Applying for Indefinite Leave To Remain In The UK As A Stateless Person
The vast majority of us take for granted that we have a country to which we belong; to which we are a citizen. But what if you are a citizen of nowhere? This is legally referred to as being ‘stateless’. There are many obvious disadvantages of being stateless. Without proof of citizenship, stateless persons typically find themselves unable to apply for a passport (and therefore they are unable to travel), vote in national elections, secure employment, claim benefits, have consulate protection, or use government services.
Stateless people can also feel deeply vulnerable and separated from a society of people who have automatic rights. Indeed, so important is citizenship that the right to nationality in embedded in Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Unfortunately, statelessness is not rare; it is estimated that at least 15 million people worldwide are stateless. This begs the question, if you are stateless, can you find yourself a new state? In this article, we will explore the process of applying for indefinite leave to remain in the UK for those who are stateless.
What Factors May Lead To A Person Being Stateless?
There are many factors which may lead to a person being stateless, including:
- discrimination against minority groups in nationality legislation (i.e. effectively excluding those groups from citizenship)
- failure to include all residents in the body of citizens when a state becomes independent (state succession)
- conflicting laws between states
- automatic loss of citizenship due to becoming a citizen of another country
- lack of proof of birth, origin or legal identity
It is important to note that being ‘undocumented’ does not necessarily mean a person is stateless, however, not having evidence of birth or identity can lead to statelessness (without documentation it is not possible to prove nationality).
The UK immigration rules define a stateless person as someone who:
- satisfies the requirements of Article 1(1) of the 1954 United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, as a person who is not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law;
- is in the United Kingdom; and
- is not excluded from recognition as a Stateless person under paragraph 402.
Paragraph 402 of the immigration rules excludes individuals from being recognised as stateless if there “are serious reasons for considering that they:
- are at present receiving from organs or agencies of the United Nations, other than the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, protection or assistance, so long as they are receiving such protection or assistance;
- are recognised by the competent authorities of the country of their former habitual residence as having the rights and obligations which are attached to the possession of the nationality of that country;
- have committed a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity, as defined in the international instruments drawn up to make provisions in respect of such crimes”.
- have committed a serious non-political crime outside the UK prior to their arrival in the UK;
- have been guilty of acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
What Does Article 15 Of The UDHR Say About Statelessness?
The UDHR is a UN international agreement which “enshrines the rights and freedoms of all human beings”. Article 15 of the UDHR states that:
- Everyone has the right to a nationality.
- No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.
Can A Stateless Person Apply To Stay In The UK?
Yes, if you are currently in the UK, and you are not recognised as a citizen of any country and you are unable to live permanently in any other country, then you may be eligible to stay. The immigration rules state, however, if the reason for you being in the UK is that you cannot return to another country because you are fleeing persecution, then you should apply for asylum first. If you have applied for asylum and were refused, then you can still apply to stay in the UK as a stateless person.
If your application to stay in the UK as a stateless person is granted, this will be for five years. Once you have completed five years in the UK, you will then be able to apply for settlement (indefinite leave to remain – ILR), meaning that you can remain indefinitely.
To support your application, you will need to provide (for you and your dependant family members where possible) any:
- current passports and other travel documents, such as visas
- official letters confirming your immigration status (with the reference number ASL.2150, ASL.2151 or ASL.2152)
- birth certificates
- marriage certificates
The Home Office will also want to see any additional evidence that you have of your statelessness; this may include:
- documents that prove where you lived before coming to the UK, for example school certificates, medical records or sworn statements from neighbours
- documents from your applications for citizenship or requests for proof of nationality in other countries
Can I Bring My Family Members To The UK To Join Me?
Yes, if your partner/spouse and dependant children are already with you in the UK, you will need to include them in your application to stay. If they are not in the UK already, you can apply separately for them to join you once your application has been approved by the British Home Office.
If you are applying to stay in the UK as a stateless person, there is a great deal at stake for you and your immediate family members. For this reason, it is essential that you take the time to collect as much evidence that you are stateless, to ensure your application has the best chance of success. It is highly recommended that you engage the services of an immigration Solicitor in the UK who can coordinate your application and ensure that you meet all of the eligibility criteria.
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