Difference between Immigration, Emigration, and Migration

May 14, 2016 by Editorial Team

When planning on moving to another place or country, what’s the correct term to use? Are you immigrating, emigrating, or simply migrating? While the terms may all sound similar, it all depends on how you use them.

Definitions

Immigration

Post-war Immigration to Australia

Immigration is a form of migration in which people move into a destination country that they are not natives of, or do not possess citizenship of, to settle in said country. It usually is a permanent relocation of residency, and is applicable only to people.

Example: I am an immigrant in Spain.

Emigration

Emigration
Swedish Emigration to the United States

Emigration is a form of migration in which people leave their own resident country with the intent to settle elsewhere. It is somewhat in the same context as immigration, but the act is the opposite. As with immigration, it usually refers to a permanent relocation of residency and is applicable only to people.

Example: I emigrated from France to Spain.

Migration

In terms of human migration, it is the movement by people from one place to another with the intent of settling temporarily or permanently in that new location. It occurs over long distances, generally from one country to another, although, internal migration is also possible. In this case, moving from one place to another is just within a geopolitical entity. This form of migration often occurs due to political or economic reasons.

In terms of animal migration, it usually occurs on a seasonal basis. Animal groups that migrate include birds, mammals, fish, amphibians, insects, crustaceans, and reptiles. This migration is usually triggered by climate change, mating seasons, or search for food.

Example: There was a migration of Muslims from the Middle East to various parts of the world.

Comparison

They may pertain to the same act, moving from one place to another, but their usage depends on the sentence’s point of view.

There’s a tip you can remember to differentiate them. When using the term immigration, think of the word ‘enter’. This relates to its definition as moving or ‘entering’ a new country or place from your previous location. When using the term emigration, think of the word ‘exit’, as it relates to exiting your previous location. Migration on the other hand, it’s all about the ‘move’. While migration often is a permanent relocation, temporary migration is also possible.

Example: Many farmers migrate north for cropping season.

To summarize, if you want to use a term that marks the point of departure, use emigration. If you want to use a term that that marks the point of arrival, use immigration. Lastly, use migration if you’re pertaining to the actual process of moving.

Comparison Chart

ImmigrationEmigrationMigration
Moving into a new locationMoving out from current locationMoving from one place to another
‘Enter’‘Exit’‘Move’
Applies only to peopleApplies only to peopleApplies to people and animals
Often permanentOften permanentTemporary or permanent

Video

Watch this simple, yet educational video about the terms immigrate, emigrate, and migrate.