November 10, 2023
USCIS published policy manual guidance for stateless individuals in the U.S. who may be interested in filing, or who have already filed, an immigration application, petition, or request with USCIS. A stateless individual is an individual who may not be considered a national of any state or country under the operation of its laws.
Under principles of international law, countries have jurisdiction to determine which persons are considered to hold nationality or citizenship of that particular country. Stateless individuals face serious obstacles in day to day lives because they have no officially recognized nationality. These difficulties could include difficulty obtaining birth certificates, passports, as well as documentation or evidence of their statelessness. Without an officially recognized nationality, stateless individuals often have no right to vote, and they often lack a variety of legal protections, lack access to education, employment, and health care, lack the ability to register birth, marriage, or death, and lack property rights. Common causes of statelessness may include lack of birth registration and birth certificates, birth to stateless parents, political change and transfer of territory, which may alter the nationality status of citizens of the former state or states, administrative oversights, procedural problems, conflicts of law between two countries, or destruction of official records, among others.
USCIS is centralizing the consideration of statelessness to promote efficiency and effective agency resources. In reviewing cases, USCIS will examine individual cases of potential statelessness and issue a report to the adjudicating officer of potential statelessness, which they may consider when adjudicating an immigration benefit request or deciding any other immigration request.
The USCIS Policy Manual outlines certain immigration benefits which stateless individuals living in the U.S. may qualify for:
Deferred Action Requests
Deferred action is an act of prosecutorial discretion to delay or defer the removal of a noncitizen. During a period of deferred action, DHS would not remove a noncitizen from the United States. Deferred action does not constitute a lawful immigration status and does not excuse any past periods of unlawful presence.
The Department of Homeland Security considers deferred action requests on a case-by-case basis and the decision to grant the request is a matter of discretion. Because a stateless individual may have no means to provide evidence of nationality, and since it may be impracticable to remove a stateless noncitizen from the United States, there may be both humanitarian concerns and other relevant factors associated with statelessness to consider when reviewing a deferred action request.
Parole in Place Requests
Parole may be granted, on a case-by-case basis, to noncitizens present in the United States who are applicants for admission. Parole in place may be granted only on a case-by-case basis for urgent humanitarian reasons or a significant public benefit, and where the noncitizen demonstrates that they merit a favorable exercise of discretion. Statelessness may be relevant to the exercise of discretion in the officer’s consideration of the noncitizen’s parole in place request.
Asylum and Refugee Processing
USCIS approves refugee classification or grants asylum to noncitizens who have been persecuted or fear they will be persecuted on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion and are otherwise eligible for those benefits. Whether a noncitizen is stateless may be a relevant factor in adjudications of these cases in identifying the place of last habitual residence for purposes of analyzing past and future persecution and in establishing the individual’s identity.
Temporary Protected Status
The Secretary of Homeland Security may designate a foreign country for TPS due to an ongoing armed conflict, environmental disaster, epidemic, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions. Although noncitizens who are already in the United States and are eligible nationals of the designated countries are able to obtain TPS status, stateless individuals who last habitually resided in the designated foreign country may also be granted TPS status.
The full USCIS Policy Manual guidance on Statelessness can be found using this link. If you or anyone you know would like to consult with one of our attorneys on the above, please fill out our consultation request form.