The Problem of the Immigrant
Chapter 14 Austria-Hungary

While Austria-Hungary is looked upon as a single country in considering the political divisions of Europe, it is in reality a dual form of government for many important purposes of administration. Austria and Hungary each maintains its own Parliamentary bodies, and each one enacts laws applicable to the territory under its jurisdiction alone.

In considering Austria-Hungary from emigration and immigration standpoints, therefore, it is necessary to regard the two political divisions of this empire as separate countries, and treat of each one by itself.

There are some minor difficulties in so doing, especially in the matter of statistics; and as both divisions are jealous of the rights and prosperity of the empire, there is a certain commingling of interest which dims the line of demarcation between the two parts. For all practical purposes, however, it is possible to assume that Austria is one country and Hungary another, except that no estimate of the movement of population between the two can be made.


Austria has a superficial area of 113,903 square miles, with a total population of 26,150,708, or 226 per square mile. Over half of the population are engaged in agriculture and forestry. The population increases year by year at a normal rate, there being a considerable surplus of births over deaths. There has been a large emigration, especially in recent years, but even this has not been sufficient to overcome the natural increase.

There is no restriction upon immigration into Austria, except the usual police surveillance common to the whole of Continental Europe. A passport or some form of identification is required of a foreigner if his stay in Austria exceeds a transient character.

Up to the present time Austria has no emigration law, but a measure is now under consideration by the Austrian Parliament which, if enacted, as is probable, will provide the necessary machinery for detailed supervision of the emigration business and the movement of citizens from the country. Under the old laws now in force every Austrian subject has the right to emigrate, only limited by the performance of military duty. No passports are necessary.

During the past few years emigration from Austria-Hungary has been very large. In 1900 the annual exodus reached a total of over 100,000, and in 1903 over 200,000 went from Austria-Hungary to the United States alone.

In addition to this movement, a considerable number of people move each year into neighboring European countries, especially to Romania.

The imperfect methods used in collecting statistics, and the apparent lack of information on the part of Government officials in this direction, make it impossible to say just what the annual emigration is From Austria-Hungary. It may be estimated approximately that emigration is equally divided between Austria and Hungary, and from the figures furnished by foreign Governments it is evident that over 100,000 Austrians are now leaving their native land each year to make their homes elsewhere. About 4,000 Austrian and Hungarian emigrants came to the United Kingdom last year as their country of final destination.

The proposed Austrian emigration law is constructed much along lines similar to the Hungarian law, which is given in full elsewhere in this chapter. There are some slight differences, however, worthy of note. The new Austrian measure suggests an entirely new definition of the word "emigrant," for it says, "An emigrant is any one leaving Austria to earn his living, except those who go under contract for service or labour with an Austrian employer."

Other European countries define the term "emigrant" as meaning one who goes abroad for long and continuous residence. The fundamental idea of the proposed Austrian measure is evidently to control, and if possible, prevent, all emigration, and to induce those who do go to retain their Austrian citizenship and to continue to look upon Austria as their home.

The Austrian measure is not so drastic as the Hungarian law in the proposed control of the details of migration. It is stricter in regard to the protection of young emigrants of both sexes on board ship. It pays special attention to, and imposes severe penalties in, the matter of trafficking in women for immoral purposes.

It places the control of agencies under the immediate supervision of government officials provides for the protection of Austrians arriving in foreign countries, and suggests a method for the safe return and delivery of all money sent home by Austrians abroad.

The same authority is placed in the Ministry of the Interior in regard to emigration as is carried by the Hungarian law, and provision is made whereby the Government can direct emigration to its own best advantage.

It may be stated that in anticipation of the enactment of this law the Austrian Government has already sent an important official to the United States to make a report as to the best manner of protecting Austrian emigrants on their arrival in America.

Considerable space is given in the proposed law to the control of contract labour for foreign countries; a notable feature being the provision making it illegal to contract for labourers for a country which forbids the importation of contract labour. At present the United States and Australia are the only countries imposing such a restriction upon immigration.

It is estimated that at least 2,000,000 pounds sterling is sent by Austrians from the United States each year to assist friends or relatives to emigrate. A large percentage of the emigrants are from the agriculture class, and the percentage of illiteracy is high. Under the new law it will be just as easy for an undesirable citizen to depart for a foreign country as under the present regulations.


Hungary is larger than Austria, having an area of 125,430 square miles, but the population is considerably less, being only about 20,000,000. A normal birth-rate yields an annual increase to the population of one percent, notwithstanding the large emigration of recent years.

Certain districts of Hungary have severely suffered from this emigration, however, becoming almost depopulated, and thus increasing the economic difficulties to be met by the Government in its attempt to legislate for the good of all sections. Extreme steps have been taken to rehabilitate places where conditions were at worst, and for the benefit of Transylvania alone an appropriation of 8,000,000 pounds sterling was made not long since to encourage industry and furnish employment for all the people.

Nearly two-thirds of the population are engaged in agriculture. The country contains a number of different races which do not amalgamate readily and in remoter regions conditions remain much as they were a century ago.

There is no restraint upon immigration into Hungary, except as noted as in existence in Austria. There has been considerable emigration from Hungary for many years past, but this movement became especially noticeable about five years ago (1900). At an early date an effort was made to check the outward movement by requiring passports, and forbidding emigration agencies to operate without a license. This apparently has no effect, for the Hungarians left without passports, and the emigration agencies operated in Hungary through their Austrian offices.

The law requiring a license for emigration agencies was passed in 1881 but up to 1903, when the new Hungarian emigration law was enacted, not a single agency had applied for a license.

At first, the principal cause of emigration was an unfavorable economic condition which prevented the people from securing employment. The movement was developed by the encouragement of emigration agents and the influence of those who had gone before sending back word of the enviable conditions which existed in foreign countries as compared with their native land. In March, 1903, a law was passed by the Hungarian Parliament, which was intended to have a restrictive effect upon emigration, by making it more difficult for a citizen to leave the country, and by placing under severest restraint all transportation agents.

The law was drafted with the Swiss law of 1888, the German law of 1897, and the Italian law of 1901 as bases. The Swiss law furnished an example of agency control, the German law suggested the compulsory passport and the control of transportation companies, and the Italian law furnished the idea of preventing competitive transportation rates being offered by rival steamship companies.

The Hungarian law may be said to be the most restrictive emigration law in the world, and it is given in full in this chapter for that reason. It places the emigration business in the hands of the Government through regulations which keep every manager and agent under the closest supervision, and prescribe the way in which the business shall be conducted.

Advertising and soliciting emigration are forbidden, rate wars are impossible, and no citizen can lawfully leave the country without notifying his Government of his intention and receiving permission to do so.

The law states in detail the manner in which emigration shall be handled, and specifies the accommodation which shall be furnished to the emigrants by transportation lines over which he may be traveling. In this law the Government also retains the power to name the direction in which emigrants shall leave the country, by giving a notice that no protection will be afforded those who chose some other exit. This is ostensibly done for the protection of the emigrant, but is in reality for the purpose of enabling the Government to develop its own ports and transportation facilities by increasing the business transacted through their medium.

It was this clause in the law which enabled the Hungarian Government to make its much-talked-of contract with the Cunard Steamship Company for a direct passenger line from Fiume to New York. The establishment of this line is not regarded favourably in the United States by reason of the character of the migration which is common to that section of Europe surrounding the port of Fiume.

The making of this contract was undoubtedly advantageous to English people, not especially because of any increased business or a large English steamship company, but because the Hungarian emigration formerly passed through the German ports, and in the end many of the rejected passengers or aliens deported from the United States were returned to England rather than to their native country.

Under the present arrangement England is relieved of a portion of her task as the clearing-house of undesirable Continental emigration bound to America.

There is an utter lack of reliable figures as regards Hungarian emigration. The estimate of the Government officials is that about 70,000 Hungarians emigrated last year.

The number is considerably less than to the United States alone, so the estimate becomes worthless. The Hungarian Government expresses no objection to a temporary emigration of working men who avowedly intend to return, bringing their savings with them.

This course is pursued by many emigrants, who go annually for a season into some of the neighbouring countries. The whole purport, of the Hungarian emigration law, however, is to prevent all desirable citizens from leaving their homes permanently; but it can be stated as more than an inference that no obstacles are placed in the path of a dependent or objectionable person who desires to leave his native land.

The Hungarian law, which follows, may be regarded as a composite of the Swiss, German, and Italian law, with such provisions added as the Hungarian Government deems sufficient to give it control of the emigration movement, for the profit of the public exchequer, and the development of such sections and utilities as are of national importance and interest.

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The text of The Hungarian Emigration Law of 1903

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