Fact Check: Girl Kidnapped By Hamas Did NOT Obtain Hungarian Citizenship Through 'Golden Visa' Program


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Fact Check: Girl Kidnapped By Hamas Did NOT Obtain Hungarian Citizenship Through 'Golden Visa' Program Ancestral Ties

Did Noga Weiss, an Israeli girl kidnapped by Hamas militants during the October 7, 2023, attack on Israel, obtain a Hungarian passport because her father bought a "golden visa" that bestows citizenship in return for investment? No, that's not true: Weiss got Hungarian citizenship based on the fact that her grandfather was from Hungary, a relative told Hungarian media. Hungary's nationality law grants passports to foreign-born people who can prove Hungarian ancestry, while Hungary's residence-for-investment program, which was discontinued in 2017, did not grant citizenship.

The claim appeared in a Hungarian-language video (archived here) on TikTok on November 28, 2023. It shows part of an article published on the zsido.com website on November 27, 2023, that describes Weiss as a dual Israeli-Hungarian citizen who had been released by Hamas two days earlier. A text comment said (translated from Hungarian to English by Lead Stories staff):

So she's not Hungarian, her father just bought a residence bond...isn't that right bandi rogán....8,000 euros..??

"bandi rogán" is a reference to Antal Rogán, the Hungarian government minister who was in charge of Hungary's controversial Residency Bond program, colloquially known as the "golden visa" policy, which ran from December 28, 2012, to March 31, 2017. It allowed non-European Union citizens to obtain Hungarian residency if their companies invested at least 250,000 euros ($269,000) in Hungarian state bonds. The government later raised the minimum investment to 300,000 euros ($322,000).

This is what the post looked like on TikTok at the time of writing:

(Source: TikTok screenshot taken on Wed Dec 6 15:49:57 2023 UTC)

Noga Weiss, 18, did not obtain her Hungarian passport through investment in the Residency Bond program. Her father, Israeli-born Ilan Weiss, was entitled to Hungarian citizenship because his father had been born in Hungary in 1930, according to a pair of interviews with her aunt, Osnat Weiss, both published on the website of Hungarian weekly Hetek, on October 31, 2023. At the time of writing, Ilan Weiss had been missing since Hamas militants stormed the kibbutz where the family lived on October 7, 2023.

Hungarian law allows foreign-born people to become citizens if they can show evidence of Hungarian ancestry.

The law that authorized Hungary's "golden visa" program, however, did not offer citizenship, just temporary residence. In 2016, the government press office slammed rumors that authorities had been handing out passports in return for investment, calling the allegations, as translated:

A blatant lie ... Participants in the residency program do not receive a passport or citizenship. In the future, the government will take legal action against those who spread lies.

Regardless, the 8,000 euros ($8,600) mentioned in the video is a fraction of the amount "golden visa" recipients had to invest in Hungary to receive the residency.

Hungarian-language websites are rife with antisemitic chatter claiming Jews cannot be Hungarians, as demonstrated by a Google search for the Hungarian key phrase "Zsidók nem magyarok" ("Jews are not Hungarians") conducted on December 7, 2023 (archived here.)

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