I was born in a Thailand refugee camp to Vietnamese parents, but quickly as an infant, they immigrated to Denmark. We lived there for 10-11 years and then moved to the U.S. I am a green card holder of U.S. and I plan to travel to Denmark but I cannot get a U.S. passport (not a U.S. citizen) and I can't get a Danish passport either since my nationality has not been established. Who can help me answer those questions?

My mother and I have a joint Danish travel document (I don't have a passport because I was not issued one since I was young) and my mother claims she doesn't either. However, how did we travel to Spain, Romania, and France from Denmark (via airtravel) and not have one?? Our travel document doesn't indicate where we've traveled. I reallly really really need help because I have called the Danish Consulate/Embassy as well as Thai Consulate and no one is able to give me any answers.

I cannot get a visa to Denmark because when they ask what country I am a citizen of, I can't answer that.

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    Exactly what "joint Danish travel document" do you have? How did you get a US green card? The answers to these are very important because they will indicate what options may be open to you. Apr 19, 2016 at 0:20
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    I think this link will be useful: uscis.gov/sites/default/files/USCIS/Resources/D4en.pdf You can get a USA refugee travel document without citizenship. You are eligible as a Green Card Holder who was formerly a refugee (if, of course, that is how the USA classifies you; you don't make that clear). I expect you are too old for the joint document with your mother, Apr 19, 2016 at 0:25
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    Once you are inside the Schengen area, which includes Denmark, Spain and France (and quite likely Romania, though I'm not certain), the requirements for border crossings are significantly reduced. It's possible that at that point nobody felt any need to verify your citizenship.
    – user
    Apr 19, 2016 at 12:03
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    @QuoraFeans There is such a thing as a refugee of the U.S. (literally, someone who is fleeing from the U.S. government,) but they're not likely to help you leave the country in that case. :)
    – reirab
    Apr 19, 2016 at 18:08
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    @QuoraFeans Everyone for whom an arrest warrant has been issued who is attempting to evade arrest, I suppose, just as with nearly any other country. At any rate, my comment was tounge-in-cheek.
    – reirab
    Apr 19, 2016 at 21:47

5 Answers 5


From your description it appears that you are stateless -- that is, no country recognizes you as its citizen. That makes international travel difficult, but what's generally supposed to happen is that the country where you're legally resident (that is, the United States) can issue you a passport-like document which can serve as an identification document while traveling but does not declare you to be a citizen of anywhere.

In most of the world this would be known as a "1954 convention travel document", but the US is not party to the 1954 Convention. Instead the USCIS can issue something called a U.S. Re-entry Permit, which a number of countries, including Denmark, recognize as equivalent to a 1954 convention document.

[Beware: As of 2017-04-09, the official lists of travel documents accepted by Schengen member states indicate that Denmark does not recognize US "permits to re-enter" but does recognize US "refugee travel documents". They are the same kind of booklet, but have different heading above the photo. There are different boxes you need to check on form I-131 when applying.]

After getting a re-entry permit you will still need to apply for a Danish visa, since you're not a U.S. citizen (who are visa-free in the Schengen area). On the visa application form, you would put "stateless" as your nationality and check "other travel document" rather than "ordinary passport". You would need to support your visa application with extra good evidence of ties with the US that motivate you to leave the Schengen area after your proposed trip (a green card is a good start here, but by no means sufficient), and having spent your childhood here is not going to make it easier. But it's not categorically impossible.

In the long run it would probably be in your interest to pursue naturalization as a U.S. citizen.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Mark Mayo
    Apr 21, 2016 at 10:08

Henning Makholm's answer addresses the issue of your possible statelessness, and suggests a way of obtaining a travel document.

The other alternative is to acquire a citizenship. Your case is complicated and I would recommend consulting an immigration lawyer. Below is some relevant information, mostly extracted from Wikipedia. Note that it is possible that you are not in fact stateless (e.g. if you are considered a citizen of Thailand or Vietnam), but merely lack documents to prove your citizenship.


Thailand's nationality law is based on the principles of both Jus sanguinis (citizenship through parents) and Jus soli (citizenship through birth). Your parents were not Thai citizens, so that leaves birth. This paragraph provides a summary.


Wikipedia doesn't have an entry for Vietnam's nationality law, but searching Google produced hits for me that suggest that the principle of Jus sanguinis (citizenship by parents) applies, so you may be considered a Vietnam citizen regardless of the fact that you were not born there.


There was a real missed opportunity here as you and your family would have been entitled to acquire citizenship after being resident here for 9 years (known as naturalization) but as you have permanently become non-resident since then, that probably doesn't count for anything anymore. On the other hand, you say you have a travel document jointly with your mother. What kind of travel document is it? Presumably you used this document to enter the USA. How did you address the issue of your citizenship at that time?


You didn't specify how long you have been resident in the USA for, but you should be able to naturalize as a citizen if you have been a permanent resident for 5 years. If this is the case, this is probably the easiest option as you can easily establish your case.

Dual / Multiple Citizenship

As it is possible that you may be eligible for two or more of the above citizenships, you may want to carefully consider your options. The laws regarding multiple citizenship can be complicated and vary for each country. Many countries, and particularly Asian countries, forbid multiple citizenship. So e.g. by taking up USA citizenship you may cut yourself off from the others. Whether or not this matters to you depends on what your long term plans are and where you intend to eventually settle. One downside of USA citizenship (and almost uniquely in the world) is the requirement to file US tax returns for the rest of your life (while you remain a citizen), even if you stop residing there (you may or may not have to actually pay US taxes, depending on your income and other circumstances).

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    +1, most likely the OP is already Vietnamese and just needs his and his parent's birth certificates (possibly a nationality lawyer) to establish his claim. There are thousands of Vietnamese in (or were in) the same situation. The claim to Thai and Danish citizenship is less tenable, but it's great you mentioned it for completeness. Great answer reflecting great research.
    – Gayot Fow
    Apr 19, 2016 at 11:25
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    There's some evidence that Vietnam revokes or revoked citizenship of overseas Vietnamese citizens - see vietnamembassy-usa.org/consular/… (or moj.gov.vn/vbpq/en/lists/vn%20bn%20php%20lut/… in more detail)
    – EdC
    Apr 19, 2016 at 12:33
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    Just to be clear, the U.S. requirement to file tax returns abroad doesn't involve paying any actual taxes unless you make quite a lot of money (you can exclude a large amount of income--currently about $100,000 plus housing expenses). For most people this is just a paperwork annoyance, not a cost, and U.S. citizenship is likely a net benefit.
    – user35890
    Apr 20, 2016 at 8:47
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    @dan1111 That is true for many cases, but there are many subtle issues that can crop up that aren't easily covered by the exemption and/or double taxation treaties. Obviously that's too off-topic to go into much detail here, but it's important to at least be aware of it for if/when that situation arises. The simple (and most common case) is someone who works a job and receives a salary, below the threshold. It becomes more complicated once other income sources and asset ownership/disposal come into it.
    – JBentley
    Apr 20, 2016 at 15:44
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    @dan1111, due to FATCA things are actually more onerous than you might think. Banks abroad must report to the U.S. government quite a lot of information on any U.S. citizens with accounts, or face crushing fines. As a result, many overseas banks refuse to allow American clients. Just last November in Switzerland I spoke with a mixed Swiss-American family where the son, a dual citizen, found it nearly impossible to find a bank to keep his accounts in due to the unreasonable reporting requirements.
    – Kyralessa
    Apr 28, 2016 at 21:35

I don't know my nationality. How can I visit Denmark?

Simple! talk to USCIS (could be as simple as using Ask a Question link on their website) and ask them that. Since they issued you a green card they will know your exact status in their records. They can best tell if you are a citizen of any country according to their records or not

Depending upon their answer you can then chose the best course of action later

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    But USCIS doesn't have anything to do with foreign nationalities. And the US doesn't care about what foreign nationalities a permanent resident has. A permanent resident could have gained or lost nationalities since becoming a permanent resident; USCIS would not know anything about that. The most you can get is a copy of the forms you filled out to apply for things with USCIS, to see what you wrote back then, but that would be information that you would already know. USCIS is not qualified to determine whether the country you claimed to be a national of actually consider you a national.
    – user102008
    Apr 19, 2016 at 20:52
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    @user102008 I'm surprised that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has nothing to do with immigration and we random folks on internet with some up-votes know better? Yes it wouldnt care much about nationalities gained later on but it would definitely know on which status they applied for green card when the OP was a child with his mother. If OP knew they have gained a nationality later they wouldnt be asking this question in the first place Apr 20, 2016 at 1:01
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    @corsiKa: "I would expect the USCIS to be the go-to expert for all things related to entering and leaving the country." Actually, USCIS has nothing to do with entering or leaving the country. CBP has to do with entering the country.
    – user102008
    Apr 20, 2016 at 4:27
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    @user102008 - You keep saying things like: the OP filled out the form in the first place You seem to not take into account that the OP was only (about) 11 years old when they entered the US. OP has not likely ever seen any of the entry application/forms and much or all of the information they contain might be new information for OP. Even OPs mother, she might have had assistance filling out the forms (due to language) and she might be mistaken about what she might recall about the information that was entered on the forms. It's certainly possible that there is no useful (new) -----> Apr 20, 2016 at 15:55
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    @user102008 ... information there, but it's also quite possible that there is. I don't know, entirely all the types of information on the forms, or what information might have been collected 10 or 20 years ago (or whenever, I don't know when OP entered the US). Perhaps there is an indication of OPs refugee status, which they might not know the facts correctly now. Apr 20, 2016 at 16:05

It sounds like you are mainly concerned with stating what your nationality is on the Danish visa application form.

Since you have a US green card and you do not hold a passport, you would likely be traveling with a US re-entry permit (Form I-327), which is a passport-like booklet issued by USCIS that says “Travel Document” on the cover and is used in lieu of a passport. You would be submitting the re-entry permit to apply for your Danish visa, instead of a passport, and the visa sticker would be placed in your re-entry permit.

The re-entry permit lists a nationality, which would be the “country of citizenship” that is listed in field 5 of the Form I-131 you use to apply for the re-entry permit. Whatever nationality USCIS prints in your re-entry permit (which, based on other answers, may be Thai, Vietnamese or stateless) is the nationality you should fill out on the Danish visa forms. The Danish authorities are unlikely to question the nationality stated by USCIS or ask for further evidence.

(The nationality you provide on Form I-131 should match what you have previously told USCIS when you applied for the green card, or you might be asked to provide further evidence.)

The short, pragmatic answer to your question is: use whatever nationality is printed in your re-entry permit, unless it is clearly wrong.

The “joint Danish travel document” you are referring to is most likely a “fremmedpas” or “alien’s passport”, which is like the US re-entry permit and is issued to Danish residents who are stateless or unable to apply for a passport from their home countries, usually refugees. The Danish alien’s passport will also list a nationality, and ideally that would also match the nationality in your US re-entry permit; if not, you might be asked to explain the discrepancy, which might actually be relatively easy due to the objective confusion about your nationality.


The easiest way to address this would be via a birth certificate and the easiest route will likely be Thailand. Thailand extends citizenship to anyone born there.

If you were issued a birth certificate in Thailand, then it's quite likely you can approach the Thai Embassy in the US to confirm and issue citizenship documentation/passport.

If you weren't issued a birth certificate, contact the Thai Embassy anyway. With sufficient documentation surrounding your time there they should be able to confer citizenship.


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