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Impact of government measures related to the coronavirus on third-country nationals in Hungary

Recent measures adopted by the Hungarian parliament related to the COVID-19 pandemic have a direct impact on third-country nationals. These include both provisions and measures aimed at the entire population living in Hungary as well as some provisions specifically targeting foreigners.

The new measures follow the government’s 11 March 2020 declaration of a state of emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic. In a state of emergency, the government may adopt decisions that deviate from existing legislation. On 30 March 2020, the parliament passed a law that empowered the government to continue its emergency operation for an undetermined period and endorsed the government decisions that had already been adopted. The adoption of the 30 March law received strong criticism internationally, but the government maintains that it is necessary.

Border closures

Hungary has closed its borders, and no foreign citizens can enter the country except for EEA citizens holding a permanent residence card. In duly justified exceptional circumstances, the deputy chief of Police may authorise the entry of other foreigners, if they were tested for COVID-19 and the results were negative, and they were registered by the Hungarian epidemic control authority. Exceptionally, specific border sections were open for transiting Romanian and Bulgarian nationals for a very limited time (several hours).

Epidemiological controls

Strict rules apply regarding epidemiological control, surveillance and isolation that everyone must adhere to. Foreigners who do not comply with these regulations may be expelled. People may leave home only for a limited number of reasons, specified in a government decree.

Impact on residence and identity documents

The validity of identity documents and driving licences that would normally expire during the period of the state of emergency are to be extended to 15 days after the end of the state of emergency. However, these rules refer only to Hungarian nationals and EEA nationals holding a permanent residence card. It remains to be seen whether they would be applicable to other foreigners as well, especially to beneficiaries of international protection who, according to Hungarian legislation, should in general have the same rights as Hungarian nationals.

Residence permits that are up for renewal during the state of emergency period must still be renewed—there is no grace period for renewals. The immigration authority (Directorate General for Aliens Policing) has issued a notice advising the holders of residence permits to apply for renewal electronically, via the Enter Hungary portal.

The immigration authority has also requested not to apply for permanent residence permits or for official endorsement of invitation letters during the state of emergency. In addition, visits to the customer service offices of the immigration authority should be done only for urgent and duly justified cases, and by appointment only.

Impact on education and labour market

All students are forbidden to enter higher education institutions. Primary and secondary schools have been closed from 16 March, and online education is provided. Nurseries and kindergartens are also closed, while daycare is provided in designated nurseries and kindergartens.

The government has not adopted special measures to help those who lost their jobs due to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Information for migrants

There is some information available in English—for example, on the website of the Directorate General for Aliens Policing—but the official coronavirus website is not available in English. Users who click to see the English version are redirected to the pro-government news blog, About Hungary.

This makes it important to provide and regularly update information for foreigners in the languages that they understand. Menedék - Hungarian Association for Migrants monitors developments, laws and official communications and keeps foreigners informed of developments. The information is available in English, Arabic, Spanish, Farsi, Hindi and Urdu.

The Hungarian Helsinki Committee has also issued information about travel restrictions affecting foreigners staying in or entering Hungary. In addition, the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union TASZ has prepared an information page on detailed quarantine rules and individual rights.