New POMS Evidentiary Requirements for Stateless Persons

Written by Alexander J. Segal on

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New POMS Evidentiary Requirements to Demonstrate “Statelessness”

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has updated the evidentiary requirements for demonstrating “statelessness” in RS 02640.040 of its Program Operations Manual System (POMS). The SSA will use information from the Department of State about an individual to determine whether he or she is stateless. The definition that POMS uses for “statelessness is “the lack of nationality, or the absence of a recognized link between an individual and any state.” The POMS explains how an individual may be found to be de jure (by law) stateless and de facto (as a matter of fact) stateless.

De Jure Statelessness

In order to be found to be de jure stateless, an individual must been one of the following criteria:

  • a. Have a civil registration or a “travel document” issued by his or her country of residence that shows both that the individual is stateless and that the document was issued under the United Nations Convention of 28 September 1954 Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons (which will be shown on the document);
  • b. Legislation in the individual's country of residence that denies nationality to certain group(s), and the individual is a member of one of those groups;
  • c. A document issued by the individual's former country of citizenship that shows that the individual is no longer a citizen of that country.

De jure statelessness is a matter of law, and will be established either if documentation exists that demonstrates an individual's statelessness, or if legislation was passed in the individual's country of residence that denies nationalities to a group of which the individual is a member.

The POMS states that an individual who is found to be de jure stateless will continue to be considered de jure stateless until he or she acquires a nationality of a country.

De Facto Statelessness

The POMS lists the ways in which an individual who claims to be stateless as a matter of fact may establish statelessness:

  • a. The individual claims to be stateless,
  • b. the individual cannot establish de jure stateless status, but
  • c. can establish that:
    • he or she is outside the country of his or her nationality; and
    • the government in the country of nationality is either unable or unwilling to recognize the individual's nationality, or it refuses to allow the individual to return home.

Establishing de facto statelessness is slightly more complicated than establishing de jure statelessness because there is no documentation or legislation which will definitively demonstrate statelessness. Instead, evidence must exist that shows that an individual who claims to be stateless is, for all intents and purposes, stateless.

The POMS states that de facto statelessness will only persist so long as the factors that established de facto statelessness continue to exist. If the person acquires a new nationality of another country, or if the individual returns to his or her country of nationality, de facto statelessness shall cease.

Effect of the New POMS Evidentiary Requirements for Demonstrating Statelessness

The POMS instructions affect the issuance of social security numbers (SSNs). Furthermore, some Totalization agreements (which benefit non-citizens who work in the United States and a country with which the United States has a Totalization agreement with) that the United States has with other countries includes refugees and stateless persons. For example, the United States' Totalization agreement with Germany includes stateless persons. POMS GN 01072.225 discusses the policies regarding refugees and stateless persons in the context of Totalization agreements. For these reasons, it is important for individuals who are de jure stateless or who may qualify as de facto stateless and attorneys to understand the new POMS evidentiary requirements for demonstrating statelessness.