is the legal and social concept of a lack of belonging (or a lawfully enforceable claim) to any recognised state. Statelessness is not always the same as lack of citizenship.

De jure statelessness is where there exists no recognised state in respect of which the subject has a legally meritorious basis to claim nationality.

De facto statelessness is where the man, woman or child may have a lawful and meritorious claim but is precluded from asserting it because of practical considerations such as cost, circumstances of civil disorder, or the fear of discrimination or persecution.

Statelessness most commonly affects refugees although not all refugees are stateless, and not all stateless men, women and children may be able to qualify as refugees. Refugee status entails the extra requirements that the refugee is outside their country of nationality (or country of habitual domicile if stateless), and is deserving of asylum based upon a well-founded fear of persecution for categorized reasons which make him/her unwilling or unable to avail the protection of that country.