The Department of Homeland Security has issued new guidance to help “stateless” noncitizens who want to obtain immigration status or have submitted other requests to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. 

A stateless individual is a person who is 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, the DHS said in a news release

“Individuals can be born stateless or become stateless because of discrimination, war and conflict, or changing borders and laws,” the DHS release said. “The new guidance clarifies when and how USCIS may consider a noncitizen stateless for the purpose of adjudicating immigration benefits or other requests.” 

Federal officials believe the new guidance will not only provide stateless individuals with more opportunities but also give them more peace of mind when it comes to their citizenship status. 

“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 United States Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas. “With this historic step, stateless individuals will be given the opportunity to apply for immigration protections and benefits for which they are eligible.” 

In accordance with the new guidance, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will be implementing new procedures to assist officers when assessing an individual’s potential statelessness, the DHS release said. 

Included in the new procedures are updates to existing training documents on statelessness, development of more robust training procedures for officers and setting up standardized 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. 

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, it is estimated that there are around 218,000 stateless individuals across the United States.