New Hungarian immigration law changes work permit options

New Hungarian immigration law changes work permit options

As of 1 January 2024, a new immigration law has come into force in Hungary, which will change the requirements and options relevant to people coming to work in Hungary. For now, the Immigration Office is closed for new applications, and will reopen in March.

Only third-country nationals affected

The new Hungarian immigration law is relevant to third-country nationals who want to live, work, and do business in Hungary. This includes everyone who is interested in (or already has) a work permit. EU nationals have the right to free movement, so they never needed a work permit to enter employment in Hungary, and it remains this way.

Work permit is split in several categories

Up till the end of 2023, third-country nationals who wanted to work in Hungary needed to apply for Hungarian residency based on their employment relationship, which was called a “work permit” for short. In accordance with the new Hungarian immigration law, residency based on employment is split into several categories based on various factors, but most importantly the length of the expected employment and the qualifications required for the position.

Instead of a work permit, the following options will be available:

  • Residence permit for seasonal employment
  • Residence permit issued for the purpose of implementing an investment (for people who want to work for their own business or on specific investment projects)
  • Residence permit for the purpose of employment
  • Guest worker residence permit
  • Hungarian Card
  • EU Blue Card

Guest worker residence permit

The most widely available permit type from now on will be the guest worker residence permit. The options it offers are reduced compared to the previous work permits, however.

Previously, work permits were issued for one, two, or three years, depending on the expiry date of one’s passport and some other factors. After expiry, a work permit could be renewed as many times as necessary, although after 3 years of residency in Hungary, permanent residency also became an option. Family unification was also a possibility for the spouse and underage children of the applicant.

This is not the case anymore with the guest worker residence permit. It will be valid only for 1+2 years (meaning that it will first be issued for one year, after which it can be extended for another two years, without the option for further renewals). Family unification will not be possible to these applicants, and permanent residency cannot be based on this status either.

The Hungarian Card and the EU Blue Card

For workers with higher qualifications, the Hungarian Card and the EU Blue Card are also viable options, and these offer significant benefits. The spouse and underage children of the owners of these cards can become Hungarian residents too.

A significant difference is whether employees need to apply for a new card when they change employers. In case of the Hungarian Card, the answer is yes. In case of the EU Blue Card, the employee is supposed to stay with the same employer for at least 12 months, but after that, they are free to switch.

It is important to mention that while the EU Blue Card can be issued for up to 4 years, the Hungarian Card is available for 3 years.

National Residency Card

In the new system, not every type of work permit will be eligible when considering time spent in Hungary before applying for permanent residency, from now on represented by the National Residency Card. Work permit issued based on the old regulations, however, certainly count towards permanent residency, so applying for that after the expiry of one’s current permit is a viable option.

At the same time, holders of both the Hungarian Card and the EU Blue Card may apply for the National residency Card after 3 years of Hungarian residency.

Learn more with Helpers

While these are relevant changes to the immigration law, work permit application is still an option to every employer who wants to bring talent to Hungary. Unfortunately, still not every detail of the new workflows is crystal clear just yet, even though the Immigration Office is opening in two weeks. We will keep an eye on the developments, and will report as more information becomes available.

In the meantime, feel free to contact us if you have any questions. Helpers has 20 years of experience supporting expats living in Hungary and foreign businesses operating here; we would be happy to help you too.

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