The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), today issued new guidance to assist stateless noncitizens in the United States who wish to obtain immigration benefits or have submitted other requests to USCIS. Stateless individuals are those who are not legally considered a citizen of any country, and therefore may be denied legal identity, and struggle to access education, healthcare, marriage, and job opportunities.
Individuals can be born stateless or become stateless because of discrimination, war and conflict, or changing borders and laws. The new guidance clarifies when and how USCIS may consider a noncitizen stateless for the purpose of adjudicating immigration benefits or other requests.
“All over the world, people who are stateless live with fear and uncertainty. DHS is fully committed to addressing the global issue of statelessness and to breaking down barriers that these individuals face in the United States,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “With this historic step, stateless individuals will be given the opportunity to apply for immigration protections and benefits for which they are eligible.”
Following today’s release of this guidance, and with the goal of helping stateless individuals to take advantage of the opportunity, USCIS will create and implement new procedures to assist USCIS officers when assessing an individual’s potential statelessness. This includes updating existing training documents on statelessness, developing more robust training procedures for officers, and setting up standard operating procedures for officers to request an internal assessment of potential statelessness where it may be relevant to an individual’s application or benefit request.
Specially trained USCIS personnel will provide the adjudicating officer with an advisory report clarifying how the officer might consider an individual’s statelessness in making decisions about an individual’s application or benefit request. This new guidance also provides examples of documentation or evidence that may help USCIS officers determine whether noncitizens may be considered stateless for USCIS purposes.
Implementing this update also will enable USCIS to gather more comprehensive and accurate data on this vulnerable group of people. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates there are approximately 218,000 stateless people residing in the United States.