percent from Russia and the remaining 4.3 percent from 35 other countries (source in Hungarian).
Elimination of Hungarian Investment Immigration Program
On October 18, 2016, Jobbik President Gábor Vona told Prime Minister Orbán that the radical-nationalist party would provide the necessary National Assembly support for the government-proposed amendment to the Fundamental Law that would prevent the European Union from resettling migrants from the Middle East and Africa in Hungary only if the Hungarian Investment Immigration Program were first eliminated.
Vona declared during a press conference following his meeting with the prime minister (source in Hungarian): “Neither poor migrants nor rich migrants should be able to be settled in Hungary. Neither poor terrorists nor rich terrorists should arrive to Hungary. Neither Jean-Claude Juncker nor Antal Rogán should be able to settle immigrants in Hungary.”
On October 27, 2016, Prime Ministry chief János Lázár announced that the government had determined that “there will be no need for the residency bonds [in the future]” because recent upgrades of Hungary’s sovereign credit ratings (S & P in September 2016 and Fitch in May 2016) had made it possible “to return to traditional instruments” (source in Hungarian). Lázár claimed that Jobbik President Vona’s announcement nine days previously had nothing to do with the government’s decision.
On October 28, 2016, Prime Minister Orbán confirmed that the residency bonds might be eliminated, reiterating Lázár’s claim that the need for Jobbik’s support for the proposed amendment to the Fundamental Law would exercise no impact on the decision whether to maintain the Hungarian Investment Immigration Program (source in Hungarian).
Last updated: November 1, 2016.