Hungary is rolling out its ‘Hazaváró Irodák’ (Welcoming Home Offices) programme, with 27 locations across the country aimed at supporting Hungarian expatriates who wish to return home. This initiative, as outlined in a recent government decree, will leverage existing government offices, particularly citizens’ administrative bureaus to provide information and one-stop official administrative services for those looking to repatriate.
The offices will offer not only information but also streamline various administrative processes for returnees, including matters related to pension payments, degree recognition, starting a business, and processing tax and residence card-related issues.
The idea for this network of welcoming offices, despite long-standing preparations, gained significant public attention only recently, with the government unveiling plans to establish these offices in various regions throughout Hungary. Although the initiative seems to be more informational at this stage, the government intends to expand its services as the programme evolves.
The project has been in the works for nearly a year, and a government decision in February 2023 allocated funding to the project.
The network of the offices is expected to operate as part of the existing government office (integrated public administrative services) network, with one office per county and two in Budapest, though it remains unclear why similar offices were not established at major Hungarian diplomatic missions overseas, considering that individuals who go to Baja or Kaposvár for assistance have already returned to Hungary to seek support in their repatriation journey.
The offices are said to require minimal investment and are planned to work in conjunction with a phone helpline that is already in place. The phone helpline aims to guide those who want to return through the use of the Hazaváró Portal. The precise services offered on the portal, including whether it allows for online administrative processes, are not detailed in the government decree.
The majority of the allocated budget is expected to be spent on the development of the information-providing website, which includes funds for ‘government info-communication services’ and ‘government communication.’ The budget for 2024 is likely to cover annual operational costs.
The Hazaváró programme differs from a previously discontinued initiative, which aimed specifically at young Hungarian expatriates living in the United Kingdom. Unlike its predecessor, Hazaváró focuses on providing information and one-stop administrative services, while the previous programme offered financial support for relocation, including the cost of return flights and assistance for job searches and temporary housing.
Notably, the Hazaváró Portal is inspired by a similar Polish initiative, which has been helping Polish expatriates return to their homeland for 15 years, offering guidance on administrative procedures and job searches.
According to the Hungarian Central Statistical Office (KSH), in recent years, an annual average of 25,000 to 40,000 Hungarians have emigrated abroad, while an estimated 15,000 to 23,000 individuals have returned to Hungary. The most popular destinations for emigrants are Germany, Austria, and the United Kingdom, where approximately 400,000 Hungarians reside.