Why seek to obtain residency in Hungary?

  • An absolutely gorgeous country in the heart of the EU and Europe.
  • Low cost of living; Hungary is competitively ranked in the Numbeo Cost of Living Index.
  • Affordable, quality real estate.
  • Geographic location – in Europe. Short flight away from Paris, London, Moscow, and Istanbul. Short drive away from Croatia, Prague and Vienna.
  • 9% corporate income tax, 15% personal income flat tax – amongst the lowest in Europe.
  • Multiple international schools.
  • Affordable healthcare.
  • Extremely safe.
  • Visa-free travel across the EU.

What are the Residency options in Hungary?

  1. EU people can easily become residents as long as they own property or sign a lease agreement in Hungary
  2. For non-EU people these are the residency options in Hungary:
    1. Student visa
    2. Through marriage to a Hungarian citizen
    3. Work permit – getting an employer to sponsor you
    4. The little-known residency-by-investment programme in Hungary

How to obtain residency in Hungary through Residency-by-Investment for non EU-people

Laszlo and his team, more on them below, specialize in helping non-EU people obtain residency in Hungary. Here is the process:

  • A local company gets created for you. Hungary has the lowest corporate income tax rate in the EU (9%) and does not tax corporate capital gains and dividends.
  • You then buy for a minimum of 180,000 euros of real estate in Hungary which must then be rented out. The point is that it must be income generating to be able to qualify for the residency-by-investment scheme in Hungary.
  • You must appoint yourself director of the company, and pay local payroll taxes.
  • Your spouse and underage children can be linked to your visa, and thus benefit from free local healthcare and schooling
  • The visa is valid for 2 years, after which you must renew it. Generally the immigration authorities just check that the accounts of the company are in order and that you did indeed generate income from the real estate investment.

Does it lead to citizenship?

On paper it can. In practice, it is very hard. You’d have to live about 10 years in Hungary, and the requirements are extremely stringent. I wouldn’t do this for the citizenship, but would see it as an added bonus if it materialized.

What are some specific advantages of the Hungary residency-by-investment programme for non-EU people versus other Golden Visa programmes?

Hungary offers the same benefits (EU travel, local healthcare, local schooling, etc) but has some competitive advantages:

  1. Real estate is actually great value in Budapest. It has amongst the cheapest per square meter prices in the EU, yet is a gorgeous city right in the center of Europe. I wrote a long article on real estate in Hungary here, and an update on how the current Situation impacted prices heavily in downtown Budapest with drops of up to 30% (here).
  2. The company you will create in Hungary is much more attractive than anything you can create in Portugal, Spain, and Greece for example. The corporate income tax rate is 9%, the lowest in the EU, and dividends and capital gains are not taxed. So you can use this company not only for the real estate, but for other matters too. Hungary is a great base for entrepreneurs and people who work online.
  3. Hungary is in a much better fiscal position than Southern EU countries and has much lower debt to GDP levels.
  4. It’s an incredibly safe place for your family. Unlike most Western European countries, there are very few personal safety risks. You can let your children and teenagers do their own thing and they will be fine.
  5. Minimal physical presence requirements. You’ll just need to spend about 2 months every year in Hungary to renew your residency.
  6. It’s possible to be a resident without becoming a tax resident, depending on the amount on days spent in Hungary and ties to Hungary.

I interviewed Laszlo, an immigration expert, when I spent time in Budapest last month. You can watch this insightful video on how to obtain residency by investment in Hungary here. It was filmed in front of a true architectural wonder – the Hungarian parliament.

residency by investment hungary non-eu people
Watch the Youtube video here or read the full transcript below

If you have any questions for Laszlo, feel free to get in touch with him by sending him an email at laszlo@thewanderinginvestor.com. He can help you from A to Z.

There are many little-known residency options worldwide

There are affordable options out there where you can move to and live in peace. Hungary is an EU option, but Montenegro (more details here), and Georgia (more details here) are also very viable options and are both seeing an influx of South Africans. I list quite a few on my residency and citizenship page here.

This is why you follow The Wandering Investor – to find out about unique investment, residency, and citizenship options across the world.

To a World of Opportunities,

The Wandering Investor

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Full transcript of “Residency-by-Investment in Hungary for non-EU people”

LADISLAS MAURICE: Hello, everyone. Ladislas Maurice from thewanderinginvestor.com. So today, I’m with Laszlo here in beautiful Budapest, and we’re going to be discussing the Hungarian residency by investment program. Laszlo, how are you?

LASZLO KISS: Very good, thank you. Sun is shining, it’s summer. Everything looks good.

LADISLAS MAURICE: Yeah, Budapest in summer is absolutely amazing. So there’s a very little-known residency by investment program in the European Union, and that is Hungary. You probably have not heard of it, because it’s not being marketed anywhere, really. But Laszlo has been helping people go through the program for a number of years. So can you tell us about the program and how it works?

How to obtain residency in Hungary through investment

LASZLO KISS: Yes, definitely. As a beginning, let me state that Hungary had a fixed residency bond program, but we are not talking about that. That has been suspended in 2017, so that this is a totally different beast. The main reason why Hungary decided to offer this to investors is that the program requires purchase of income generating properties, meaning that especially one of the additional rules that it has to go through a company, a Hungarian-registered company. That means that the authorities would be able to see the balance sheet, the financial statements of the companies, how much income they were generating, so everything is clear to the authorities, there is no real need to convince them that the company is working, because they can look at the financial statement.

Also, that gives the safety that at least a little bit of money, a little bit of tax is paid to the government, which is an important consideration. Also, if even the directors are employed. A lot of directors are usually the main applicants. This is the base where they could get their residency permit. They have to pay themselves a little salary, and then they have to pay also a small Social Security contribution, meaning that, again, the government, that at least somebody is putting down something onto the table in a very easily verifiable way.

So income generating property through a company, this is how it works. The amount, which is usually the question of how much needs to be invested, is €180,000 with the property prices as we could have seen from your previous videos in the inner city of Budapest, they went down by 30%, 35%. I do not see a huge increase in the near future. So maybe this could be a time that also to buy a property. And then the additional advantages to get the residency permit for the whole family later on.

LADISLAS MAURICE: Okay, fantastic. Very interesting. So essentially, it can be any business that you create or buying property through that company.

LASZLO KISS: If there is a property then the income and everything is verifiable. So when the application starts, if there is no specifics behind it, just promises through a business plan, usually then you could promise anything and everything and, therefore, the immigration authorities do not realize this because then they can verify, two or three years later, whether what the applicant said is true or not and what was the real intention, or maybe just the whole will change in the meantime.

But if somebody buys a property through a company and they lease the property, then it is a very straightforward transaction, not promises. There should be a pre-approved property purchase agreement also enclosed with the application, which also shows the intention, the real and true intention of the investor that, yes, they are serious.

LADISLAS MAURICE: Okay.

LASZLO KISS: But if the residency permit is, for whatever reason, is not granted, then they can break this agreement and they can put back the property. So you could structure it the way that your cash layout or cash risk is not really a lot of money.

LADISLAS MAURICE: Okay, fantastic. And the corporate income tax rate in Hungary is 9%.

LASZLO KISS: Yes, 9% flat for every company, meaning that if somebody wants to include additional activities in the company, not just the purchase of the property and using that, then I think that, yes, not many people know that Hungary has this kind of corporate tax income rate. And therefore, when, for example, comparisons are made, I learned, well, yeah, Microsoft, every big multinational is using it as a tax haven. Cyprus, oh, everybody knows about. But Hungary, nobody at the end, even in the professional circles consider Hungary as a tax haven or a good jurisdiction for tax planning. But definitely, it is. No withholding taxes on outgoing dividends, royalties, interest.

So at the end, I understand that I’m Hungarian, so I’m slightly biased. But if professionally, we have this kind of conversation with anybody, they are just surprised that, yeah, the system is so good. Yes, it is really so good. So you could use the company for other business activities with no problem whatsoever.

LADISLAS MAURICE: So yeah, this is really attractive. So essentially, you can come to Hungary, you invest approximately €180,000 into local property, you structure it in a local company. This gives you a visa, so you can travel around the European Union without any problems.

LASZLO KISS: Correct.

LADISLAS MAURICE: And at the same time, you can use this company, with the 9% tax rate, to do whatever other business you’re involved in.

LASZLO KISS: That is completely true. Obviously, there is a slight disadvantage, that you have to keep the books of the company in order. The times where you were able to use a company for whatever activities with no real accounting, and so on, and so on, are over.

LADISLAS MAURICE: Yeah.

LASZLO KISS: When you want to renew the residency permit, it has to be in order. That’s number one. Number two, the tax compliance is really strong. And, therefore, it’s just better– why would you want to play when you have to pay only 9% corporate tax? It doesn’t make sense. You book everything, everything is done, you pay the 9%, and then you are very happy.

LADISLAS MAURICE: 100%.

LASZLO KISS: That’s my opinion, that it is really worthwhile. There are statistics that they put, usually, the level, the threshold at 20%. So below 20%, if the taxes are below 20%, then people are happy to pay. If it’s above 20%, they start playing games.

LADISLAS MAURICE: Cool.

LASZLO KISS: In Hungary, that is definitely not the case.

LADISLAS MAURICE: Yeah, for 9% it’s not worth playing any games, that is for sure.

LASZLO KISS: True.

Why the Hungarian residency by investment rather than the typical European Golden Visas?

LADISLAS MAURICE: So there are other golden visa programs. I mean, this is not really a golden visa, it’s residency by investment. But there is Greece, Portugal, Spain, where it’s possible, if you make a real estate investment, to get residency. So why Hungary? Why not these other countries? What’s Hungary’s competitive advantage compared to these other markets?

LASZLO KISS: I would say that quality of life, although every country claims that the quality of life is excellent, and excellent, and excellent, but I’d really– let’s say that I urge everybody just to come for two or three days, look around. And then, fair enough, culturally, I mean, we have a long history. So at the end, this is a very improving country, we are not facing really any kind of economic crisis of what, for example, Greece had to do. The budget deficit is still much, much lower, and the government that is much, much lower than in Portugal. So later on, probably, Hungary would survive more easily, and wouldn’t suffer that much as if something comes about, again, like in 2008 and ’09.

That’s my opinion, and maybe I’m wrong, obviously. And I love my country. But really, the impression of people who just came and looked around, architecturally, business wise, in many, many aspects of life, they were very satisfied. And okay, if you are thinking about a second residency, this is definitely a good choice. Don’t forget, also, that, okay, in old times before COVID, we had, for example, I think 34 flights a day to London, because one of the largest European low-cost airlines, Wizz Air, is based in Hungary, meaning that we have a huge number of very, very low-cost flights. So easiness of travel for tourist purposes to wherever in the Schengen zone, or for business purposes, it is also a convenient place to do business.

LADISLAS MAURICE: 100%. 100%. I completely agree with Laszlo, when you’re here in Hungary, you are two hours away from London, two hours away from Istanbul, bit over two hours away from Moscow.

LASZLO KISS: Correct.

LADISLAS MAURICE: You’re really at the center of Europe. It’s also a very business friendly place, unlike Spain, unlike Greece, unlike, in many respects, Portugal as well. And the whole fiscal situation is a lot more solid as well. So long-term, I also believe that it’s a better bet. And buying real estate here, if that’s how you would want to obtain the residency visa, it offers good value. So right now, I did quite a bit of content on this. The yields are quite compressed, but the overall value that you get for the amount of money you invest is quite phenomenal for an EU capital with such I mean beautiful, beautiful architecture. I mean, this is what you wake up to everyday here in Hungary.

Also, you don’t necessarily have to fly around to enjoy Hungary. You can just drive to Vienna, two and a half hours away.

LASZLO KISS: Yes.

LADISLAS MAURICE: Cycling is absolutely amazing. So Hungary is a very flat country. So there are cycling paths all over the country. This is standard weather from April till mid-October, just like sunshine every day. Hungary has a microclimate. I absolutely love coming to Hungary. I come here on a very regular basis.

LASZLO KISS: Also, we have the largest Sweetwater lake in Europe.

LADISLAS MAURICE: Yes, Lake Balaton. But it’s a bit overpriced, I find. I’d rather go to Croatia four hours away.

LASZLO KISS: (laughing) We could debate about that. Okay.

LADISLAS MAURICE: So Laszlo, how can you help people attain this residency by investment here in Hungary?

LASZLO KISS: We have, I think, a kind of a competitive advantage that we also provide corporate services and individual and corporate tax services. So it’s not just the choosing of the property and then leaving the client alone, trying to find a suitable accountant with tax returns and everything. But we could really give a full service if somebody is interested, company formation, property choice, the residency permit, renewal of the residency permit, annual reports, bank account opening, and so on, and so on. So I think we are quite good in what we are offering to the interested parties.

And then it is going quite well because business is going well. This Coronavirus, obviously, didn’t help matters too much, but then we expect that at the end of the year now things would stabilize in a sense that nearly everything would return to the old system, and we could continue doing business the way we did before.

LADISLAS MAURICE: Cool. Fantastic. Great. So if you want to get in touch with Laszlo directly, there’s a link below with more details on the Hungarian residency by investment program, and also Laszlo’s email right below in the description (laszlo@thewanderinginvestor.com).

LASZLO KISS: Thank you.

LADISLAS MAURICE: Laszlo, thank you very much for your time. Always appreciate it.

LASZLO KISS: It is, always. Thank you.

LADISLAS MAURICE: Cheers.

LASZLO KISS: Cheers.