Applications to stay in the UK as a stateless person must be made by completing, in English, Form FLR(S) – Application for leave to remain as a stateless person. The application must be made online with supporting documents sent to the address given on the form within 10 days.
There is no fee for the application. Although the application is straightforward, it must be accompanied by all the evidence that can reasonably be obtained. See the section on Proving statelessness.
A statelessness application can be made by a person in the UK at any time. It is not necessary to have a current visa or permission to stay in order to apply.
If possible, a qualified adviser should be consulted for assistance with gathering the necessary evidence and completing the application form. See the section on Legal advice.
Applying if already in the UK in some other category (for example, as a student)
It is possible to be granted permission to stay as a stateless person even if another type of permission to be in the UK is already held. The application is the same as for someone without any permission to stay – Form FLR(S). The Home Office says applicants should apply only within the last 28 days before existing permission to stay expires. Home Office guidance states that applications made earlier will be held until 28 days before existing permission expires before being considered.
It is very important to make the new application before the existing permission expires.
Applying as a dependant of a family member or independently
Members of a family (spouses, partners, and unmarried dependent children under age 18) who are all in the UK can also make a stateless application. They can either apply together, with one person as the main applicant and the others as dependants, OR each family member can apply separately. Dependants may be given leave in line with the main applicant but they will not be recognised as stateless themselves unless they make their own application. In some situations, it may be better for applicants to apply separately – it is important to discuss with a adviser what is the best option. See the section on Legal advice.
If leave to remain as a stateless person is granted, normally the applicant will be given 5 years leave to remain with permission to work and claim benefits. Dependent family members should be granted permission to stay in the UK for the same length of time and with the same conditions as the main applicant.
Family members who are not in the UK, or who become a partner of the stateless person who has already been granted leave to remain, may be allowed to join a stateless person who has been granted permission to stay in the UK if they meet the relevant criteria.
See the section on What happens when an application is granted.
Statelessness applications often involve complex legal issues, and the advice of a qualified legal adviser is usually necessary to gather sufficient evidence and properly prepare a statelessness application under Part 14 of the Immigration Rules. The information on our website is intended as a guide only. Part 14 is due to be redrafted in 2023. We will update our website with any changes.
The requirements for statelessness leave
Part 14, paragraph 401 sets out the first set of requirements. The applicant must:
- meet the definition of a stateless person - that they are not ‘considered a national by any State under the operation of its law’.
- be in the UK.
- not be excluded under Paragraph 402.
Paragraph 403 sets out further requirements. The applicant must completed online Form FLR(S) and provide evidence that it is more likely than not that they have:
- 'taken reasonable steps to facilitate admission to the country of former habitual residence'. See the section on Admissibility.
- ‘obtained and submitted all reasonably available evidence’ to show they are stateless. See the section on Proving statelessness.
- 'sought and failed to obtain or re-establish their nationality'. See the section on Proving statelessness.
- in the case of a child born in the UK, provided evidence that they have attempted to register their birth with the relevant authorities but have been refused.
The Home Office also publishes Stateless leave guidance for Home Office decision-makers that explains how they should apply Part 14 of the Immigration Rules. It is important to understand this guidance, and it is helpful on some issues, but the Immigration Rules and decisions of courts are more important than the guidance if there is any difference between them.
The rules require that a person is not ‘admissible to their country of former habitual residence or any other country’.
Home Office guidance states that the meaning of admissible is “for the purposes of permanent residence” BUT it does not apply this definition consistently. In their response to the UNHCR in 2020 the Home Office stated that admissibility “need not be a route with immediate permanent residence, but rather one which leads to permanent residence, in an acceptable time frame.”
If the Home Office says they are refusing an application because the applicant is admissible to another country, the Home Office should provide evidence that the applicant is admissible now to another country. That evidence should show that the person has the right and is able to enter that country. To be ‘admissible’, the applicant should be able to enter the country either immediately, or very soon, for example, by renewing a permanent residence document, or entering and immediately being given or renewing permanent residence.
In some cases, the Home Office might say that the applicant is admissible to another country because they have the right to register as a national of that country – but this is only correct if that registration is a right, not a request which could be refused, and it should be a real, immediate possibility. For example, where parents could register a baby as a national at the embassy of their country simply by producing their own documents and the baby’s birth certificate.
Although the Home Office needs to prove that the applicant is admissible to another country, they will need information and documents from the applicant to decide this; this means the applicant will need to provide any relevant information and whatever documents they have or can obtain.
Specific exclusions are listed in paragraph 402 in the Immigration Rules Part 14. If the Home Office decides that the person should be excluded from recognition as a stateless person for one of these reasons, they will not consider the application further.
Paragraph 402 - Exclusions:
- they are a Palestinian who could be assisted by UNRWA. See the section on Special considerations for Palestinians.
- they have rights similar to those of a citizen in their country of former habitual residence. Any person who has rights similar to those of a citizen or a right of permanent residence in another country in another country should discuss this with a legal adviser. See the section on Admissibility.
- they ‘have committed a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity’.
- they ‘have committed a serious non-political crime outside the UK prior to their arrival in the UK’.
- they ‘have been guilty of acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations’.
Home Office Stateless leave guidance says that ‘strong’ or ‘clear and credible’ evidence is required to refuse an application because the person has carried out one or more of the criminal acts listed in the exclusions.
See Statelessness and Applications for Leave to Remain: A Best Practice Guide, B6 for more information about the exclusion clauses.
Other reasons for refusal
The Home Office can refuse an application, even if the applicant has shown that they are stateless, not excluded, and not admissible to any other country.
Paragraph 404 sets out where an application must be refused:
- there are ‘reasonable grounds for considering’ that the applicant is a danger to the public order or security of the United Kingdom; or
- the application would fall to be refused under any of the grounds in the Immigration Rules Part 9
The Immigration Rules Part 9 applies to all applications under the Immigration Rules unless they are specifically exempt. Part 14 is not exempt. The grounds in Part 9 are extensive and include both mandatory grounds and discretionary grounds.
Some of the Part 9 grounds most relevant to a stateless application, where the Home Office must refuse an application, include:
- Deception - where deception was used in an application.
- Deportation Order - if there is a deportation order in place against the applicant. See the section on Deportation Orders.
- Criminality – where there has been a sentence of over 12 months; or if the person is a persistent offender; or they have committed offences which have caused serious harm. See the section on Criminal History.
Part 9 also sets out reasons why the Home Office ‘should normally’ refuse a stateless application. In these cases, the Home Office has discretion whether to refuse or not.
If a person is refused for a reason under Part 9 but they have been recognised as stateless and cannot therefore be removed to any country, they may be granted Discretionary Leave.
Any potential exclusions or reasons for refusal should be discussed with a qualified adviser. See the section on Legal advice.
There are special considerations for Palestinians in Part 14 of the Immigration Rules if they may have been - or could be - assisted by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). UNRWA works in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. More information about UNRWA is available here.
Evidence of UNRWA’s assistance, or lack of it, is important because it may affect whether a person can be granted protection in the UK as a refugee or be given permission to stay under the Immigration Rules Part 14.
A person will not be recognised as stateless in the UK if they voluntarily left an area where they could get assistance or protection from UNRWA. However, if a Palestinian in the UK cannot access UNRWA protection now, for example because of legal or practical barriers, they should not be excluded from recognition as a stateless person on this basis. This is a complex question, and legal advice should be obtained if they or their family members have or had an UNRWA card, lived in a camp where UNRWA provided assistance, or received assistance from UNRWA at any time before coming to the UK.
It is possible to contact UNRWA for confirmation that they previously assisted a person. Palestinians who need evidence of whether they or their family are or were registered with UNRWA may send a completed registration verification form (download verification form here) to firstname.lastname@example.org, with a copy of an identification document if possible.
Some Palestinians are eligible for protection in the UK as refugees (under Article 1D of the 1951 Refugee Convention or Article 1A (2) of the 1951 Refugee Convention). For more information about the UK’s asylum process generally, see here.
The Home Office interviews very few people who make applications under the Immigration Rules Part 14. An interview should take place when the Home Office cannot make a definitive decision based only on the written information provided. The interviews are carried out remotely in an office near where the applicant lives, or in Liverpool. The Home Office should provide an interpreter if necessary. Advisers can also attend the interview.
The Home Office Stateless leave guidance says: “In all cases, the burden of proof rests with the applicant, who is expected to cooperate with you to provide sufficient evidence to demonstrate that they are stateless and that there is no country to which they can be removed for purposes of permanent residence.” Only once all reasonable information and evidence has been provided, must the Home Office assist in obtaining additional evidence if necessary. The burden of proof therefore is on the person applying and extensive evidence should be submitted.
The standard of proof is the balance of probabilities. This is a higher standard than the “reasonable degree of likelihood” standard that is used by the Home Office to assess future risk to asylum seekers if they were returned to their country of nationality or of former habitual residence (Nationality & Borders Act 2022 S32(4)).
As many documents as possible relating to identity, nationality (or lack of nationality), residence in other countries, and status in the UK should be provided. Many stateless people may not have many, or any, documents. The statelessness application form lists some documents that the Home Office would like to see if they are available. See Form FLR(S), Section 7.
An adviser should obtain:
- A complete Home Office file. This can be obtained by making a Subject Access Request. The Home Office is required to comply with Subject Access Requests within one month. If it is not received or if the file is not complete or redacted then further enquiries can be made.
- Any previous decisions of the Home Office relating to the applicant (and any of their family members).
- Determinations of nationality made by any authorities about the applicant, or relevant family members.
- Any documents relating to efforts by the Home Office to remove the applicant from the UK, and/or any efforts by the applicant to leave the UK voluntarily.
- Any documents relating to contact with government authorities or embassies of countries or territories to which the applicant has a connection (through birth, family history, former residence, or marriage).
- Any Tribunal decisions relating to the applicant or their family members. There may be findings relating to nationality or credibility that could be relevant.
- Files from any previous representatives.
Contact with government authorities and embassies
One way of providing evidence that a person is stateless is to contact the embassy, consulate, or other authorities of the country or countries to which the applicant has a connection. This should not be done without getting legal advice if they fear persecution in that country. No-one should approach an embassy on behalf of someone else without having their prior informed consent in writing.
There are risks involved in contacting a country's authorities and advice from an experienced adviser should be sought. The embassy could make a positive finding and issue a document which allows the Home Office to commence removal directions. Another risk is that contact with the authorities could harm an asylum claim.
When contacting an embassy or other authorities, it is important to provide as many details as possible to enable them to make a thorough check. It is also important to phrase the enquiry carefully, asking whether the applicant is considered as a national under the operation of that state’s law.
Some authorities will respond to enquiries about nationality; some will not. It is often necessary to try several times.
A record should be kept of any contact and provided to the Home Office to support the application. Any letters should be sent by recorded delivery and all records submitted. If an applicant visits an embassy, they should be accompanied by an independent person who can prepare an objective statement about what happened during the visit. An adviser may be able to assist with providing someone to do this.
It is also possible to ask the Home Office to assist in making enquiries to foreign authorities, as part of the application process. Home Office Stateless leave guidance requires Home Office officials to assist with such enquiries if the applicant has already made a reasonable effort to provide as much evidence as possible.
There is no time limit on when a decision must be made on a stateless application. In some cases, decisions are made within 6 months, but in most cases it takes much longer to get a decision. If it takes longer than 6 months, emails should be sent to the Stateless Determination Unit (StatelessnessDeterminationInbox@homeoffice.gov.uk) to chase up the application.
If the main applicant or a dependant is under age 18, whether or not the child is applying for permission to stay in the UK, the Home Office should decide the application in a ‘timely and sensitive manner’, according to Home Office Stateless leave guidance.
The Home Office may make a decision more quickly if they are requested to do so and there are reasons why a delay will cause particular difficulties. Applicants or their representatives can write to the Home Office to request that the decision is made quickly and should explain the reasons why a delay would cause difficulties.
If there is also a Deportation Order in place which needs to be revoked then the application will take even longer. See the section on Deportation Orders.
The Home Office may make a decision relatively quickly if the applicant is detained. We suggest that enquiries are made if a detained person does not get a decision within 28 days. It may be possible to obtain release from detention on the basis the person is stateless and cannot be removed to another country. See the section on Detention of stateless people.
Under the British Nationality Act, children born in the UK who would otherwise be stateless at birth, are entitled to register as British citizens if they remain stateless and living in the UK for five years. There are also other ways that stateless children or young people may be eligible for British nationality. See the Section on British citizenship issues.
This is another complex area of law, and it is important to get advice from a qualified adviser. See the Section on Legal Advice.
More information about children’s right to British citizenship are available from the Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens, which provides free legal assistance to some children who have a right to British citizenship and cannot afford to pay for legal assistance. They have produced a leaflet on Children and the Right to British citizenship which can be found here.
Children should apply under Immigration Rules Part 14 in their own right if they want to be recognised as stateless. If they apply as dependants of their parent they would be granted leave in line with the main applicant, but would not be recognised as stateless themselves.
If the main applicant or a dependant is under age 18, the Home Office should decide the application in a ‘timely and sensitive manner’, according to Home Office Stateless leave guidance.
It is essential to seek advice from a qualified adviser if a stateless person has a criminal history of any kind and/or a Deportation Order has been made.
Under the Immigration Rules Part 9, a criminal history can be a reason for either mandatory or discretionary refusal of an application under Part 14 (and most other parts of the Immigration Rules). An application must be refused or cancelled if the applicant has a custodial sentence over 12 months or is a persistent offender or has committed a criminal offence, or offences, which caused serious harm. There is discretion whether to refuse an application if there is a sentence of less than 12 months.
Home Office Stateless leave guidance says that caseworkers should still make a decision on whether the applicant meets the definition of a stateless person under Paragraph 401. This is because those refused under Part 9 who are stateless and not admissible to any state, cannot be removed. They may then be granted Discretionary Leave outside the Immigration Rules. Discretionary Leave is a 10-year route to settlement and must be renewed every 30 months. Home Office guidance on Discretionary Leave can be found here.
It is also very important if a stateless person is accused of a crime, to seek legal advice from a adviser with expertise in statelessness issues about the consequences of pleading guilty to the charges and/or being convicted.
See the section on Deportation orders.
See also the Section on Reasons for refusal.
If there is a Deportation Order in place then an application to revoke the order should be made at the same time at a the Part 14 application. The FLR (S) evidence should include the application to revoke the Deportation Order and the application to revoke the Deportation Order should include the evidence of statelessness.
Part 14 leave cannot be granted while there is a Deportation Order in place. The stateless decision will usually be made first and then a decision will be made on the Deportation Order before any leave is granted. This may be Part 14 leave or Discretionary Leave.
It may be possible to have a Deportation Order revoked because the person is stateless and not admissible to any other country, or on some other grounds, which are not relevant to the Part 14 application, such as family life in the UK. The applicant should consult a qualified adviser to discuss whether this is possible.
See the section on Reasons for refusal.
See the section on Criminal History.
There may be other applications that a stateless person could make for permission to stay in the UK. Some possible applications are:
- long residence in the UK (10 years or more of lawful residence or 20 years of continuous (not necessarily lawful) residence)
- family life
- marriage to a British citizen
Sometimes a stateless person should make a new application for asylum, rather than a stateless application, if they fear persecution. Stateless people should ask their adviser if there are any other applications that they could make, and which would be the best option in their circumstances.
See also the section on Legal advice.