This information sheet concerns two separate documents:
- "Visa"="Schengen visa"=a permit to enter the Schengen region, including Hungary
- "Residency permit" = a permit to stay long term (more than 90 days) in Hungary
In what follows "intent" is a key word.
You are from a country whose citizens do not need a visa to enter the Schengen region (and Hungary) as tourists. Tourists are travelers whose intended stay in the Schengen region does not exceed 90 days (and are not travelling for business). But this does not apply to you as you intend to stay in Hungary for more than 90 days, so you have to get a residency permit.
However, you have a choice in where you apply for the residency permit.
As a general Schengen rule, you are expected to obtain your residency permit pre-approved at a Hungarian consulate and get a so called D type visa that comes with it (this is Option 1).
On the other hand, as a Hungarian rule, you have the right to apply for your residency permit in Hungary and thus, from a Hungarian point of view, you do not need to have your residency permit pre-approved and you do not need to have a D type visa (or any visa) to enter Hungary (this is Option 2).
Below you will find details, pros and cons of these two options. Please weigh them carefully before deciding on your course of action, so that you can make an informed decision. Please, read our FAQ section below that concerns travelling around in the Schengen Zone as tourists before coming to Hungary for BSM.
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All BSM students must have a residency permit in order to stay in Hungary for a semester or longer, regardless of citizenship. As a general Schengen rule, you are expected to apply for your residency permit at a Hungarian Consulate, to be pre-approved by the Hungarian Immigration Office for your long term stay, before coming to BSM, since you intend to stay in Hungary more than 90 days. You get a D type visa automatically once your residency permit is pre-approved.The D type visa is a so called "national visa" which means that its rules are set by the issuing country, in this case Hungary. This visa entitles you to enter the Schengen region anywhere, once, in order to come to Hungary to pick up your actual residency permit card (and finish the paperwork). Very specifically, to quote the legal wording this visa allows "to transit the Schengen zone for 5 days en-route from the country of your origin to Hungary in order to be able to pick up your actual residency permit card" (and finish the paperwork). Note that you have to visit the Immigration Office to finish the paperwork an pick up your actual residency permit card within 30 days of arrival.
- If you have your residency permit pre-approved and have a D type visa you "simply pick up" your residency permit card at the Immigration Office once you are in Hungary as opposed to visiting this office for paperwork several times.
- Having a D type visa when you want to board a plane in the US or Canada with the return leg more than 90 days away or having no return ticket at all makes also sure there are no problems with the airlines. Each semester we have about 1-2 incidents when airline personnel (notably American and Delta) raise an issue of students trying to get to Hungary as tourists (no visa) with their intended stay exceeding 90 days and/or uncertain. (We do provide appropriate documentation for such events, the "airline letter", however in rare occasions it is not accepted. See "Case descriptions - problems at airports" for details. Having a D type visa does away with the extra hassle.)
- You can come to Hungary via any port of entry in the Schengen zone (e.g. you can transfer planes in Paris, Frankfurt, Amsterdam etc).
- You can only apply for a pre-approved residency permit and a D type visa personally at a Hungarian consulate, as you will be fingerprinted. So getting this visa may mean extra travel depending on where you live. In the US there are consulates in New York, Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles. For consulates in other countries see http://www.kormany.hu/en/ministry-of-foreign-affairs-and-trade/missions
- Travelers entering the Schengen zone on a D type visa are expected NOT to travel outside of Hungary until after picking up their actual residency permit card (and finishing the paperwork) at the Immigration Office. With the D type visa you can enter the Schengen zone only once with the purpose of going to Hungary (officially, you have 5 days for that) in order to pick up your actual residency permit card at the Immigration Office. It is legally expected that you get your residency permit card first and only then travel outside of Hungary. Those who come with a pre-approved residency permit and a D visa, go to the immigration office to pickup their residency permit cards at the Immigration Office as a group with a BSM representative, within up to one week after arrival, so you may not be able to travel outside of Hungary right after arrival.
- Moreover, since your visa is for a single entry into the Schengen zone, if you leave the zone before you have your residency permit card and try to enter the zone the second or nth time after you entered with your visa, you may forfeit it, meaning that you may have to start the procedure of obtaining a residency permit over again. (Revoking your D visa when you enter the second or nth time is at the discretion of the Immigration Officer at border control. )
- In rare instances, due to processing errors, the Immigration office may not have your residency permit card ready even if you do have it pre-approved (i.e. you have a D type visa). In this case further paperwork is needed in Budapest. (Disclaimer: BSM is not responsible for such events).
- No need to obtain a visa before coming to Hungary.
- You are free to travel within the Schengen zone even right after arriving in Hungary.
- Your port of entry into the Schengen region must be in Hungary.
Practically this means that from the US you must take a flight via London for example,
or take another route that avoids the Schengen zone other than Hungary.
As explained above it is at the discretion of the Immigration Officer at the Schengen border to allow you to enter a country
without a visa other than Hungary if you will be staying long term and applying for a residency permit in Hungary.
- To recap from e.g. a German Immigration officer's point of view: everyone must have a visa to enter the Schengen region/Germany. Except for citizens of certain countries (such as the US) if they are tourists, because this is a Schengen Law. And except for those individuals of such countries who intend to stay in Germany for long term and will apply for a residency permit in Germany - because it is a German law. This officer does NOT have to grant a Hungarian law and may not let you in.
- So once again, if your port of entry into the Schengen region is other than in Hungary and you are entering with the intention of staying longer than 90 days without having your residency permit pre-approved and a visa, you may be denied entry in that other Schengen country. The number of such incidents has been low, see "Case descriptions - problems at airports" for details. However, recent global events suggest tightening of border procedures.
- When you want to board a plane in the US or Canada with the return leg more than 90 days away or having no return ticket at all there may be problems with the airlines - each semester we have about 0-2 incidents when airline personnel raise an issue of students trying to get to Hungary as tourists (no visa) with their intended stay there exceeding 90 days. We do provide appropriate documentation (a so called "airline letter") for such events explaining that our students have the right to apply for a residency permit in Hungary and will do that, so they need no visa. This letter so far helped resolve the situation, most of the time. However, depending on the actual airline personnel, they may not accept that. So you should be aware that extra hassle may occur with the airlines if you try to enter Hungary/the Schengen zone long term, without a visa. See "Case descriptions - problems at airports" for actual examples of the type of problems you may encounter. One solution that a Fall 2017 students suggested is "to just have a refundable ticket within 90 days purchased".
- Non-US citizens with a tourist visa waiver agreement with the Schengen zone, you can check if you need a visa to transit through the UK here: https://www.gov.uk/check-uk-visa
- NOTE: You received the "airline letter" with your acceptance package. We will resend it prior to your departure by email, if necessary.
- Alternatively, the Hungarian consulate can provide you - for a fee of about 40 dollars - a "Consular certificate" that states the same as our "airline letter": namely, that current regulations allow you to enter Hungary as a tourist and apply for a residency permit there. Obviously the Consular's certificate with their governmental letterhead, stamp and signature is "stronger" than that of BSM. So far, the BSM airline letter did the job almost every time, whenever it was necessary, however we want to inform you of the "Consular certificate" option as well.
If you decide to go with this option, read SECTION 3 for information on applying for a pre-approved residency permit and obtaining a D-type visa.
Note: with no visa, legally, your first port of entry into the Schengen zone must be in Hungary, since you will be staying more than 90 days.Each Schengen country allows people wanting to stay long term to enter without a visa if they intend to stay and apply for a residency permit in that country. Likewise Hungary will allow you to enter Hungary without a visa, if you intend to stay in Hungary and will apply for a residency permit in Hungary. However, e.g. Germany may not allow you to enter without a visa if you intend to stay long term and stay in Hungary and will apply for a residency permit in Hungary. This is because it is a Hungarian law that allows for people to enter Hungary without a visa and apply for a residency permit there, when they want to stay in Hungary long term. So a German Immigration Officer is not obliged by this Hungarian law.
- (And similarly, Hungary may not let a person enter without a visa if they want to stay long term and study in Germany and apply for a residency permit there. This is because it is a German law that allows for people to enter Germany without a visa and apply for a residency permit there, when they want to stay in Germany long term. So a Hungarian Immigration officer is not obliged by this German law.)
Therefore, if you decide to go with this option we advise you to AVOID other Schengen countries for transit (switching planes) en route to Budapest, that is, we advise that you fly through London or another non-Schengen city where you can transit without a visa. In addition, make sure to take our "airline letter" with you to present to air carriers if necessary.
That is: legally you cannot travel around if you have no visa and claim at a non-Hungarian Schengen border that you want to enter for long term stay OR if you enter using your D type visa. This is because in the first case you should have a visa and in the second case your visa is only for passing through other Schengen countries, in order to get to Hungary to pick up your residency permit card from the Immigration Office.Generally, in what capacity (your intentions) and where you enter the Schengen zone determine your legal options to move around in the Schengen zone, if you want to travel before/at the beginning of the semester.
If you want to travel within the Schengen zone as a tourist prior to coming to Hungary for your long term stay where you will apply for a residency permit (i.e. you want to enter the Schengen zone outside of Hungary and have no visa), the legal way is to separate the touristic part of your trip with the long-term-stay part of your trip. Thus, when you first arrive from the US you can rightly state at the Schengen border that your purpose of travel is tourism.
If you have a pre-approved residency permit and a D visa you can enter the Schengen zone anywhere, but have "only" 5 days to arrive in Hungary and you cannot leave the country until you get your actual residency permit card at the Immigration Office. After that you can freely travel (but always take your residency permit card and passport with you).
Plan the touristic part of the trip so that it ends in a non-Schengen country. Then enter the second time directly into Hungary for your long term stay.
Technically it means that even if you did not plan to go to a non-Schengen country, a legally "clean" solution is that at the end of your tourist trip you fly out e.g. to London, or travel to e.g. Croatia by train/bus/rental car and then come to Hungary for BSM from there.
(The UK does not require US citizens to have a transit visa when they pass through. For citizens of other countries see https://www.gov.uk/check-uk-visa.)
Once you have your "outgoing ticket" (or reservation for such a ticket) you can present it at the Schengen border when you are flying in from the US the first time — should you need to prove that you are entering as a tourist. Once again, this info is valid, if you are entering at a Schengen border other than in Hungary and have no visa.
Note: In terms of time, you have great freedom. Legally, you have to finish the first (touristic) part of your trip within 90 days, so your tourist trip may also include coming to Hungary, checking in with BSM, even starting your classes, then leaving by train or bus to Croatia or some other non-Schengen country, possibly by plane to London, and finishing your tourist trip there. Then you can come back to Hungary without transiting through other Schengen countries, to start the long term stay part of your trip. Thus if you plan to travel into a non-Schengen country during the semester (but within 90 days of your first arrival into the Schengen zone), you can consider that trip as ending the touristic phase of your overall travels.
Note: There are intra-European airlines with inexpensive tickets such as Ryanair, Easyjet, Wizzair and more, as well as many bus companies allowing you to finish the touristic leg of your trip in a non-Schengen country not so expensively. (Moreover, we had students before who made all the reservations to go out of the Schengen zone within 90 days, but finally could not go due to illness or other issues, so all their reservations had to be canceled. Luckily, this was after they entered the Schengen zone as tourists. The cancellation was not a problem from a Hungarian point of view, since in the meantime they applied for a residency permit in Hungary. So afterall, they did not have to go out of the country and the Schengen zone within 90 days.)The problem is that "tourist" legally means staying less than 90 days, but overall you want to stay longer. If you enter the Schengen zone and intend to stay long term (i.e. more than 90 days) you are not a tourist from a legal point of view. So we, at BSM, cannot encourage you to enter as a tourist when legally you are not one. (Except for entering in Hungary because there you can apply for a residency permit even if you are a tourist.)
Note that when entering the Schengen zone not in Hungary and without a visa you can of course say that you want to come to Hungary, there is nothing wrong with that as long as you claim to be a tourist. But in order to claim your tourist status you would have to leave the Schengen zone within 90 days or at least you have to convince the immigration officer of your intentions to do that.If you claim you are entering as a tourist be prepared to answer questions at the Schengen border such as where you will be travelling around in the Schengen zone; what hotel or other place you will be staying at; if you have sufficient funds for your travels and finally, how and when you will leave. You may also have to present proofs such as hotel bookings, tickets etc to prove your claims. How much you are questioned depends on the actual Immigration Officer you meet.
At any given semester about 30% of the eligible students choose Option 1 and 70% choose option 2. Each option has its advantages/disadvantages as outlined above.
Let me know if you have any questions by emailing to email@example.com
Please, allow 48 hours for an answer. If you do not get one, do not hesitate to repeat your questions.
associate program director
Budapest Semesters in Mathematics, Budapest