I hold a UN 1951 Convention travel document (which is an e-passport as well) issued by Malta (EU). Also have a residence permit and a Maltese ID card. I know I can travel within the Schengen area and Ireland without visas. But am I eligible to travel to the US under the Visa Waiver Program?

I looked around different US visa sites but it doesn't provide the information that fits my category. In the ESTA form it asks for Passport Issuing Country and Country of Citizenship. On my travel document my nationality is Chinese, but I don't have a Chinese passport nor am I a Chinese citizen any longer. When I choose "Malta" as my country of citizenship, a new window pops up "National ID card number" which I do have a Maltese ID card. So...I'd really like to make sure that I can travel to the US under the VWP.

I'm only travelling there because my company would like me to go on a short business trip.

  • 1
    Are you a citizen of any country?
    – Joe
    Commented Jun 20, 2015 at 0:03
  • The system issues with US visa processing appear to be resolved now, so you should now be able to obtain a visa. Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 14:50
  • you need visa for sure, I am a holder for the same passport
    – user59415
    Commented Apr 2, 2017 at 10:27

4 Answers 4


To use the US Visa Waiver Program, you must be a citizen or national of one of the listed countries.

This requirement is documented on the Department of State web site:

You must be a citizen or national of VWP-participant country.

Further on the Customs and Border Protection web site:

Citizens or nationals of the following countries are currently eligible to travel to the United States under the VWP:

So unfortunately you will need a visa.

Normally this would not be difficult to get, but a notice on the US Embassy in Malta's web page states that they are having technical difficulties with visa processing and that visas may be delayed.

The Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs is currently experiencing technical problems with our overseas passport and visa systems. This issue is not specific to any particular country, citizenship document, or visa category. We apologize for the inconvenience and are working urgently to correct the problem and restore full operability.

Which, I suspect, may be part of the reason you asked this question.


The US government's web sites (of the Department of State and of the Customs and Border Protection Agency) don't give explicit information about this, surprisingly. The US law code is unambiguous, however. Title 8, section 1187, paragraph (a) (2):

The alien is a national of, and presents a passport issued by, a country which—

Therefore, you must be a citizen of one of the VWP countries, and you must travel on a passport issued by that country. (This means that a citizen of VWP country A who lives as a refugee in VWP country B would require a visa to travel with the a refugee document issued by B.)

  • A citizen or a national? (there is a difference, and you can be a noncitizen national)
    – cpast
    Commented Jun 20, 2015 at 4:53
  • @cpast well then a national. What is the difference, generally speaking?
    – phoog
    Commented Jun 20, 2015 at 13:36
  • 2
    @phoog A national owes allegiance to a state, and a citizen can participate fully in the state's political processes. The US also has non-citizen nationals, though they are quite rare and you will probably never meet one unless you go out to American Samoa... For the purposes of travel they receive US passports, same as everyone else, and for travel purposes the US treats citizens and nationals exactly the same. Commented Jun 20, 2015 at 13:46
  • 2
    It's an example. Most if not all countries have similar distinctions. Commented Jun 20, 2015 at 14:17
  • 1
    @phoog For a British example, when HK was becoming part of China, the UK offered citizens of HK the status of British National (Overseas), which is not a British citizenship.
    – cpast
    Commented Jun 20, 2015 at 14:20

No you are not.

For all intents and purposes, including Visa Waiver Program, you're not a national of Malta. You're either a Chinese national or a stateless person that is a resident of Malta.

Usually the refugee documents will have a different "Passport Type" from the normal "P" for the ordinary passports.

  • That's what I thought, too, but it seems that "P" designates refugee documents as well. See, for example, migri.fi/asylum_in_finland/applying_for_asylum/…
    – phoog
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 21:57
  • @karlson I don't understand what `you're a not a national of Malta you're either a Chinese national or a stateless person that is a resident of Malta" did you miss some punctuation?
    – yuritsuki
    Commented Jun 20, 2015 at 6:03
  • @thinlyveiledquestionmark Better?
    – Karlson
    Commented Jun 20, 2015 at 11:16
  • Well doesn't "you're a not a national of Malta" mean "you aren't a national of Malta"? I'm not sure what you meant there either
    – yuritsuki
    Commented Jun 20, 2015 at 14:48
  • @thinlyveiledquestionmark Well it's a tpyo.
    – Karlson
    Commented Jun 21, 2015 at 1:47

I don't know exactly what the rules for people travelling on a refugee travel document are in the US but the visa waiver program is based strictly on citizenship and you are not a Maltese citizen. It's therefore likely that you need a visa.

You might not have a Chinese passport but still be considered a Chinese citizen (at least it seems to be the case as far as Malta is concerned). If you really did lose your Chinese citizenship, you could also conceivably be stateless (although in this case, you would typically have another document) but the fact that you reside in Malta and hold a Maltese travel document does not make you eligible for the VWP.

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