Situated in the heart of Europe, Hungary became a member of the European Union in 2004 and began to operate as a Schengen Area member three years later in 2007. About the same size as Portugal or the U.S. state of Indiana and around two-thirds the size of England, Hungary has just under ten million inhabitants.
In the last two decades Hungary has become an increasingly popular tourist destination with over 250,000 visa applications received annually, The country is also a significant centre for medical and dental treatments. It is estimated that Hungary accounts for more than 40% of European dental tourism and over 20% of worldwide tourists seeking dental procedures.
Is a Schengen Visa required?
Whether visiting Hungary purely for leisure, or seeking medical or dental attention, it may be necessary to possess a Schengen Visa to enter and remain in the country and this is more likely to be the case for non-Europeans. The member countries of the Schengen Area are virtually the same as those of the European Union and, as such, citizens of any EU or Schengen member state require no visa or special documentation in order to visit Hungary.
This no-visa rule also applies to around sixty countries around the globe that are on a visa-liberalisation list operated by the EU authorities. The visa-exempt list includes major countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia, many South American countries and also the United Kingdom despite that country having now left the European Union.
Citizens of all other nations not on the visa-exempt list, or members of the EU or Schengen, will require a Schengen Visa to enter Hungary for whatever purpose or the duration of the stay.
Various Visa Types
The principal reason for entering Hungary is what determines which type of visa will be required. Students or people intending to live and work in the country will need a long-term National Visa while all others require a short-stay visa which allows the holder to remain in Hungary (or any Schengen country) for a maximum total of ninety days in a given one hundred and eighty day period. The most commonly sought visas are:
Airport Transit Visa
This is only necessary for travellers wishing to use a Hungarian airport to make an onward connection but who are not intending to actually stay in the country.
This, the most common type of visa issued, is for tourists taking a short holiday in Hungary either as a first Schengen country being visited or the one where most time will be spent.
A letter of invitation from family members or friends residing in Hungary is necessary when applying for a Visitor Visa as well as the submission of a detailed daily plan while in the country.
Business people wishing to visit Hungary for meetings, conferences and other business-related matters will require a Business Visa.
A Study Visa is a requirement for students wishing to attend short courses at a recognised educational establishment. A letter of confirmation from the educational authority is necessary.
Short stays in Hungary to receive medical or dental treatment, undergo surgical procedures or other medical care are covered by the Medical Visa which requires an applicant to supply sufficient proof of the necessity of the visit.
Official Visit Visa
Reserved for members of official foreign delegations representing a country, organisation or recognised institute visiting Hungary on official business.
There are a number of other types of visas available covering reasons such as attending sporting and cultural events or visiting a Hungarian spouse but these are the exception rather than the norm.
Basic Requirements and More
Applying for any Schengen Visa can be a daunting and formidable undertaking. All applications and accompanying paperwork should be absolutely correct and up to date as this will all be checked thoroughly by the visa authorities. Read the application form carefully (having made sure it is the correct form of visa) and check off all requested support documentation once acquired.
Before even beginning the process of acquiring support documentation there are a few basic necessities that will apply for any Schengen Visa application:
- Completed application form
- Two recent and identical passport size photographs
- Current, valid passport no more than ten years old with a minimum of two blank pages
- Passport must also be valid for at least three months after the last date spent in Hungary or the Schengen Area
- Copies of any previously held Schengen Visas
- Proof of adequate travel health insurance for the duration of the stay
- Proof of any flight and/or travel plans
- Proof of any accommodation booked in hotels, guest houses etc
- Proof of financial ability to cover all expenses during the time spent in Hungary
- Explanatory cover letter detailing the reasons for the visit, arrival and departure dates
Depending on travel plans, an applicant may be asked to show proof of flights booked, car registration, driver’s license, or bookings for bus or train travel. It may also be necessary to show proof of civil status if travelling as a couple or with children. Documentation may include marriage, birth and even death certificates.
Possible Additional Paperwork
Bureaucracy thrives on paperwork and applying for a Schengen Visa is a prime example. If assembling the documentation listed previously was not enough of an undertaking it will also be necessary to supply additional paperwork depending on whether the applicant is a student, employed, self-employed or retired.
Depending on the applicant’s status, one of more of the following will be required:
- Letter of employment (contract)
- Bank statements for the preceding six months
- Letter confirming vacation leave from the employer
- Recent income tax returns statement
- Copy of business license
- Recent company bank statements
- Copy of income tax returns
- Proof of course enrolment at a recognised college or educational establishment
- Letter from educational establishment confirming student will leave after course is completed
- Pension statements covering the preceding six months
- Statement of other income received in the last six months
As can be seen from the list of documentation required it is very easy to omit something and this can result in delays in processing the application or even a refusal. Paying attention to details is crucial and some applicants may even consider seeking professional assistance to ensure the entire process goes smoothly and successfully.
The Last Step – Interview
Once the application form has been completed, checked, signed and dated (and all documentation acquired) there remains one crucial step in the process and that is the personal interview. This must be personally arranged by the applicant (not the Schengen Visa officials) and will usually take place at the nearest Hungarian embassy or consulate. If none exists then a designated visa processing centre will be used instead.
The interview is where all documentation will be handed over and scrutinised by an official who may also ask general questions regarding the reason for the visa application and the applicant’s plans for the intended visit. It is also an opportunity for the interviewer to assess the applicant in person so it is important to make a good impression by attending punctually, answering questions honestly and being polite and friendly.
Once the application has been accepted it is necessary to make payment in full as well as submit fingerprint samples which will be used as an additional security measure.