Many of my regular readers will know that I started the process to dual citizenship during my time in Europe over a year ago. (I mention it in some detail in THIS POST from last year.) Those who are my Facebook friends know that it finally became official last week!
Yup – that’s right – I am now one of the lucky few who have citizenship in two countries. For me, it’s the USA and Hungary.
First off, what does this mean? Simply put, Hungary is in the EU (European Union), so as a Hungarian citizen, I now have the ability to stay in Europe without the three month time limit Americans normally have. (That accursed time limit that repeatedly forced Miloš and I to have to spend three months apart each time I had to return to the States.)
Now I have no time limits. I can legally live and work in any EU member country. I can come and go as I please. The US does not acknowledge the dual citizenship, but at the same time, they don’t forbid it. Back home in the States, I’m just a normal US citizen. I really just need my Hungarian citizenship in Europe, and Hungary allows for that dual citizenship.
So, what all was involved in the process? LOTS.
Heck, first I had to even find out about it. This isn’t knowledge that’s advertised out there or anything. I got the idea from a singer friend of mine when we were chatting on Facebook one evening early last year. She said something about a friend of hers going through Hungary or Romania to get citizenship. That’s when I had the lightbulb moment – MY grandparents had been born in Hungary!
I decided to send an email inquiry to the Hungarian embassy.
And so it began.
I had to put together all the documentation showing my family connection to Hungary. For me, the connection was my paternal grandparents. (My “Oma” and “Ota.”) They were both born in Hungary. (The town is now in modern-day Romania, but at the time of their birth it was Hungary.) I had to provide my grandfather’s baptismal certificate, my father’s birth certificate, and my own birth certificate. I also had to give them my grandparents’ wedding certificate. (Since my parents were worried about mailing some of the originals overseas, we were able to use certified notarized copies.) Ota’s baptismal certificate was already in Hungarian, but their marriage certificate and my dad’s birth certificate were in German. (My dad was born in Austria.) Then my birth certificate was obviously in English. ALL documents not in Hungarian had to be officially translated into Hungarian by licensed translators here in Vienna. That was a whole ordeal in itself, as I had to find one of the few translators that was certified for Hungarian from both English AND German. (Most were not.) The translations cost €200 (Euros) to have done. (That’s over $275.00 when you convert it to American dollars.)
Also required was a lengthy application form. In Hungarian. I have a friend back in the Philly area whom I’ve sung with in a few operettas. He is Hungarian. His good friend’s cousin lives in Vienna, and we were put in touch. So I had someone who could help me with the paperwork. I also had to learn some Hungarian. Yup. The language requirements are wide ranging – something which was reinforced in my own internet research. If someone is from one of the countries bordering Hungary, they expect you to speak fluent Hungarian. But for applicants from North and South America, they are not as strict. I read online accounts from other Americans who just had to show receipts from language schools showing their enrollment in Hungarian classes. Or they had to demonstrate that they could speak it a bit – there is no test. It’s an incredibly difficult language and they want you to show some type of dedication to learning it.
After submitting all paperwork, you then must wait for many months as everything has to go through Budapest. My approval documents were signed in Budapest at the end of October 2013 (my application was submitted in April 2013.) But then I had to wait to coordinate when and where I would take my oath. It ultimately worked out for me to take part in the oath ceremony at the Hungarian embassy in Vienna.
There were about two dozen of us taking our oath last Tuesday. I was up the night before watching Hungarian oath ceremonies on Youtube, so I’d have some kind of idea of what to expect. (Plus, I was so nervous that I just couldn’t sleep.) We had to register in the office at 9am, and sign our official documents before moving into the large ornate hall in the main section of the embassy. We all spoke the oath out loud and together – repeating after the ambassador, line by line. Each one of us was then called up to receive our certificates/documents individually, and after some words from the ambassador, we all sang the Hungarian National Anthem. Since my primary contact at the embassy knew I was a singer, I was asked right before the start of the ceremony if I would come up to the front of the room and lead the entire group in the singing of the anthem when we reached that part of the program. I was kind of petrified, but of course I said yes. In the end, I thought it actually went pretty well. (My roommate came along with me, and she recorded it so I could watch it later.) Everyone seemed to really like it – I might be returning to do some more singing there in the future. (Thank God for years and years of vocal training – making it possible to sing in almost any circumstance!)
After the ceremony, they had a short time set aside for a champagne toast and some mingling. There seemed to be people from quite a number of places there that day. (I heard more languages than only Hungarian and German.) There was even a Canadian! Immediately after that, I had my appointment back in the offices for my passport application. Everything is done right there. They take your photo and your fingerprints with this fancy machine thing, and put them right into the computer. (The passports in Europe are fully fitted with biometric micro chips in them.) Once finished there, I had to take my payment (66 Euros) to the bank and pay my passport fee to the embassy’s account. (After the bank’s service fee, the total for the passport ended up being 70.50 Euros, which is just about $100.)
All in all, it was quite a process, but totally worth it. I feel like a whole new world has been opened up to me. And the best part – no more three month stretches apart for Miloš and I.