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statelessness in the U.S.

Here is United Stateless' founding member Tatianna's story.

under international law,
everyone has a right to nationality

Statelessness denies you this basic human right.

Several international laws were created to address statelessness:

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Eleanor Roosevelt with the English language version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Article 15 (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states “everyone has the right to a nationality”. Article 15 (2) states "No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality". Learn more here.

Convention relating to the Status of Refugees 

States parties and signatories to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. States parties to only the 1951 Convention are light green; states parties to only the 1967 protocol are yellow; states parties to both are dark green; Nonmembers are grey

In 1951 the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees was adopted, and the planned Protocol relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, which was intended to accompany it, was deferred for further study. While the 1951 Refugee Convention applies to some stateless persons, its application is limited to those who are also refugees.


Article 1A (2) provides that the Convention applies to a person who: owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it. Only those stateless persons who are outside of their country of habitual residence and who have a well-founded fear of persecution on one of the enumerated grounds are protected under the 1951 Refugee Convention.

Convention relating to the Status of
Stateless Persons

States parties and signatories to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons. States parties are dark blue; non-states parties that have signed the Convention are light blue

The 1954 Convention seeks to regulate and improve the legal status of stateless persons, and to ensure non-discriminatory protection of their fundamental rights and freedoms by the state in which they reside. Many of its provisions are identical to those of the 1951 Refugee Convention.


These include, inter alia, the core non-discrimination obligation, provisions on religious freedom, juridical status, employment, welfare, freedom of movement, issuance of travel and identity documents, and an obligation to ‘facilitate assimilation and naturalization’.


In addition the 1954 Convention prohibits expulsion of stateless persons ‘save on grounds of national security or public order’. While the 1954 Convention encourages the naturalization of stateless persons, it does not require a state to grant its nationality to a stateless person.

Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness

Signatories and ratifications of the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. Countries in dark green have ratified the convention, countries in light green have only signed the convention.

The 1954 Convention seeks to ensure a legal status and minimum level of protection for stateless persons wherever they may be, but leaves to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness the question of which nationality an individual should have.


The 1961 Convention aims at reducing future statelessness by setting international standards for national laws on the acquisition and loss of nationality. The Convention provides “for the acquisition of nationality by those who would otherwise be stateless and who have an appropriate link with the State through birth on the territory or through descent from nationals, and for the retention of nationality for those who will be made stateless should they inadvertently lose the State’s nationality".


The Convention accepts both the jus sanguinis and jus soli approaches to citizenship. It includes detailed provisions on the grant of nationality, loss and renunciation of nationality, deprivation of nationality and transfer of territory. It provides for an international agency to assist stateless persons, and like other international conventions, for the submission, rarely resorted to, of inter-state disputes regarding its interpretation or application to the International Court of Justice.


The Final Act of the Conference, like that of the 1954 Convention, recommends that de facto stateless persons be treated as far as possible like de jure stateless persons, so that they too may acquire effective nationality.

The passport is the most noble part of the human being. It also does not come into existence in such a simple fashion as a human being does. A human being can come into the world anywhere, in the most careless way and for no good reason, but a passport never can. When it is good, the passport is also recognized for this quality, whereas a human being, no matter how good, can go unrecognized.
Bertold Brecht, Refugee Conversations, 1940
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