Ukraine is party to almost all relevant international and regional instruments, including three of the core statelessness conventions. However, there are gaps in protection as well as efforts to prevent and reduce statelessness. Data on the stateless population is limited by discrepancies, overlapping categories, and the ongoing territorial dispute. Ukrainian law does provide for a stateless status with a right to residence, work, social security, housing, education, and healthcare; but, the Ukrainian definition of a stateless person is narrower than the 1954 Convention, and there is as yet no dedicated procedure to identify and determine statelessness, although a Bill was introduced before parliament in 2018 and 2019. Administrative procedures are weak and legislation inconsistent, making it difficult for people to claim stateless status and documentation.

The legal framework on detention is also weak with limited protection against arbitrary detention, although alternatives to detention and periodic reviews were introduced in 2016. People released from detention have some protection from re-detention as well as a route to legal residence. Legal safeguards are in place to prevent statelessness in the case of foundlings, adopted children, and those born to Ukrainian nationals abroad, but there is a legal residence requirement for children born stateless in the country to acquire nationality. This gap, along with barriers to birth registration, which was the subject of a second-cycle Universal Periodic Review recommendation, hinders efforts to reduce the large in-situ stateless population in Ukraine, disproportionately made up of ethnic minorities, including Roma.

Last updated: 
Mar 2020
Next scheduled update: 
Mar 2021
Country expert(s): 

Additional resources






International and Regional Instruments

Assesses whether countries are state party to the relevant international and regional instruments, including whether reservations have an impact on statelessness, and whether instruments are incorporated into domestic law. The four core statelessness treaties (1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons; 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness; European Convention on Nationality; Council of Europe Convention on the Avoidance of Statelessness in Relation to State Succession) carry more weight than other relevant human rights instruments in the assessment.

Ukraine has a good record on accession to relevant international and regional treaties. It is state party to the 1954 and 1961 Conventions, as well as the European Convention on Nationality; but, it is not party to the European Convention on the Avoidance of Statelessness in Relation to State Succession. Ukraine is party to all other relevant human rights instruments - except for the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers - with no reservations.

  • Ukraine is state party to the 1954 Convention with no reservations and the Convention has direct effect.
  • Ukraine is state party to the 1961 Convention with no reservations and the Convention has direct effect.
  • Ukraine is state party to the European Convention on Nationality with reservations (no significant impact on statelessness) and has signed but not acceded to the Convention on the Avoidance of Statelessness in Relation to State Succession.
  • Ukraine is state party to all other relevant international and regional treaties, except for the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers, with no reservations.

Statelessness Population Data

Examines the availability and sources of disaggregated population data on statelessness. Provides recent figures and assesses reliability of measures countries have in place to count stateless persons, including in the census, population registries and migration databases. Notes whether statelessness has been mapped in the country and whether there are effective measures in place to count stateless people in detention.

Data on the stateless population in Ukraine is limited and contested. There is a ‘stateless’ category in the census, but there are also other potentially overlapping categories and the data is now outdated as the last census was carried out in 2001. UNHCR, NGOs and the Ukrainian Ombudsperson report different figures and no data is available for the territory not controlled by the Ukrainian Government. Detention data is not published, though the authorities do collect some information on the nationalities of detainees, including stateless detainees. A study on statelessness in Ukraine was published in 2014 by UNHCR and a national NGO.

  • Ukraine has a 'stateless' category in its census and the data is disaggregated, but there are also potentially overlapping categories such as ‘persons who did not identify their nationality'. The census was last carried out in 2001, so the data is now outdated. 82,550 people identified themselves as ‘stateless’ and 40,464 ‘did not identify their nationality’ in the 2001 census. It was proposed in 2019 that the next census include a ‘stateless’ category.
  • Other sources of data or information about statelessness include UNHCR, NGOs and the Ombudsperson of Ukraine on Human Rights, but NGOs have raised concerns about the lack of reliable data on statelessness in Ukraine. The Ombudsperson reported in 2017 that the State Migration Service of Ukraine recorded 6,500 people officially registered as stateless in Ukraine. UNHCR estimated the stateless population in Ukraine to be 35, 650people in 2018, based on data from government sources, UNHCR field offices and NGOs.
  • Other government statistics are not disaggregated and do not distinguish stateless people from other non-nationals.
  • A study of statelessness in Ukraine was published by UNHCR and national NGO, HIAS, in 2014.
  • There is no available data on stateless refugees and asylum seekers in Ukraine. The availability of data is limited by the political situation, with no data available for the territory not currently controlled by the Ukrainian Government.
  • Ukraine does not publish data on stateless people in detention though it does collect some information about detainees and their nationalities, which includes some individuals recorded as ‘stateless’ and nationalities where there may be populations at risk of statelessness.
  • Some data was provided to NGOs following a request made to the State Migration Service of Ukraine. In 2017, 842 ‘foreigners and stateless persons’ were held in immigration detention in Ukraine. In 2015, two court decisions relating to stateless people resulted in detention; in 2014 one court decision to detain each related to a ‘stateless person’ and a ‘Palestinian’. In October 2018, NGO The Tenth of April encountered two stateless people in the Mykolaivskyi Immigration Detention Centre during a monitoring visit.
  • The Ukrainian Government does not report on the numbers of people released from detention, but NGOs report that between 2011-15, 436 people (46%) were released from detention at the end of the maximum time limit because they could not be deported.

Statelessness Determination and Status

Identifies whether countries have a definition of a stateless person in national law that aligns with the 1954 Convention, and whether they have a dedicated statelessness determination (SDP) procedure; or, if not, whether there are other procedures or mechanisms by which statelessness can be identified and legal status determined. Countries are subdivided in four groups to enable comparison between those with an SDP in place, those with other administrative procedures, those with a status but no clear mechanism, and those without any status or mechanism. Where a procedure and status exist, these are assessed against norms and good practice, and the rights granted to recognised stateless persons are examined.

Ukrainian law provides for a stateless status, but despite a pledge made in 2011, there is as yet no clear mechanism for identifying or determining statelessness, although a Bill was laid before parliament in 2018 and 2019 to introduce a procedure. The Ukrainian definition of a stateless person is narrower than the 1954 Convention, and administrative procedures are weak, making it difficult for people to claim stateless status in practice. Those who do manage to clarify their legal status are granted residence rights, the right to work, education, social security, housing and healthcare, but there are limitations to rights. Those who remain undocumented, have the right only to primary education and emergency healthcare. Stateless people face barriers to acquiring a nationality through naturalisation in Ukraine.

  • There is a definition of a 'stateless person' in Ukrainian law that is similar to the 1954 Convention, but it defines a ‘stateless person’ as someone not considered a national of any state ‘in accordance with its laws’ rather than ‘under the operation of its law’, which is narrower than the 1954 Convention definition.
  • Ukrainian law provides for a stateless status, but it does not prescribe any significant differences in the legal status of ‘foreigners’ and ‘stateless people’ with legal residence.
  • There is as yet no statelessness determination procedure nor any other mechanism established in law for identifying and determining statelessness, despite a pledge the Government made at a High-Level UN event in 2011 to introduce one. A Bill introducing a statelessness determination procedure was laid before parliament in 2018 and 2019.
  • Ukraine has a dedicated stateless status but no formal mechanism to identify or determine this as yet. Administrative procedures are weak, and legislation is inconsistent, making it difficult for people to claim stateless status and documentation. The Law on the Legal Status of Foreigners and Stateless Persons sets out the basic legal status of a stateless person, but the Constitution and other legislation allows for restrictions of rights of stateless people.
  • If a stateless person has their legal status clarified, and is granted residence rights and documentation, they have the right to work (but need a work permit); to social security (but this depends on insurance); to housing (but limited property rights); to education (but there are barriers to higher education); and to healthcare.
  • Stateless people who are undocumented and do not have legal grounds for residence and documentation do not have the right to work or social security; and they have the right to primary education and emergency healthcare only.
  • Stateless people may apply to naturalise after five years of legal residence, but eligibility requirements are the same as for other applicants. There are no exemptions or waivers for stateless people. The only difference is that they must provide a declaration of non-possession of another nationality rather than proof of renunciation of another nationality.
  • Barriers faced by stateless people seeking to acquire Ukrainian nationality through naturalisation include an obligation to provide an identity document, and proof of an income over the last six months, or savings amounting to 20 times minimum subsistence (currently at least 40,540 UAH (1,365 EUR). There is a fee of 179.74 UAH (6 EUR) for issuing an immigration permit and 8.50 UAH (0.30 EUR) for the application for naturalisation.


Analyses law, policy and practice relating to immigration detention generally, focusing in on protections in place to prevent the arbitrary detention of stateless people during removal and deportation procedures. Subthemes examine areas such as detention decision-making, whether alternatives to detention are legislated for and implemented, procedural safeguards such as time limits, judicial oversight and effective remedies, as well as protections on release and whether statelessness is considered juridically relevant in bilateral return and readmission agreements.

There are significant gaps in the legal framework on immigration detention in Ukraine. Despite reforms in 2016, the authorities are still permitted to detain people without a court order. A proposed country of removal does not need to be identified prior to detention, statelessness is not considered juridically relevant, the law does not stipulate that detention is a last resort, and the two available alternatives are rarely used. There is a maximum time limit on detention, and written information on rights is provided to detainees. There is free legal aid and some remedies for challenging detention, but there are barriers to accessing these. Some protections are provided on release and there is a route to temporary residence, but re-detention is a risk and socio-economic rights are limited.

  • A proposed country of removal does not need to be identified prior to detention for removal.
  • Statelessness is not considered a juridically relevant fact in decisions to detain and stateless people are detained in practice.
  • The law does not provide for detention to be a last resort and the two existing alternatives to detention are hardly used.
  • There is no vulnerability assessment, although refugees and people with subsidiary protection should not be detained. Nevertheless, statelessness is not considered as giving rise to vulnerability and asylum seekers can be held in detention if they submitted their claim for international protection after the detention order was imposed.
  • There are two alternatives to detention in Ukraine - bail or a surety deposit – but these are not subject to periodic review and time limits depend on the length of removal proceedings.
  • Detention is used prior to alternatives being considered and is the most widespread measure, even though the law prescribes that the decision to detain must comply with the principles of necessity, reasonableness and proportionality.
  • There is a maximum period of detention set in law of 18 months.
  • The law provides that individuals are informed of the reasons for detention in writing prior to being detained, and detainees are provided with information on their rights and duties in a language they can understand, with interpreters if needed.
  • There is no statelessness determination procedure, so detainees do not have access to a procedure to determine their statelessness.
  • There are periodic reviews of the necessity for the continuation of detention before a court. To extend detention beyond an initial six months, the detaining authority must file an administrative request at least five days before expiry of the first six months. The authority can then file for extension every three months. Detention can be extended if there is a lack of information from the country of nationality or lack of identity documents. This puts stateless people at a disadvantage in practice and results in them often being detained for the maximum of 18 months.
  • A detainee can appeal against the court judgement of first instance and to the court of cassation against the judgment of the appeal court. A detainee can also challenge the extension of their detention. However, there are obstacles such as time limits - the appeal must be lodged within ten days, which is difficult in immigration detention and due to poor access to free legal aid.
  • By law free legal aid is available to challenge detention but access is hampered by a requirement to present documentation to access it, and lack of access to detention centres (in rural areas) for lawyers. There are no clear rules governing the process of re-documentation or ascertaining nationality.
  • People released from detention are issued with a certificate of immigration detention and are entitled to apply for a temporary residence permit. However, there are barriers to exercising this right, as one of the conditions is compulsory registration of place of residence, which is difficult for released detainees. The applicant must also have been detained for the maximum period to acquire a temporary residence permit.
  • A temporary residence permit provides protection from re-detention for a year, but the grounds for extension of residence must be reconsidered after that, which can create a risk of re-detention.
  • People released from detention have limited access to socio-economic rights. Even people with a temporary residence permit are not allowed to work or study.
  • No legislative provision exists for re-detention, so there is no rule in Ukrainian legislation on whether cumulative time spent in detention counts towards the maximum time limit.
  • Ukraine has ratified 12 bilateral agreements on readmission, but statelessness is not considered a juridically relevant fact in any of the agreements. No information is available as to whether stateless people are returned under the agreements.

Prevention and Reduction

Assesses the adequacy of safeguards in nationality laws to prevent and reduce statelessness, including protections for otherwise stateless children born on the territory or to nationals abroad, foundlings and adopted children. Examines law, policy and practice on birth registration, including access to late birth registration, reduction measures taken by states to prevent statelessness among groups at high risk, and provisions regarding withdrawal of nationality.

There are legal safeguards in Ukrainian nationality law to prevent statelessness in the case of foundlings, adopted children and children born to Ukrainian nationals abroad. However, the safeguard for children born in Ukraine who would otherwise be stateless only applies if parents are legally resident in the country, leaving a real risk that children are born stateless in the country. There are also significant barriers to universal birth registration, with at least one parent being required to present proof of identify and legal residence to register a birth. Additional evidence is required for late birth registration, including a passport to register those over 16 years-old, which is impossible to acquire without a birth certificate. These barriers to birth registration were the subject of a recommendation to Ukraine under the Universal Periodic Review. They hinder efforts to reduce the large in-situ stateless population in Ukraine, which is disproportionately made up of ethnic minorities, including Roma.

  • There are provisions in law to automatically grant Ukrainian nationality to some children who would otherwise be stateless, but eligibility is dependent on the status of the parents, so there is no full safeguard against children being born stateless on the territory. In practice, children must request a certificate of affiliation of nationality from the authorities.
  • If parents are legal residents there is no requirement for the child to have legal residence to acquire nationality.
  • There are no age limits for the application in law, but in practice, it is more difficult after 18 years-old (age at which a person can apply to state authorities without a mandatory legal representative), as the authorities may question a young person’s residence in Ukraine if they do not have the required identity documentation.
  • There is a specific provision for children of parents granted international protection in Ukraine to acquire nationality.
  • Foundlings acquire nationality automatically at birth. It is necessary to register the fact of accessing nationality by applying to the authorities for this to be added to the birth certificate.
  • Ukrainian legislation refers to a 'new-born' but there is no definition of what this means in practice. Nationality cannot be withdrawn from foundlings if it would result in statelessness.
  • Although there is no explicit provision to prevent statelessness in the case of a Ukrainian child adopted by foreign nationals, there is also no provision in Ukrainian law for a child to lose their nationality, so a child adopted by foreign nationals would not lose their Ukrainian nationality.
  • There is a provision in law for a foreign child (under 18 years-old) adopted by Ukrainian parents to acquire nationality.
  • There is a provision in law for a child born abroad to at least one Ukrainian parent to acquire Ukrainian nationality automatically at birth, and there are no discriminatory provisions.
  • The law provides that children should be registered and issued with a birth certificate within a month of birth, but documents proving the identity and legal residence of at least one parent are required to complete the registration.
  • The nationality of the child is not determined or recorded upon birth registration, only the names and nationality of the parents are recorded. The child's nationality is determined later (based on parents’ passports or proof of residence) only if a certificate of affiliation to Ukrainian nationality is requested to apply for a passport.
  • There are no mandatory reporting requirements on the authorities.
  • There are credible reports (for example, from UNHCR) of ‘legal orphans’ in Ukraine, or the children of undocumented parents whose details cannot be registered on their birth certificates.  There are also problems with the registration of children born in prisons and credible reports that ethnic minorities, including Roma, are disproportionately impacted by barriers to birth registration. Ensuring universal access to birth registration for all children born in Ukraine, including ethnic minorities, was the subject of a recommendation Ukraine received and accepted under the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review.
  • Late birth registration is possible, but parents must either indicate a valid reason for missing the one-month deadline or pay a fine (17-52 UAH / 0.60-1.75 EUR). If the birth is registered more than one year after birth and before the child is 16 years-old, additional documents are required. If the registration takes place more than 16 years after birth, a passport is required, but it is almost impossible to acquire a passport without a birth certificate.
  • Children born in the non-government controlled areas (NGCA) face additional challenges in obtaining civil registration documents, as the documents issued in these areas are considered invalid by the Government of Ukraine and the procedures aimed at resolving this issue have not been implemented in practice. A judicial procedure has to be used in order to register the birth of children born in NGCA, but it is costly and often lengthy. The Ministry of Justice has estimated that only 45% of children reported to have been born in the areas of Donetsk and Luhansk and 12% in Crimea have obtained a birth certificate.
  • There are credible reports of sections of the community facing a high risk of births not being registered, including Roma communities, homeless people, children born in detention or prisons, and children born in the temporarily occupied territories.
  • In 2015, the Ukrainian Government adopted its ‘Plan on the Implementation of the National Strategy for Human Rights up to 2020’, which sets a goal to achieve universal birth registration for all children regardless of origin or social status. The Ministry of Justice runs several programmes under the plan and regularly reports on progress.
  • A draft law for the introduction of a statelessness determination procedure was tabled in Parliament in 2018 and 2019.
  • In 2019, the Cabinet of Ministers adopted the pilot program "E-baby" ("Є-малятко"), which will facilitate access to a range of different services and entitlements through a single application: birth registration; registration of child’s place of residence; access to child-related social security entitlements; registration in the Population Registry; and determination of the child’s Ukrainian nationality.
  • Ukrainian law provides for loss and deprivation of nationality on various grounds including voluntary expatriation, acquisition of nationality based on fraud, and military service rendered to another state. There is a partial safeguard against statelessness, but loss is permitted even where it results in statelessness if a person has committed fraud or submitted falsified documents in order to acquire nationality.
  • The State Migration Service of Ukraine is responsible for drafting submissions on withdrawal, the Presidential Commission on Citizenship considers submissions, and the President takes the decision. Decisions may be challenged before a court.
  • Withdrawal of nationality is applied in practice: three people were deprived of their Ukrainian nationality in 2017, and there were four cases of cancellation of nationality.

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