Ending Statelessness

Under a new nationality law which was amended in 2019, children under 18 years born to Iranian mothers and foreign fathers will now be allowed to apply for the ‘Shenasnameh” – the Iranian identity document. According to the Government of Iran, 88,000 applications for naturalization following the amendment have been launched.

Although Iran is not party to the UN Conventions on Statelessness[1], the government is taking concrete steps towards the prevention and reduction of statelessness in the country.

During the COVID-19 pandemic in Iran, UNHCR has continued providing free remote legal advice and assistance to parents of children whose mothers are Iranian nationals and whose fathers are foreign nationals, to help them through the nationality application process.

By allowing Iranian mothers to pass their nationality to their children, the Iran’s nationality law also marks a ground-breaking step towards reducing the gap between women and men in Iran, where nationality used to be passed on mainly by fathers. 

The exact number of stateless people worldwide is not known, but UNHCR estimates that there are many millions globally – of which approximately one third are children. Statelessness may occur for a variety of reasons, including discrimination against particular ethnic or religious groups or on the basis of gender; the emergence of new States and

transfers between existing States; and conflict of nationality laws. Around the world, stateless people can face a lifetime of exclusion and discrimination and are often denied access to education, health care, and job opportunities – making them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.

[1] 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons & 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness


1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons

The 1954 Convention provides the definition of a “stateless person” and the foundation of the international legal framework to address statelessness.

1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness

The 1961 Convention is the leading international instrument that sets rules for the conferral and non-withdrawal of citizenship to prevent statelessness.