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Maltese nationals, from 30 December 2008, can travel to the United States for up to 90 days for tourism or business without a visa, the US administration has announced. This means that among the EU27, only Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Poland and Romania are not on the Visa Waiver Programme (VWP). The EU wants the remainder added in 2009 but this is not sure as certain powerful US senators feel the programme leaves America vulnerable to terrorist attacks.

Though the move is undoubtedly good news for the Maltese, this issue has not been as sensitive with domestic opinion there as it has been in the Central and East European countries. That is because a higher proportion of the latter's nationals visit the US and the governments of these countries view membership of the VWP as confirming their status as close allies of the US. Yet Bulgaria, Romania and Poland cannot be added until October 2009 at the earliest because their visa refusal rate - the percentage of visa...

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