WASHINGTON – The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued new guidance today, facilitated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), to support stateless noncitizens in the United States seeking immigration benefits or having submitted requests to USCIS. Stateless individuals, those lacking legal citizenship in any country, face challenges in obtaining legal identity and encounter difficulties accessing education, healthcare, marriage, and job opportunities. Statelessness can arise from birth or due to discrimination, conflict, or changing borders and laws. The guidance aims to clarify when and how USCIS may recognize a noncitizen as stateless for adjudicating immigration benefits or other requests.
Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas stated, “DHS is fully committed to addressing the global issue of statelessness and breaking down barriers faced by stateless individuals in the United States. This historic step will provide stateless individuals with the opportunity to apply for eligible immigration protections and benefits.”
In response to the guidance release, USCIS will develop new procedures to aid officers in assessing an individual’s potential statelessness, with the goal of assisting stateless individuals in seizing this opportunity. This involves updating training documents on statelessness, enhancing training procedures for officers, and establishing standard operating procedures for officers to request an internal assessment of potential statelessness when relevant to an application or benefit request. Specially trained USCIS personnel will offer adjudicating officers an advisory report, elucidating how statelessness may be considered in decision-making. The guidance also includes examples of documentation or evidence to help USCIS officers determine whether noncitizens may be considered stateless for USCIS purposes.
The implementation of this update will also enable USCIS to collect more comprehensive and accurate data on this vulnerable group. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that approximately 218,000 people residing in the United States are potentially at risk of statelessness.