Legal Word of the Day
Entry: Immigrant
Pronunciation: [ im – uh - gruhnt ]
Definition: a person who moves to another country
The term immigrant usually refers to a person who moves from his or her homeland to a new country for permanent residence. In other words, the term immigrant generally refers to international immigration (i.e. moving from one country to another country).

The term immigrant can also be subdivided into long term and short term status. For example, a long term immigrant might be someone who plans to live in the new country permanently, while a short term immigrant might be someone who only plans to stay in the new country for less than one year.

People have immigrated since the beginning of time for all kinds of reasons, such as war, religion oppression, economic opportunity, disease, to reunite with family, adventure, etc. According to the International Organization for Migration there are more than 200 million immigrants in the world today.

In the United States, according the U.S. Department of State, in general, to be eligible to apply for an immigrant visa, a foreign citizen must be sponsored by a U.S. citizen, a U.S. lawful permanent resident, or by a prospective employer, and receive an approved petition to immigrate.

Finally, the term immigrant is different than the term emigrant – which are commonly misused terms. In general, the distinction can be reduced to the prepositions to and from. An emigrant emigrates to a place. In contrast, an immigrant immigrates from a place. And technically, a person can be both an immigrant and emigrant – it simply depends on how you use the terms. Let’s take a look at a brief example.

Assume Sanna, a German, decides to move to the United States permanently. Once Sanna leaves her homeland of Germany and enters the United States, she is referred to as an emigrant by Germans and an immigrant by Americans. Why? Because Sanna moved from Germany and to the United States. So, to Germans she is an emigrant, and to Americans she is an immigrant.

To phrase this another way, all individuals that go out of their homeland are considered emigrants by their homeland. In contrast, all foreigners that move to another country are referred to as immigrants by the new country.
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