After reading this question few questions popped up in my head. I know what a stateless person is after I read this wikipedia page but I could not find how do stateless people travel? if stateless people have no nationality then logically they have no passport.. if they do not have passport how do stateless people travel?

  • There are a few solutions detailed in the answers but generally speaking being stateless creates many problems, which is why there many rules in place (in national law and in treaties) to avoid it as much as possible.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Oct 6, 2013 at 20:46
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    It could be argued that it is the treaties and national laws create the problems. For Touaregs in Sahara, being in Marocco or in Algeria does not make any sense...
    – Taladris
    Commented Nov 19, 2014 at 5:48
  • On the history of travel documents for stateless persons, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nansen_passport Commented Dec 9, 2014 at 1:47
  • In Kuwait, stateless persons are given a special passport (which they have to surrender upon arrival) that allows them to travel. Commented Dec 10, 2014 at 4:35

5 Answers 5


The UK Border Agency has a page describing just this, including how to apply for travel documents if one was stateless.

They note that:

A stateless persons' document issued to an adult will usually be valid for 10 years if you have permission to stay in the United Kingdom permanently (known as 'indefinite leave to remain'). If you have temporary permission to stay in the United Kingdom (known as 'limited leave to remain'), your stateless persons' document will usually be valid for the same period as your permission to stay here, up to a maximum of five years.

In addition they point out that if granted, a stateless persons' document is normally valid for travel to all countries.

Indeed, since 1954, you've been able to obtain a '1954 Convention Travel Document' which for all intents and purpose, acts as a travel document, like a passport. Indeed, it says 'travel document' on the front cover. This arose from the 1954 Convention on Stateless Persons.

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    How does one apply for a visa then? Visa requirements are different depending where you come from, and rules would be hard to apply if there's no country which claims you as its citizen. Commented Aug 4, 2012 at 8:55
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    @mindcorrosive that's why laissez-passer holders are required to have visa to any country, see my answer.
    – littleadv
    Commented Aug 4, 2012 at 9:13
  • @mindcorrosive - Presumably it's still up to individual companies to grant you visas, but given they're usually on a nationality basis in your passport, this still allows a stateless person to have a travel document.
    – Mark Mayo
    Commented Aug 4, 2012 at 9:23
  • @mindcorrosive if the country is a member of the UN 1954 conventions, they must process a Visa with the same principles of any other class of "Alien" applying. They should not specialize for statelessness. Most, but not all countries do require a Visa for a stateless person to travel there. Although this changes depending on treaties with neighbouring countries where residency or a national document may allow travel regardless. Commented Jan 18, 2016 at 13:14
  • When I travel (as stateless), I find that some countries are very straight forward (Mexico, 6 months visa processed in an hour; Argentina a visa for every trip, but always granted; Brasil doesn't seem to know what to do; Ecuador no visa, they accept my travel doc as-is; Peru is almost impossible to go to, not because stateless, but because of the type of travel doc I have isn't in the treaties with the country that issued it; Schengen gives all members a chance to reject a Visa in cases like this, none have, but it isn't always granted [50% success so far]; ...) Commented Jan 18, 2016 at 13:15

Countries provide travel documents for citizens of other countries, or stateless persons. These documents are called "Laissez Passer" (French for "Let through").

Usually, Laissez-Passer holders are required for visas to any country.

Prominent examples:

Jews from many countries were forced to renounce local citizenships when they wanted to immigrate to Israel. Some of those countries (like Iraq in the Wikipedia example, or more recently - Soviet Union) provided Laissez-passer's to these Jews, valid for travel to Israel.

Israeli Arabs traveling to Saudi Arabia were (and may be still are) using Jordanian travel documents, because they cannot use their Israeli passports in the Saudi Arabia.

People working for international organizations (UN, Red Cross, etc) have travel documents issued by these organizations. Some refugees (stateless persons) have travel documents issued by international organizations as well.

  • A laissez-passer can also (mostly?) be issued to people who are not stateless but for some reason have no passport to return to their country. In this case, as in your example, the point is that it's a document valid for one journey, indicating the willingness of the destination country to grant entry to the holder. This is distinct from the documents detailed in user102008's answer.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Oct 6, 2013 at 20:43
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    Typically this is NOT the document for a stateless person. This is the document for people that need one way travel and the UN conventions try to prevent someone from being trapped in a country, whereas they should be allowed to travel to another to either regain documentation or a travel document, or to reach their country of residence when they have no other means to do so. Stateless is covered by the 1954 convention and the form of document described in that convention. Some countries that do not yet have this or are not a member of the convention, do whatever they can that is similar. Commented Jan 18, 2016 at 13:09

Many countries issue travel documents to people resident there who are either 1) stateless, or 2) unable to get a passport from their country of nationality. It is usually called "Certificate of Identity", "Alien's Passport", or "Re-entry Permit", depending on the country. This article talks about the many forms of such documents. It could be a 1954 Convention travel document, but a lot of countries are not signatories to the 1954 convention; they may still have such a document.

Such travel documents are in booklet form just like passports, with a biographical page and pages for visas and stamps. Not all countries accept such travel documents, but many do.

(Note that, if the stateless person is also a refugee, they can usually get a "Refugee travel document", which is technically a 1951 Convention travel document.)

  • In Uruguay the travel document is called "Titulo de Identidad y Viaje" and also you have the national identity card, a "Cédula" Commented Jan 18, 2016 at 13:07

We do not travel. We cannot. Like myself, stateless persons have no legal identity, so it has become almost impossible since 9-11 for us to get through all the paperwork and list of requirements needed for any travel document.

Many stateless persons can not travel within the borders of the country they call home because they lack "official" documentation. We can be held at any time, for any amount of time the authorities deem necessary to establish our identity.

The truth is there are very few countries that will accept a stateless person. If a stateless person is found within the borders of most countries they are placed in a "detention" center and usually forgotten about. This is, of course, in first world countries like the US and Canada. In third world countries we are basically turned into slaves with no rights to anything.

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    Er, can you provide more details? What state did you used to be a member of, if any? Where are you now based, if not within a detention center?
    – Mark Mayo
    Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 22:36
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    This is not true, I am stateless, I have a local ID card, and a travel document issued by the country in which I live. Stateless does not mean you cannot have documentation or legal identity. I have 2 stateless friends, one in Slovakia and he has a normal life, travels on 1954 convention document. Another in Paraguay, normal life, travels on his Cédula. And me in Uruguay, travel on a Titulo de Identidad y Viaje. Commented Jan 18, 2016 at 13:05

Statelessness persons have a special passport called Residence Permit for Statelessness person. This document is given by goverment of the country in which this person lives.

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