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Stateless: “It’s great being free”

2 May 2008 by Mike Gogulski
Posted in people | 29 Comments »

I land around 1pm at Birmingham International Airport.

Between the plane’s doors and the portal, everything is serene. A placid line of fellow passengers trudging up the jetway, into the terminal, though the camera-lined corridors and past the garish signs proclaiming the various indignities that await ahead at passport control. Eventually, the rat-trap tunnels converge on the intake room, the great cleansing filter which promises to keep the UK clean. The signs, now ever more strident, warn of the harsh penalties for threatening an immigration officer, failing to produce proper documentation, or lodging one’s asylum request improperly. It’s all quite official.

The intake hall is a sterile room, festooned with CCTV cameras. The EU passport holders dutifully and effortlessly slide into a swift-moving queue which gobbles them up as quickly as can be noticed. A glance at the traveling papers, a friendly question, a nod, and they’re off. I, however, must stand in the other line, the one for the non-EU visa-free travel exemptees, the tourists, the immigrants, and the sternly-warned asylum seekers.

I seem to be the very last in line, somehow. Ah yes… while the budget airline opened both doors, front and back to me in Bratislava, only the front door opens in Birmingham. Perhaps the cost of CCTV and police monitoring for two doors of a passenger-carrying aircraft is too high in the UK. I don’t question, but trundle into position behind a Bahraini family with two bickering youngsters and an impassive yet obviously distressed teenage daughter and a small group of Slovak college students and their parents who haven’t realized the practical impact of their recent change of status. The line crawls forward, millimeters at a time.

After about 5 minutes and 5 centimeters a young, dark man emerges from the labyrinth behind us all and strides up to the decision point: EU passport holder or not? He hesitates, and turns to the appropriately diverse pair of airport staff waiting to guide newly-arrived hopefuls into the proper queue. I overhear his conversation only superficially, but it’s essentially this:

He: Good day, here is my travel document. Which line should I stand in?

They: Uhhh… let me have a look… Hmmm… Somalia, but what’s this? Er, <brief walkie-talkie conversation> you’re best over there.

He: Thank you.

And he comes to stand behind me. He’s a shorter man than I, dark skinned but of indeterminate origin, someplace between 25 and 30 years old. Racially, a mix of African, Arab and central-Asian features that quite escapes categorization. He fumbles a bit with his passport and fishes out his immigration declaration form, then asks me if I have a pen.

So I lend him a pen and ask him where he’s from. “Somalia”, he says, “but I live here in the UK.”

“Somalia!?” I ask. “An interesting place to be from.”

“Well…”

I tell him that I overheard his conversation, and that I’m curious about his passport. He says briefly that it’s something special, and allows me to look at it.

It’s a 1951 Convention Travel Document, dark blue passport-like cover and the requisite 40 or so watermarked pages inside. It’s in English, issued in the UK, prominently displaying the fact that it doesn’t grant the bearer rights to employment or public assistance on the forceful pages, and bearing a variety of entry and exit visa stamps from France, Germany, Egypt and Spain, along with several residence visas from Tanzania.

It was a trusting and innocent maneuver on his part, and I hand him back his ticket to life beyond the intake hall reverently.

We chat a bit, as we slowly advance in the queue. Turns out he came to the UK seven or so years ago, renounced his citizenship and is now waiting for a UK passport. Works as a sales agent for one of those new-fangled almost-actually-deregulated energy utilities that has government-mandated access to the national gas distribution network trying to convince people to switch gas providers, all the while recognizing that if the gas supply and the distribution pipes are all still owned by the same people, it’s all kind of a wash. Still, it’s GBP 500 a month, and the money’s damned good in Dar-es-Salaam, where he operates a business with his brother.

As the conversation moves on, I ask him about his history a bit, Somalia, how he came to the UK, the taxes here and the surveillance they pay for, and how he ended up in this line. We talk briefly and cursorily of Somalia’s internationally much-reviled “anarchy”, the Islamic Courts Union, the breakup of the country and the fraudulent imposition of a false, foreign government on his country. I share with him my dismay at the US-backed Ethiopian invasion and slaughter going on in Somalia today.

I realize, slowly, that the little blue-bound book he handed me earlier is a declaration that he has no citizenship, no nationality, no country. Can that be right?

Me: So you are a stateless person?

Him: Yes, that’s right.

Me: I must ask you… hasn’t it caused you troubles in your life?

Him: No, it’s great being free.

Gears turn and tumblers fall into place. The door waits only to swing open.

Just before we separate for our own, individual inquisitions before the immigration officers, I ask him what he plans. “After I get my UK passport in November, I will leave here forever… this place is not good.”

  1. 29 Responses to “Stateless: “It’s great being free””

  2. By liv on 19 September 2008

    Loved the “read”… It’s really interesting.

  3. By Taarax on 20 September 2008

    I agree…very interesting indeed!

  4. By pushkin on 6 November 2009

    i love how at the end he loves being stateless SO much he is just waiting to take his new UK passport so he can leave the UK. Up to that point you had my interest.

  5. By Card on 29 July 2010

    I am very interested to have this status, and be in possession to this documents.

    Very important.

  6. By oby on 18 August 2010

    nice! iv been wondering about becoming stateless and im glad i just searched it and found this site, im only 17 right now but im not stupid i watch the news i have a job i try to support myself as much as possible and i got to say im not liking the usa any more its all turned into BS. ha land of the free, if i HAVE to pay taxes on every thing just to stay out of jail well hell thats not being free thats being a slave thats working so i dont get a beating to me!so hey if any one has experience and info for me and what i can make of my life and the benefits of becoming stateless please post for me, my dream is to travel the world and have no boundary s for what i can do with my life!

  7. By andi on 10 June 2011

    Hi,

    I LOVE your site! There was a pdf file of a 35pg (I think it was about 35 pages)book written by this guy in 2008 or ’09 about being stateless. He wrote it anonymously.

    Here’s the strange part, I was downloaded it a couple a months ago, and now it has vanished off my computer.

    Would you happen to know the name of the book or where I can find it? Tried Google search and can not locate it anywhere!

    Thank you,
    andi (Do More Good Deeds)

  8. By Mike Gogulski on 11 June 2011

    @Andi: Thanks!

    A book? Heck, no… never heard of it.

  9. By Ronin on 13 June 2011

    @Andi: Google “American Expatriation Guide”. It’s available online. It has a lot of good info, but it says the US Gov will not permit someone to become stateless, which I think is incorrect.

    Mike, has anything from the State Dept changed since you renounced?

  10. By Mike Gogulski on 13 June 2011

    @Ronin: As far as I know, the Nationality Act (or whatever it is) hasn’t been amended in that section, and the US hasn’t acceded to one of the stateless treaties.

  11. By andi on 14 June 2011

    I Found It! I found it! I found it!

    Oh My Gosh! I am so, so happy….and sleepy. I couldn’t sleep since I wrote that post, I was so preoccupied with trying to locate that book!

    So here is where you can find it. (oh the reason I couldn’t find it before was I thought it said Stateless in its title but it didn’t. Also it’s not 35 pgs, but 26, and not 2008/’09 but 2010).

    It’s called the “American Expatriation Guide”.

    Here is the link: http://www.lewrockwell.com/pr/american-expatriation-guide.html

    Thank you Mike and Ronin for all your help and suggestions :0)

    Wish me luck…(happy/sad face). I believe everyone has a right to freedom of movement, life and security.

    please look for me on facebook, Do More Good Deeds, where I will chronicle my adventures.

    Thank you again!
    andi (Do More Good Deeds)

  12. By Ronin on 14 June 2011

    I have an appointment (first of three) at the nearest US embassy in a few weeks, they’re busy it seems. At first they insisted over the phone that they could not process the application if it would result in statelessness. So I read to him the point from the Statement of Understanding stating the difficulties which may result from statelessness. Then I asked him to quote me the law which precludes allowing a human from becoming stateless. After some passing of time during which he was fruitlessly searching for some non-existing instruction, he admitted that he had been incorrect.
    @Mike: any advice for my appointment?

  13. By Mike Gogulski on 14 June 2011

    Hi Andi. It sounds like you have quite an adventure ahead of you, and I wish you well on it. If you’d like to go public in the way I have, please let me know and I’ll share all of my experiences with you.

    First thing about your appointment is: realize that there will be at least two more appointments. When you first go in and say “I want to renounce, and I know that I will become stateless,” the consul or whoever is likely to look at you as a bit crazy, despite what they may do or say. Expect that you’ll be asked to go away and think about it for a few days, even if you have all the paperwork in hand already.

    So, accept this, but demand at that first meeting that a second appointment be scheduled no longer than a week hence. At that appointment, you should be able to file everything and do the legal acts required to submit your request. You will need to submit the IRS 8854 declaration, the statement of understanding(?) and the renunciation petition itself at this time, and pay the fee (I believe it’s now $450 to renounce(!)).

    Your third appointment will be the result of a phone call, text or email saying that your certificate of loss of nationality is ready, and that you can come pick it up.

    Between the second and third, you should contact the immigration authority in your host country, informing them of your renunciation and pending certification, and asking what might be required of you to recertify your residency.

  14. By Ronin on 15 June 2011

    Thanks Mike. This is Ronin. In fact, if I become stateless, it will be short-lived as I have an other citizenship in the works which likely be completed shortly. My understanding is that statelessness in Japan is quite precarious unless one speaks the language fluently, which I do not. But, I DO like the next expat life, only not as an American.
    Your advice about the appointment is very helpful, thanks.

  15. By andi on 15 June 2011

    Hi Mike,

    Thank you for the offer! :0)

    Any information would be VERY well received. I did take the first step. I am currently in Norway on a visitor’s visa. I took my last unemployment check and (for lack of a better word) FLEED!

    I thought Norway would be a nice place because of all of their humanitarian efforts and the Nobel Peace Prize. I also thought I could learn a lot from a society that believes in peace and peaceful resolutions.

    Before leaving I did write to all the departments on the FOIA list just to have as a record that I am a good girl, and also I was curious (I read Naomi Wolf’s books and saw her youtube interviews and they scared the living bagebies out of me). All wrote back stating they did not have any records, the only ones that did not give a straight answer, NSA/ Homeland Security/ TSA/ CIA. They said it was a matter of national security and could not give out any information. Which just seem to mean, as Naomi Wolf points out, we (All Americans) are on some sort of list (watch/ fusion center). Its very sad and scary.

    Just last week they arrested people for feeding the homeless! And before that they arrest a guy for putting quarters in peoples parking meters. And with me doing good deeds, I thought it would just be a matter of time before they said I could no longer help people for free because I would be breaking the law.

    Norway is nice thou. Just need to find a job, or something, that would allow me to stay. You have my email, I look forward to hearing from YOU!

    Much LOVE and support,
    andi (Do More Good Deeds)

    p.s. I know I made a lot of information public, I don’t have anything to hide, also, if I am to go public…I might as well start with YOU! (kiss)

  16. By John on 16 June 2011

    If anyone has questions on recent expatriation with respect to statelessness, feel free to ask. I renounced in August last year and it took getting a federal court order to have the State dept turn over my CLN in April of this year. As Mike said 3 appointments and they will say it cant be done, yadda yadda, but you can push and push and harass the ACS desk officer in Washington weekly until they finally allow. I’m another proof of former American now stateless.

  17. By Ronin on 16 June 2011

    @John, just wondering but which country did you renounce in? And what difficulties have you faced afterwards?

  18. By John on 16 June 2011

    Ronin,
    I was “forced” to renounce in China, which is not a 1954 Signatory country. With that being said, it has been quite difficult as I can not work or travel freely without any passport or travel document. It took awhile for the local authorities to understand what had occurred as they never dealt with this before. Luckily being a lawyer I was able to legally explain everything clearly, and they are now drinking buddies which has made life slightly easier (have trouble, can call them to say I am okay). In a few days, I’ll take some free time from work and draft my story in more detail and ask Mike to publish.

  19. By Hans on 18 June 2011

    This is to Andi. I know many US and Canadian citizens who have left Norway due to the horrid treatment of foreigners and the near impossibility of finding work. In fact, things are VERY bad in each of the Nordic countries in this respect. As a renuncee, you may win some brownie points with Anti-US Norwegians (and there are many) and probably the Muslim community there, but among those who have the jobs to offer it won’t matter what your nationality status is right now. For them what matters is where you were born and where you grew up and went to school.

    This is just something to think about regarding your future. You also appear to idealize a country which is definitely not as ideal as you have been told. It may be easier for you to find other younger people there as friends to have a drink with and joke with, perhaps even crash at their place for a time, but when it comes to getting work, taking care of your administrative affairs, getting married, asking for help when you’re in a jam, being accepted as who you are by society, I can assure you that Norway is one of the most chilly, racist and apathetic countries you could have chosen.

    Not nice or pretty words; but the truth. So think it through and take a deep breath!

  20. By Ronin on 11 July 2011

    @John, I’d like know more about your story. Particularly, I’m curious why it was so hard for you to receive your CLN, and what the holdup was due to.
    Since my last posting, I’ve been granted a new citizenship by Jus Sanguinis, but I’m not sure I want to tell Uncle Sam about it.
    Mike, any input before my appt?

  21. By John on 12 July 2011

    Iniatlly the hold up was that I would be stateless. When I first went in and asked to renounce I was told it was not possible without another passport/citizenship. I sent numerous legal briefs to the Chief of the Mission at the Consulate and also to State Dept legal counsel providing I did have the right. Finally after 4 or 5 months the legal counsel confirmed I was correct and allowed me to do my oath at the consulate. Normally they are to issue the CLN after roughly one month. When that passed I kept inquiring as to why no issuance with many calls to ACS/OCS in Washington. The desk officer kept saying that due to my becoming stateless and my reasons, it would take higher up review and would take longer.
    I actually applied for political asylum as I had been in China for almost 9 months at that point without a passport or valid visa (it expired while they were in possession of my passport)/ Shortly after this it seems the US gov learned of this and I was told they would not issue a CLN due to this. It took my having a Fed court judge to order them to produce it before I received.
    If you claim no other nationality, then be prepared to be told you can not do it, they can not allow you to be stateless blah blah blah.

  22. By Ronin on 12 July 2011

    @John – Thank you for enlightening us all on your particular experience. I just came from my first renunciation appointment, and as you said, loathe are they to permitting a person from becoming stateless, and were quick to point out that once stateless one runs the risk of deportation back to the country of origin(sound like a veiled threat?)
    On a positive note, if one has previously obtained another nationality(slave ownership transfer?) then the process is much easier. The effective date one would cease to be US citizen would be the date oath of nationality is taken, AND would be called RESCISSION which ALSO means NO FEE would be incurred. That little tidbit came as a dandy surprise !!
    I asked several questions about the new, more complicated Questionnaire, and the answers were fairly reasonable and unsurprising.

    So, in the near future, I’ll schedule my next appointment.

  23. By John on 12 July 2011

    Hmmm, I got hit with the $450 fee. All the local Chinese gov officials laugh when they see the receipt as they can’t believe i had to pay to renounce.

    Make sure when they issue your CLN, they do not put that you never lived in the US. They did on mine (forgot to cross that portion out) and it was hell to get it changed.

  24. By Ronin on 12 July 2011

    As I mentioned, the $450 fee doesn’t apply apparently if one obtains another nationality first, but DOES apply in becoming stateless. They also were clear that becoming stateless would take much longer.
    As my priority is becoming not-US-citizen, and not stateless, it seems to be a good way to rid myself of Uncle Sam. That is of course until Uncle Sam decides to annex my other nation. Then , I may just have to acquire a boat!

  25. By Doogie Hart on 13 August 2011

    I loved it. Personally I despise nationalism, unfortunately all the pollie’s manipulate society to believe that being a citizen is paramount for said society to function properly. There are no nationalities in this world, only culture. There are those open to cultural difference and unfortunately there are those closed to foreign cultures.

  26. By John B. on 14 May 2012

    @John – I have lived in China for 6 years and am about to follow the exact same path that you took. With no passport how do you secure a visa to legally remain in the country? How do you perform banking when almost every transaction requires presenting a passport? Will China issue a travel/identity document of some type to a stateless person? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  27. By John on 14 May 2012

    @johnB John, I can discuss more via phone, skype with you, but with China not being a signatory to the stateless conventions, it is very hard to remain in China stateless. I worked with the Central Gov along with living in a small city where the officials know me well, I was able to use guanxi to get stuff taken care of for daily life along with letter from the entry exit officials stating why I have no visa. China does not recognize stateless people officially (new drafts laws are being reviewed that might, but those will be years away from implementing). While I recommend renouncing if you have the desire, I do not recommend doing it in China. The government is now on a crack down against illegal foreigners and no visa=illegal foreigner. As Mike has previously said, it is best to find a signatory country so you can at minium be given documentation. If you want to discuss further, provide a method of contact.

    J

  28. By John B. on 15 May 2012

    @John – Thanks for responding to my inquiry so promptly. Please email me at jb__china@hotmail.com (note that is two underscores) so I can send you my contact info directly.

  29. By Ryan on 13 January 2013

    Interesting discussion about the difficulty that some of you had with the local American consulate with renunciation when you would become stateless.

    I had no such difficulty. The initial interview was 3 minutes by phone. They explained some of the issues with being stateless, which as a practical matter did not apply to me. I got an appointment within one week, paid the fee, signed the oath, and the CLN was approved within 10 days. Very efficient and trouble-free.

    No one at the Consulate General made any comment in regards to being stateless. Only the vice consul expressed official statements in regards to it, during the initial interview and a follow-up email.

    I do reside in a country that has no official policy in regards to stateless persons, but they do issue a Certificate of Identity travel document when someone cannot obtain a passport. Although I have still yet to obtain one and actually confirm that it is obtainable by a stateless person. All indications are that it is to a legal resident who cannot obtain a passport.

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