Hungary is set to introduce a new residency program, labeled the “guest-investor program,” aimed at attracting foreign investors through property acquisition, six years after a previous initiative faced corruption allegations, prompting its closure.
Proposed by Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government, the program offers a 10-year, renewable residency permit for individuals investing a minimum of €250,000 ($271,000) in local property funds (real estate companies) or €500,000 in Hungarian real estate (direct purchase of real estate).
In addition to property investments, the program also extends eligibility to those making donations of at least €1 million to designated public trusts established by the government to oversee universities.
This move marks a strategic revival of a concept previously abandoned in 2017, where a similar program granting residency and unrestricted EU travel to buyers of €300,000 in government bonds was terminated due to alleged corruption and insufficient applicant vetting.
The controversial nature of “golden visas” in Europe is evident, with critics attributing them to housing crises in some regions. Portugal and Ireland, for instance, have recently closed their respective programs, citing soaring real estate prices and other associated challenges.
Hungary’s renewed program is part of a broader legislative agenda that Prime Minister Orban claims reflects a stringent stance on immigration, a central theme of his nationalist leadership over the past decade. The timing of this initiative coincides with heightened scrutiny from opposition parties, who have accused the government of easing regulations earlier in the year to address a labor shortage by welcoming workers from non-EU countries.
This move also aligns with Hungary’s economic goals, as the government estimates a need for 500,000 new workers to meet increasing demand, particularly in sectors like the burgeoning battery industry, where substantial investments are positioning Hungary as a global leader. The residency program is seen as a dual-purpose strategy to attract foreign capital and address labor shortages, while Orban seeks to stabilize the country’s fiscal position after a record budget shortfall.