Stateless Noncitizens in the United States


On August 1, 2023, the Department of Homeland Security issued new guidance to assist stateless noncitizens in the United States. If you are one such individual, you may now apply for immigration benefits.

If you know one such individual, you can help them by directing them to Hykel Law.  

A stateless person has no formal or legal citizenship in any country. Statelessness can bar people from getting jobs, getting bank accounts, finding housing, getting married, obtaining an education, or even seeing a doctor. 

People become stateless for a variety of reasons. The most significant cause is discrimination, such as the Rohingya group from Myanmar. Other causes include:

  • The emergence of new states
  • Gaps in nationality laws
  • Loss of nationality
  • Lack of birth registration
  • Wars
  • Changes in laws

The new guidance doesn’t change any immigration laws. Instead, it:

  • Clarifies when and how USCIS will generally consider a noncitizen stateless
  • Explains the relevance of a determination that a noncitizen is stateless 
  • Clarifies circumstances when an officer may request an internal report analyzing whether a noncitizen may be considered stateless
  • Describes documentation and evidence a noncitizen may provide as evidence of statelessness
  • Explains how USCIS may use available documentation and evidence to produce reports that officers may use when adjudicating immigration benefit requests

USCIS says that some stateless people may be eligible for benefits, allowing you to prove statelessness instead of proving that you have the same documents USCIS would normally require from a citizen of another state.

This may create a pathway for stateless individuals to apply for any visa they might otherwise qualify for, enter the visa lottery, and eventually obtain a green card and a path to naturalization and citizenship. While the DHS did not issue a list of visas stateless people could apply for, the guidance itself would indicate a person could apply for the visa that best matches their circumstances while providing evidence of current statelessness. In other words, a stateless person may now apply for any visa for which they are otherwise eligible. 

A proposed federal bill introduced in 2022, S. 5330, could eventually lead to additional protections for stateless individuals. Congress has found statelessness to be “an abhorrent violation of fundamental human rights and human dignity. A life of statelessness has been recognized by the Supreme Court as a form of punishment more primitive than torture.” 

If you or someone you care about is struggling with statelessness, contact Hykel Law to review your options today. We will review your situation and discuss which visas might be your best pathway to a green card and eventual citizenship.

See also:

What is the Difference Between Asylum Status and Refugee Status?

What Are the Four Types of Immigration?

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