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For a character in a novel, I'm at an impass as to how someone could theoretically attain a brand new, legal, government issued identity that can be used for business, banking and so on. The specific situation that this character is in is that for all intents and purposes they have no prior history as a person, they will not be found in any government data base or on the internet. What they have going for them is a very wealthy benefactor, extensive physical trauma to the brain, and following their getting an identity this character will be comming into money due to the benefactor.

So far, I've looked at applying for asylum and outright buying citizenship in a country.

Edit: To clarify the situation and add an alternate question. This character is a stateless person, would citizenship be needed to do business, have a bank account, etc?

For the first, this would stem from her feigning amnesia, knowing her name and how to do things but little else. It is enough for a search to be made and not find anyone matching her. To assist this she would have two gunshot wounds to the head that on a CT would confirm that she suffered extensive brain damage and survived it. So her claim isn't unreasonable. There are however issues assosciated with the plot that I would have to work around.

The second option I looked at is approaching countries where citizenship could be bought, such as in the case of Malta and others. However, I believe that the conventional "buy citizenship in X country with an investment" would require prior documentation, a background check, and you wouldnt just be allowed to get creative while filling in your information. For this I am entirely uncertain if a larger "investment" into said country would be sufficient for them to overlook the character having no prior documentation.

Ultimately this is Fiction, so there can be flexability and suspension of disbelief can be stretched a bit or the details left a bit ambiguous, however, I believe being grounded in realism is important to the immersion of the story. With that said, I'm looking for options from those more well versed in legal matters than me.

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  • Which country is this person in? There are international conventions on statelessness which are incorporated into national laws to varying degrees. Aug 13, 2021 at 7:27

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The main documents* needed to overcome money laundering regulations etc when opening a bank account are a passport and/or driving licence. Both have multiple anti-counterfeit safeguards so gone are the days of creating your own, and master forgers are the remit of organised crime groups.

By far the easiest way is to get a Fraudulently Obtained Genuine Identity (FOG-ID). Your character could find someone of a similar age who has never had a passport or licence and use their details to apply for them with her own photograph - colloquially called "cukooing". This means she would have the cuckoo's name and address and, depending on her moral compass and propensity to violence, she made need to "remove" the risk that someone could find out and expose her.

Note that in , under the Identity Documents Act 2010, she may face up to 10 years' imprisonment for the unlawful possession of these documents.

Also, you could consider bribery and corruption. It's a fairly common trope that a corrupt government official can do almost anything by logging on to a computer but, to me, this stretches the realism too far as there are so many checks and balances and different people involved to be believable without the even more unbelievable conspiracy "that goes all the way to the top".

*A National Insurance / Social Security Number would be helpful but not necessary if your character isn't on planning on seeking employment or state benefits - which I assume is the case if she is going to come in to a big pile of money.

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    Corruption should do it, it is easy to understand and, unless the OP's novel is about administrative procedures, you can ignore the details, the same way you usually ignore the details of plumbing when you hire a plumber.
    – SJuan76
    Aug 12, 2021 at 11:42
  • That is one of the avenues I was originally going to take, with India being the country of choice until I started looking into the issue in greater depth. The issue that gave me pause was that the plot is in flux, but theres a good chance they will draw attention due to who they are interacting with and what happens involving them. I'm kinda expecting that it would actually be impossible to hide that they appeared out of the ether. So instead, Im looking at making it as legal as possible then found the concept of buying citizenship and then working from there.
    – PseudoSim
    Aug 15, 2021 at 11:10
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Identities are basically records of individual human beings that governments hold. There are enough countries in the world unfriendly to each other which will not cooperate not only to share/reconcile that data, but even to tell whether any particular passport issued by them is genuine.

That is exactly what in theory can be employed to "get a new legal identity" in country A: use a forged passport of country B (which is not friendly to country A and will not respond to A's authorities' requests to verify its passports, but still citizens of which can obtain a visa to A) to settle in country A and get all sorts of ID documents issued in A. Profit.

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You say that your protagonist is stateless. This means that there is no country in the world that will accept her as a citizen. If she can claim citizenship of a country but does not want to go there then she is either a refugee or an economic migrant, depending on her reasons. If she is a refugee then she can apply for asylum, although the practicalities of getting it depend on local law and politics.

Currently the largest group of stateless people are the Rohingya. It is quite plausible that one of them could have made her way to a Western country. Even before these people were ejected from their homes they had little official existence, and now they have none.

In the UK and the EU your protagonist could get a "basic bank account" as long as she is legally resident. If she is actually stateless then in the UK she can apply to stay, and use the resulting document to get a basic account, and I believe the rest of the EU has similar rules. Similar procedures follow an application for asylum.

In the US there doesn't seem to be a way for a stateless person to get paperwork like this. However undocumented migrants can still get ITINs and use those to get bank accounts. Assuming that your protagonist has no paperwork at all, getting a drivers license seems to be the most direct route to an ITIN. Oregon will issue drivers licenses to the undocumented, so if your protagonist is in the US she should travel to Oregon and learn to drive.

As a practical matter, a person in this kind of exceptional situation is likely to attract media attention, and thus become a political issue in their own right. Someone with injuries due to violence and no identity is also going to be subject to considerable police interest; they will want to know who inflicted those injuries and will seek to bring the guilty parties to justice. The intersection of the legal and media interest will probably serve to make the citizenship issue the least interesting thing in the story. The wealthy hidden benefactor is just the cherry on the cake.

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Consider joining the French Foreign Legion. After only a five year hitch they will either restore your identity when you joined or keep that and issue you a new identity as a French citizen. It seems like the hard way to do it to me.

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