According to 444.hu, an event entitled “Hungary – gateway to Europe” took place in Hanoi in May. The event lasted for three hours and attracted around 200 people. In the centre of it was a Vietnamese company explaining how to obtain a residence permit in Hungary through real estate investment.
The Vietnamese idea to receive a residence permit
Apparently, the event was a success, as the company posted later on Facebook that “a lot of investors registered for the program”. The company mentioned is the Bac Son Overseas Property (BSOP). They did not hide the fact that their outlined plan for residence permits came to life to replace the highly criticised residency bonds program of last year that has since been suspended.
According to the BSOP site, “The residency bonds program was shut down in March of 2017, therefore we had to find other ways to provide opportunities in Hungary for the Vietnamese. This new option is the real estate investment program.”
Between these two options, however, there is a significant difference.
Between 2013 and 2017, foreigners were able to obtain residence permits in exchange for participating in the bonds program launched by Antal Rogán and buying state bonds. However, the program raised several security concerns, not to mention the corruption accusations, so it was suspended last year. The 2019 budget regulation seemed to suggest that the bonds program would come to an end legally, too.
However, trading with Hungarian government bonds is apparently still not over.
Apart from BSOP, two other Vietnamese companies offer similar opportunities – buying Hungarian state bonds in exchange for residence permits – two of which have been involved with the now-suspended program as well. Also, similar offers appeared in China, too, about two months ago.
The Ministry for Home Affairs denies the existence of these programs, claiming that the Hungarian government is not involved in any real estate-based programs that could potentially lead to residence permits. In fact, they later added that “Frauds are trying to embarrass Hungary. We have taken measures to start criminal proceedings.”
BSOP declined to make any comments. Gábor Földvári, the owner of Innozone Holdings Ltd., another company involved, claims that they are not advertising one of the government’s programs but experimenting with how to make the most of the opportunities offered by these laws.
Other ways of staying
According to the Vietnamese advertisements, real estate investment-immigration can happen because of the 2007 laws regulating the entering and staying of foreigners in Hungary.
The Immigration and Asylum Office of Hungary can assign residence permits for foreigners for several different reasons, be that working, studying or doing research. Apart from these, there is the option to assign residence permits simply based on ‘other’ reasons.
They work on a case-by-case basis and investigate each individual case when deciding whether they are eligible for the ‘other’ category. However, three anonymous lawyers claim that it was possible for foreigners to obtain residence permits considering their real estate involvement even before the government bonds program and this does not seem to change after the suspension of the program, either.
In regards to the Chinese company advertising a similar program, they claim that they have been in contact with the Immigration and Asylum Office, so the program is guaranteed. However, this has been denied by the Office since then, adding that they never have and will never give such a guarantee. The Vietnamese advertisements are much more careful, though, warning that there is no guarantee for the permit and that the opportunity is limited, with only 10-25 people having the possibility each month to get a residence permit based on their real estate investments. This also means that there may be a months-long waiting list.
On the other hand, several differences appear between the residency bonds and the advertisements for investors.
The former got permanent residence permits instantly, allowing them to stay in the country for an indefinite amount of time, while the latter get theirs only for 5 years and it does not allow investors to get jobs but they are allowed free movement in the Schengen-zone.
And, after three years of staying in Hungary, it is possible to apply for a permanent residence permit for them, too.
Bonds behind the real estate investment schemes
In Vietnam, several companies are advertising the Hungarian real estate investment opportunity, with different prices and courses of action due. However, BSOP, run by Vietnamese private persons, also advertises investment opportunities in Portugal and Cyprus.
The Hungarian program is still the cheapest, though. There are offers of residence permits for real estate investments starting at 50 thousand EUR,
while other starting prices displayed on different sites are 115 thousand EUR or 265 thousand EUR.
The advertisements by Innozone Holdings Ltd. claim that an 80 thousand EUR investment is enough for a residence permit, although the owner emphasised that the decision lies with the Immigration and Asylum Office and each case may be different, with different investment requirements.
“Our advice is that it is not worth trying anything with under 80 thousand EUR and it is better to have investments of about a few hundred thousand EUR. That is why we are advertising real estate investment opportunities in Spain, Greece and Portugal where the regulations are clearer rather than in Hungary.”
They do offer to help with the Hungarian investment program as well, with the involvement of lawyers and a possibility to get some of the money back in case of failure. They also work together with the European Settlement Immigration Services that was also involved with the residency bonds program. From October 2016, they were selling bonds half-price in Vietnam, working together with Innozone among others. Older advertisements revealed, however, that investors had to pay 65 thousand EUR of admin fee on top of the 85 thousand EUR investment. However, the fee involved a lawyer, translations as well as a 6-day-long Hungarian sightseeing tour that also allowed investors to check out some real estate options.
What Hungary has to offer
Just like the prior, Chinese advertisements, the Vietnamese ads also paint a very favourable picture of Hungary.
They emphasise the possibility to move freely in the Schengen-zone with a Hungarian residence permit.
Those who choose to remain in Hungary will be met with nice weather, friendly locals and a well-equipped, “surprisingly cheap” healthcare system, according to these ads. They also point out the high level of the Hungarian education system, adding that there are about 20 Hungarian Nobel Prize winners.
The government’s immigration policy has also been praised, claiming that the fence built against migrants primarily coming from Muslim countries was one of the most important decisions of the last five years: “As a result, Hungary is much safer and more peaceful than other European countries.” The website suggests that this is an important factor in attracting foreign investors to the country.