Residence Permit
April 6, 2024
Reading Time: 11 min

Immigrating to Hungary for permanent residency: pros & cons

Hungary stands out as an attractive destination for immigration, thanks to its affordable living and real estate costs, which are lower than in many other European Union countries.

The country offers a residence permit for 24 different reasons, including but not limited to employment, investment, study, and family reunification. Permanent residence can be applied for after legally residing in the country for at least three years.

Explore the features of living in Hungary before deciding on relocation.

Reasons to move to Hungary and get permanent residence
Immigrating to Hungary for permanent residency: pros & cons

10 benefits of moving to Hungary

1. Diverse residency options. Hungary offers 24 pathways to residency catering to a wide range of applicants, including students, spouses of Hungarian citizens, researchers, entrepreneurs, and digital nomads. Investment is another viable route to obtaining a residence permit.

2. Residing in Hungary. A residence permit grants the holder the right to live in Hungary with certain conditions, depending on the permit type. Permanent residence permits, subject to specific requirements, are issued indefinitely.

3. Visa-free travel. Hungarian residents can travel without a visa within the EU, the Schengen Area and other European countries, including Montenegro and Georgia. The list of visa-free destinations includes more than 35 countries.

4. Path to citizenship. After 11 years of continuous residency in Hungary, eligible residents can apply for Hungarian citizenship. This process involves passing language, history, and civic knowledge exams and taking an oath of allegiance. 

5. The cost of living in Hungary is lower than in other EU countries. For instance, living expenses are about half as much as in Norway or Denmark and roughly 33% less than in Germany, Austria, or Malta. On average, monthly expenses start at €1,500 for a single person and €3,000 for a family of four, rent included.

Average food prices in Hungary are as follows:

  • €0.4 for 1.5 litres of water;
  • €0.9 for 1 litre of milk;
  • €1.3 for a loaf of bread;
  • €2.5 for a dozen eggs;
  • €9.2 for 1 kg of cheese;
  • €5 for 1 kg of chicken;
  • €1.4 for 1 kg of apples;
  • €1.6 for 1 kg of bananas;
  • €2.7 for 1 kg of tomatoes;
  • €1.1 for 1 kg of potatoes.

Gas prices in Hungary range from €1.5 to €1.7 per litre, varying by fuel type, region, and gas station. The average cost of a one-way trip on public transport is about €1.

6. Pleasant climate. Hungary enjoys a temperate climate, generally free from extreme temperature swings and prolonged rainy periods. Summers are warm, with average temperatures reaching 28 °C from June to August, while winters are mild, with temperatures typically ranging between +3 and +5 °C. Many locals find autumn the most comfortable season.

7. Beautiful nature. Hungary's landscape is perfect for relaxation, travel, and active lifestyles, offering extensive hiking trails through mountains and along rivers. The renowned National Blue Trail traverses the country from the Austrian border to the Slovakian border, covering about a thousand kilometres. 

Activities like cycling, thermal spring leisure, and fishing, particularly in Lake Balaton, the country's largest lake, are popular. Hortobágy and Kiskunság National Parks are also prime spots for birdwatching.

8. Banking access. Hungarian residents enjoy access to European banking services, including account opening, bank cards, currency choices, and loans. The average mortgage interest rate ranges from 5.5% to 6% annually.

9. Accessible healthcare. Foreigners employed by Hungarian companies or enrolled in local universities are eligible for free healthcare, typically provided in Hungarian at public hospitals. Private clinics, more likely to have English-speaking staff, charge around €70 for a GP consultation and €40 for blood tests.

10. Quality education. Foreign residents' children can attend Hungarian public and private schools, with some offering international curricula in English. Hungarian university degrees are recognized across the EU, the UK, and the US, facilitating global opportunities for graduates.

Cons of moving to Hungary

Language barrier. Hungarian's distinct nature from the Romano-Germanic languages makes it particularly challenging for English, German, or French speakers. Recognized for its complexity, Hungarian features unique sets of phonemes and cases and lacks grammatical genders, adding layers of difficulty for learners.

As the sole official language, Hungarian is essential for daily interactions, from scheduling doctor's appointments to job seeking or enrolling children in public schools. It’s advisable for those planning to move to Hungary to begin learning Hungarian beforehand to ease these transitions.

In Hungary, a variety of language courses are available through private schools, universities, and diplomatic missions. These courses cater to different proficiency levels and learning intensities. Prices vary but generally start at €150 per semester, making them an accessible option for those committed to overcoming the language barrier.

High taxes. Hungary introduces a flat 15% personal income tax rate, supplemented by an 18.5% deduction for social contributions and employment tax, effectively reducing net salaries to about two-thirds of the gross figure. Additionally, inheritance tax stands at 18%, or 9% for real estate transfers, though immediate family members like children, siblings, and spouses are exempt.

The country's corporate income tax is set at a competitive 9%, while VAT, at 27%, ranks among the highest in the EU, reflecting a significant consideration for both consumers and businesses.

Risk of losing resident status. Hungary's residence permit holders are generally required to spend 8—9 months annually in the country to maintain their status. However, investors are exempt from this rule. 

Furthermore, spending more than six consecutive months abroad risks revoking a permanent residence permit unless Hungarian immigration authorities are notified in advance with valid reasons for the absence.

Learning Hungarian and immigrating to Hungary
Price tag for food at a festival in Hungary. Hungarian is a complex language, and understanding it is important for expats

Best places to live in Hungary

Budapest. As the Hungarian capital, Budapest serves as the country's economic and cultural heart, home to about two million residents. Annually, it also attracts around 12 million tourists, adding to its vibrant atmosphere.

Straddling the Danube River, Budapest is renowned for its stunning cityscape marked by architectural marvels like the Gothic Revival Parliament, the historic Buda Castle, and the picturesque Chain Bridge. The city's baths, inherited from a long tradition of Turkish occupation, and its thriving arts scene, from classical music to contemporary art galleries, further contribute to its dynamic atmosphere.

Property prices in Budapest rank as the highest across Hungary. For new residential developments, prices can soar to as much as €5,500 per square metre. Meanwhile, renting a one-room apartment in the city centre might cost up to €800 monthly

Living standards overview:

  • 3-bedroom apartment rental is €350—1,100 per month;
  • cost of housing is €1,300—5,500 per 1 m²;
  • utilities are €100—240 per month;
  • private kindergarten is €200—500 per month;
  • dinner for two in a restaurant is €35—80.

Property examples in Budapest

Debrecen, as Hungary's second-largest city, boasts a population of about 210,000. It offers a contrast to Budapest with its quieter, more relaxed lifestyle, characterised by less congestion and abundant green spaces. 

The city is home to a prestigious university, ranked among Hungary's top 5 for its academic excellence and vibrant student community. Additionally, Debrecen's international airport significantly enhances its connectivity, making it an accessible hub for both residents and visitors.

Living standards overview:

  • 3-bedroom apartment rental is €300—750 per month;
  • сost of housing is €1,700 —2,500 per 1 m²;
  • utilities is €110—180 per month;
  • private kindergarten is €150—500 per month;
  • dinner for two in a restaurant is €30—75.

Szeged, situated in southern Hungary, is strategically located near the borders with Serbia and Romania. It is the country’s third-largest city. 

Its first recorded mention dates back to the 12th century, offering a glimpse into its long-standing historical significance. However, following a devastating flood in 1879, Szeged underwent a comprehensive reconstruction, leaving few historical buildings intact. The city was reborn with a harmonious architectural style, showcasing a commitment to unity and design that characterises its current appearance.

Living standards overview:

  • 3-bedroom apartment rental is €330—750 per month;
  • cost of housing is €1,500—2,700 per 1 m²;
  • utilities is €110—200 per month;
  • private kindergarten is €200—370 per month;
  • dinner for two in a restaurant is €25—80.

Veszprém stands as one of Hungary's oldest and most serene cities, located just 110 km from Budapest and a short 15 km from the scenic Lake Balaton. Home to a population of 60,000, it merges tranquillity with its status as a bustling tourist centre. 

Renowned as a cultural hub, Veszprém hosts a variety of festivals celebrating contemporary literature, opera, blues, jazz, and both light and traditional Hungarian cinema. These events draw enthusiasts from across Hungary and beyond, reflecting the city's vibrant cultural scene. 

The Hungarian government's significant investment in urban infrastructure development highlights its commitment to enhancing Veszprém's historic charm and modern appeal.

Living standards overview:

  • 3-bedroom apartment rental is €450—880 per month;
  • cost of housing is €1,500—2,500 per 1 m²;
  • utilities is €140—160 per month;
  • private kindergarten is €200—370 per month;
  • dinner for two in a restaurant is €30—65.

Siófok, a charming resort town nestled on the shores of Lake Balaton, is a premier destination attracting tens of thousands of tourists annually, despite its modest permanent population of just five thousand. 

Renowned for its vibrant beach life, cultural festivals, and scenic beauty, Siófok offers a perfect escape into nature's embrace. It is well-connected, lying on the European route E71 that links Budapest with Zagreb, making it easily accessible by both road and rail. A comfortable train journey can whisk you from Budapest to Siófok in just two hours.

Living standards overview:

  • 3-bedroom apartment rental is €300—750 per month;
  • cost of housing is €1,700—2,500 per 1 m²;
  • utilities is €100—120 per month;
  • private kindergarten is €100—210 per month;
  • dinner for two in a restaurant is €40—50. 

Sopron stands as a picturesque city on the border between Hungary and Austria, just 75 km from Vienna, which can be reached in about an hour by car. A journey to Budapest from Sopron is equally convenient, taking approximately two and a half hours. 

Reflecting its dual heritage, the local population is proficient in both Hungarian and German, creating a truly bilingual community. This linguistic blend is evident in daily life, as official documents, signs, and street names are presented in both languages, ensuring a welcoming atmosphere for speakers of either language.

Living standards overview:

  • 3-bedroom apartment rental is €450—750 per month;
  • cost of housing is €2,200—3,000 per 1 m²;
  • utilities is €40—150 per month;
  • private kindergarten is €200—225 per month;
  • dinner for two in a restaurant is €20—45. 

Who can immigrate to Hungary and get a residence permit

Hungarian laws offer 24 types of residence permits, with eight specifically designed for employment, catering to highly-skilled workers, low-skilled guest workers, and investors. Other categories facilitate family reunification, marriage to a Hungarian citizen, and school enrollment. While requirements vary by permit type, some are common across most categories.

To qualify for permanent residency in Hungary, most foreigners must have resided there for at least three years under a temporary residence permit. Residency in Hungary must be uninterrupted, meaning no more than 270 days spent outside the country in the last three years, with no single absence exceeding 90 days. 

The application must include:

  • a registration of residence in Hungary, confirmed by a lease agreement or a sale and purchase agreement;
  • healthcare insurance;
  • proof of financial stability, verified by a bank statement or proof of income;
  • a criminal record certificate.

Hungarian permanent residency affords rights such as exemption from needing a work permit and eligibility for a Hungarian ID card.

Moving to Hungary as an EU, EEA, or third-country citizen

EU and EEA nationals planning to stay in Hungary for more than 90 days must apply for a registration certificate through the Enter Hungary online platform, submitting their application by the 93rd day from their entry date.

Required documents for a registration certificate include:

  • an ID card or passport;
  • grounds for staying in the country, such as employment or study proof;
  • proof of accommodation in Hungary;
  • proof of sufficient funds or scholarship;
  • health insurance.

A fee of HUF 1,000 (€2.50) is charged for each registration certificate, which, for EU and EEA nationals, is valid indefinitely.

Third-country nationals, or those entering Hungary from outside the EU or EEA, must apply for a visa if their country lacks a visa waiver agreement with Hungary, based on their reasons for entering. To stay longer than 90 days, these individuals must apply for a residence permit through a consular district.

Nationals from countries with a visa waiver agreement, such as the US or New Zealand, may stay for 90 days and then must apply for a temporary residence permit. 

Moving to a Hungarian city for permanent residence
In Siófok, locals and tourists enjoy 17 km of beaches along Lake Balaton and a large lake port. Anyone can take a ferry to neighbouring towns or go on a yacht trip

Investment grounds for immigrating to Hungary: obtaining a “Golden Visa”

A Hungarian residence permit can be obtained by making an investment of €250,000 or more, granting foreigners a 10-year residency that is extendable for another decade.

Investment options include:

  1. Investment fund units with a minimum investment of €250,000.
  2. Real estate, requiring an investment of €500,000+.
  3. A donation to charity amounting to €1,000,000+.

The investor can include their spouse and financially dependent children in the application. 

Required documents are:

  • valid passports;
  • birth and marriage certificates;
  • health insurance;
  • criminal record certificate;
  • proof of the legitimacy of income;
  • bank statements.

Additionally, investors must submit a written intent to meet the investment requirements.

Work and employment grounds for immigrating to Hungary

Employers. Third-country nationals seeking employment in Hungary can obtain a residence permit for this purpose. The initial step involves securing a job offer from a Hungarian employer, after which the application can proceed remotely via a Hungarian embassy or consulate.

The application process includes:

  1. Providing valid identification documents, such as a passport.
  2. Completing forms tailored to the specific type of employment.
  3. Paying the applicable fees.
  4. Demonstrating housing arrangements in Hungary through rental agreements or property ownership.
  5. Obtaining the necessary insurance coverage.

The processing period ranges from four to six months. Upon approval, applicants are issued an interim visa to enter Hungary and collect their work permit, valid for up to two years based primarily on the length of employment, with the possibility of extension.

Following the receipt of their work permit, foreigners must then apply for the following:

  • A residence permit card;
  • an address card, 
  • a tax card, 
  • a social security card (TAJ).

A residence permit for employment is typically valid for the duration of the work permit and can be extended provided the employment contract remains active and all required documents are up to date. 

Digital nomads can apply for a White Card in Hungary, which permits remote workers to reside and work in the country for up to one year, with the possibility of extending for an additional year.

Eligibility criteria for foreigners include:

  1. Being a resident or citizen outside the EU and EEA
  2. Working for a company registered outside of Hungary or for clients not based in Hungary.
  3. Utilising the Internet or other telecommunications technologies for work.
  4. Earning a minimum of €3,000 per month.
  5. Having at least €10,000 in their bank account.
  6. Possessing health insurance that meets Hungarian requirements.
  7. Securing accommodation within Hungary for at least a year.

Applications are to be submitted through a Hungarian embassy or consulate, with total fees amounting to approximately €285.

Upon approval, digital nomads are issued a visa to enter Hungary. They must then apply for the White Card at the National Directorate-General for Aliens Policing within one month of arrival. The expected processing time for the White Card is about 30 days.

Hungary immigration for the purpose of employment
Foreign workers have several options in Hungary, including a digital nomad visa and local employment

Family reunification grounds for immigrating to Hungary

Relatives of Hungarian residents can obtain residence permits through family reunification. These permits are initially valid for up to 3 years and can be extended for an additional 3 years.

Eligible family members for reunification with a foreigner holding a residence permit in Hungary include:

  • spouses;
  • dependent children;
  • dependent siblings;
  • dependent parents and grandparents.

However, there are exceptions. For example, if the foreigner is a digital nomad or holds a residence permit for studies, family reunification may not be applicable.

Applications for family reunification must be submitted at a Hungarian embassy or consulate. Required documents include valid passports and proof of family relationships, such as marriage or birth certificates. The standard processing time is 21 days.

Study-related grounds for immigrating to Hungary 

Foreigners wishing to study and live in Hungary must secure an admission letter from an educational entity within the country. Eligibility extends to full-time students at an accredited secondary or higher educational institution, or to those enrolled in preparatory courses at a higher educational institution.

The Hungarian residence permit for students is issued for 1 year. However, if the study program lasts less than a year, the permit's validity will match the program's duration. Permits may be extended for 1 or 2 additional years at a time.

Students should apply at a Hungarian embassy or consulate with the necessary documents, including:

  • a Hungarian language certificate, demonstrating the language proficiency required for their studies;
  • proof of accommodation in Hungary;
  • proof of sufficient finances to support their stay;
  • health insurance.

Initially, students must apply for an entry visa at their local Hungarian embassy. Upon arrival in Hungary, they are to contact the competent regional directorate of the National Directorate-General for Aliens Policing to request a residence permit for the purpose of pursuing their studies.

How to obtain permanent residence in Hungary: a step-by-step guide

Obtaining permanent residence status in Hungary is a process that cannot be expedited, not even through investment. Foreigners are required to reside in the country on a temporary residence permit for a minimum of three years before becoming eligible. 

The path to acquiring permanent residence comprises six main stages. Let’s explore them using the example of investment residency.

PT43M
Up to 1 month
Preparing visa documents
Preparing visa documents

The foreigner collects the required documents, which must then be translated and apostilled. This process can be completed in their country of residence. Throughout this process, applicants will receive assistance from Immigrant Invest lawyers.

1 to 4 months
Getting a visa to enter Hungary
Getting a visa to enter Hungary

The investor receives a Guest Investor visa, valid for 2 years. Visa application documents are submitted to the Hungarian Consulate at the investor’s permanent residence.

The investment must be transferred within 3 months after the first entry into Hungary on the investor visa.

If the investor has chosen the real estate option, experts at Immigrant Invest will assist with selecting a suitable property from a reliable seller. Our lawyers will also obtain permission to purchase property from Budapest City Hall.

1 month
Applying for a residence permit
Applying for a residence permit

The investor submits documents through Enter Hungary, an online migration portal. Each family member in the application pays fees:

  • €110  — for issuing;
  • €30  — for certifying.
1 day
Submitting biometric data
Submitting biometric data
Up to 1 month
Receiving the residence permit
Receiving the residence permit

An application for a residence permit is processed within 21 days. The completed residence permit card will be mailed to the specified registration address in Hungary.

In 3 years
Applying for permanent residence
Applying for permanent residence

After 3 years of living in the country, the foreigner can apply for permanent status through the Enter Hungary website.

Moving to Hungary: essential insights

  1. Hungary offers various residence permits, each with specific validity and renewal conditions. Residence permits enable visa-free EU and Schengen area travel, access to European banking and healthcare, and globally recognized education for children.
  2. Investment of at least €250,000 grants an immediate 10-year residence status, renewable for another decade.
  3. Permanent residency requires a three-year stay, leading to citizenship after an additional eight years.
  4. Living and housing costs are lower than in many EU countries, with average monthly expenses of €1,500 for individuals and €3,000 for a family of four. 
  5. With Hungarian as the challenging official language, early learning is advised. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it a good idea to move to Hungary?

Indeed, especially if you are looking for a relatively affordable EU residence in a beautiful country. Hungary has an affordable cost of living, a pleasant climate, and a prospect of European citizenship after 11 years of legal residency. 

Keep in mind, however, that Hungary has some pitfalls. The country has relatively high taxes, and a grasp of the Hungarian language is required for almost everything official.

How long do you need to live in Hungary to get permanent residence?

You must have lived in Hungary for at least three years on a residence permit in order to obtain a permanent residence permit. The applicant will need to provide proof of the address of registration in Hungary, income, medical insurance, and a certificate of non-criminal record. Permanent status is granted for life but can be revoked if you do not live in the country.

Where should I live as an expat in Hungary?

Budapest, if you prefer fast-paced big city life and don’t mind the higher cost of living. If you want something quieter but still love bigger cities, opt for Debrecen. 

Siófok and Veszprém are beautiful smaller towns near the lake. They are considered tourist destinations, but life there is relatively serene. Veszprém is famous for its vibrant cultural life.

Sopron is a city at the Austrian border, one hour from Vienna and around two and a half hours from Budapest. If you are yet to be fluent in Hungarian but speak German, Sopron is a convenient place: everyone here speaks German.

How much money do you need to live in Hungary?

The cost of living and property prices in Hungary are lower than in other EU countries. Average monthly expenses are around €1,500 per person and €3,000 for a family of four, including rental properties. Rental costs depend on the city of residence: in Budapest, they will be from €800 to 1,500 per month; in Debrecen, from €400 to 800; and in Veszprém, from €550 to 950.

How much does it cost to buy an apartment in Budapest?

Prices for buying property in Budapest are, on average, €2,200 per 1 m² on the secondary market and €2,900 per 1 m² for new properties.

By investing in Budapest real estate, you can get a Hungary residence permit and eventually citizenship.

What do you need to move to Hungary?

Foreigners need to obtain a residence permit in Hungary to stay in the country for more than 90 days. A residence permit is issued for study, employment, medical treatment, and business development. Foreigners with foreign income and investors can also become residents.

Applicants for a Hungary residence permit must prove that they need to live in the country for a long time, have a sufficient income level and have a registration address in Hungary. Applicants will also need to apply for health insurance with coverage worldwide or in the European Union for €30,000 or more.

Can a US citizen move to Hungary?

Yes, a US citizen can enter Hungary without a visa and spend 90 days there. After this, they must apply for a temporary residence permit.

Can I live in Hungary without knowing the language?

Hungarian is the only official language in the country. The exception is a few cities on the border with Austria, where German is spoken in addition to Hungarian. Without knowledge of the Hungarian language, it won’t be easy to adapt when moving.

What language is the curriculum in Hungary?

Hungarian in public schools and universities. Private and international educational institutions offer programs in English and German.

Can I move with my pets to Hungary?

Yes, you can move with your pets to Hungary, but there are specific requirements, regardless of the city you are headed to. 

Pets need to be microchipped and vaccinated against rabies, with the microchip implanted before the rabies vaccine. The vaccine must be at least 21 days old at the time of the final health exam.

Additional vaccinations for dogs include Distemper, Hepatitis, Leptospirosis, Parainfluenza, and DHLPP. Additional vaccines for cats are Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, and FVRCP.

How can I move my belongings to Hungary?

When relocating to Hungary with large-sized belongings, opt for a professional mover experienced with customs and foreign entry points. 

Compact items can be categorised into personal effects, like household goods and clothing, which typically are duty-free but must be declared at customs, and high-value items, such as jewellery and art, requiring special handling, duties, and thorough declarations. 

Always have valuation certificates and receipts on hand. After customs clearance, retain all documents provided by officials.

 

Immigrant Invest is a licensed agent for government programs in the European Union and the Caribbean.

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