Is it possible to lack nationality? It is a situation that is atypical according to International Law and the answer, unfortunately, is: yes. In this article, we want to explain what it is to be stateless. And what has Spain done to address the case of stateless persons, that is, of people without nationality.

The situation of a stateless person can be motivated by different reasons. For example:

  • A person who has the nationality of a State has disappeared and no replacement was created instead.
  • A person who has lost nationality by government decision.
  • A person belonging to some ethnic or other minority to whom the government of the State where he was born denies the right to nationality.
  • A person who was born in territories that are in dispute for more than one country.
  • A person, who resides between several mutually bordering states, who is denied his own nationality.
  • A person who lacks nationality because there has been a conflict between the laws of various countries involved. He was born in a country where nationality is given by the nationality of the parents according to the "ius sanguinis", but their parents are from a country where "ius soli" rules exclusively, that is, only those who are born there can be citizens.

Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations Organization establishes the right of all persons to a nationality and the right not to be arbitrarily deprived of their nationality or the right to change it.

The status of stateless persons in Spain was ratified in April 1997. According to Article 9.10 of the Spanish Civil Code, it is considered personal law of those who lack nationality or have undetermined status, the law of the place of habitual residence.

The purpose of these rules, in general, is to have a legal framework in situations where a person lacks nationality. Reality has forced this need because there are still cases in the world in which certain people, due to various circumstances (eg civil wars), have been deprived of all nationality; lacking legal link with any State.

These people, who lack legal ties with any State or nationality, are called stateless persons.

In accordance with Spanish law, the Ministry of Justice of Spain says that: "Any person who is not considered a national by any State according to its legislation is stateless."

Everyone recognizes that statelessness is a legal problem of great importance and importance because it causes certain people to lack a legal framework that can ensure their most fundamental human rights, such as: safety, health, education, etc.).

Fortunately, there are different international instruments that seek to alleviate and establish minimum standards that stateless people can take advantage of. The 1954 Convention on the Status of Stateless Persons and the Spanish Stateless Regulation (RD 865/2001, of July 20, which approves the Regulation of recognition of the stateless status), are two examples of this legal effort.

By means of these norms, in particular, the signatory States (among which Spain BOE of July 4, 1997) are committed to providing stateless persons:

1) At least the same treatment he gives his nationals in matters related to:

  • Freedom to practice their religion and the religious education of their children
  • Access to the Courts
  • Elementary education
  • Tax charges and charges
  • Labor legislation and social insurance

2) At least the same treatment granted by foreigners in matters related to:

  • Right of association
  • Right to paid employment
  • Right to work on their own
  • Right to exercise liberal profession
  • Right to housing

3) In addition, they commit to:

  • Issue some type of identity document
  • Issue travel documents
  • Do not expel them, unless there are reasons of national security or public order
  • Facilitate the adoption of any nationality

Links of interest

You may also be interested in the following resources:

The process of legalization of documents can in some cases be complicated, lengthy and cumbersome for the people involved. Aware of this problem, we have enabled a telephone number (+34) 943-425-726 and an email address help@echeverriaabogados.es to answer questions. If you write an email, please include first name, last name and contact phone number.

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