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Emigration, Immigration and Migration: What are the differences?

If you consider moving to another country or even another region, you will definitely come across such terms as “migration”, “emigration” and “immigration”. However, articles rarely explain the difference between these terms and sometimes even mix them. To understand what these terms mean, read this article.


Migration is a general term that involves any moving process from one location to another that is applicable to humans and animals.

From biology classes at school, we know about animal migration. Birds flying south for the winter is a clear example of a seasonal migration. Animals migrate within one country and across borders. National borders are obviously of no importance for them.

Human migration is a narrower term that involves the movement of people from one place to another under various circumstances. Human migration can be of the following types:

  • external or internal;
  • voluntary or forced;
  • temporary or permanent;
  • legal or illegal;
  • immigration or emigration;
  • depending on the cause: political, military, social, economic and even

We will describe each type separately providing examples from history and from the everyday practice of our advisers.

External and internal migration

When people move within one country, migration is called internal. Urbanisation is one of the examples: massive industrialisation makes millions of people move from the countryside into the cities in search of a better life as labour force is always in demand there.

When people move from one country to another, migration is external. The reasons for external migration can be various: work in another country or desire to find a better place for living (for example, migration from developing countries to Europe).

External migration can be intercontinental (like a ballistic missile) and continental. The majority of refugees from Somalia to Europe stay in Sweden. This is an obvious example of an intercontinental migration. Citizens of Yugoslavia who left the country in the 1990s because of the civil war were continental migrants.

Что такое коридоры миграции?

Migration corridor: what does it mean?

Migration corridors are routes followed by people while moving from one country to another. To date, the largest migration corridor is from Mexico to the USA. Mexicans flee to the USA for a better life as the economic situation in their home country is difficult and there are constant skirmishes with drug traders. In 2010, these confrontations resulted in 15,273 deaths. This number is comparable to casualties during some current regional wars.

In the chart below, you can see 12 most popular migration corridors, according to the UN assessments. It also reflects the dynamic of migration flows in 17 years.

Migration corridorMigrants (millions)Increase (millions)
2000 2017
Mexico – USA9.412.73.3
India – UAE0.93.32.4
Ukraine – Russia3.53.3– 0.2
Russia – Ukraine3.73.3– 0.4
Syria – Turkey03.33.3
Bangladesh – India3.93.1– 0.8
Kazakhstan – Russia2.62.60
China – USA1.32.41.1
Russia – Kazakhstan2.02.40.4
Afghanistan – Iran2.12.30.2
India – USA1.02.31.3
USA – Saudi Arabia1.02.31.3

Voluntary and forced migration

Voluntary migration is migration that a person undertakes willingly, not due to external circumstances and without critical pressure coming from a state or a third party. For example, a person may decide to migrate to earn more money or to live closer to their relatives.

Forced migration, as its name suggests, is not undertaken of one’s free will. There are always some dangerous circumstances for a migrant or for their family that induce migration: war, civil unrest, economic collapse, political repressions, epidemic or natural disasters.

Permanent and temporary migration

Permanent migration occurs when a person willingly decides to live in another country or another region of the country and moves to another place for good.

Temporary migration involves changing location only for a certain period of time. Then, a migrant returns home or moves to another place where they stay permanently. Here are some examples of a temporary migration:

  • international exchange of students or pupils;
  • seasonal farm work in Western Europe;
  • labour migration from Central Asia to Russia;
  • migration from the country where there are violent interethnic or religious wars.

Immigration and emigration

Legal migration means legally moving to another country, for example, through residence. Legal migration implies that the receiving country accepts a migrant as a future resident and confirms their application. Applicants should show their complete loyalty to their new home country and sometimes have to wait or to make an investment to get permanent residence or citizenship.

Imperial & Legal has a rich experience in organising legal migration to the UK and EU countries. Our advisers also act as agents of investment programmes for Caribbean countries. A Caribbean passport is your ticket to more than 143 countries where you don`t need a visa!

Illegal migration is moving to another country without any legal permission. Such migrants violate the law because they cross borders and live in another country illegally. In developed countries, there is a dual attitude towards illegal migrants. On the one hand, if found, illegal migrants are usually deported to their home lands and are prohibited to enter the country again for a long time. On the other hand, in some European countries illegal migrants who spend more than 10-12 years in the country may obtain a permanent residence or even citizenship.

Immigration and emigration

Emigration is leaving one country for another one on a voluntary basis for economic, political, personal or other reasons. If people are forced to migrate, it is called deportation.

Immigration means entering another country for a permanent or temporary residence or for some other reasons.

So, if you leave your country, you will be an emigrant for your fellow citizens. The second wave of Russian emigration after the October Revolution is one of the examples.

For the receiving country you will be an immigrant. For example, economic immigration of foreign investors to theRepublic of Malta.

The difference between two terms originates in their etymology. Emigration is derived from the Latin word “emigro” that means “move out”, while immigration is derived from the Latin word with the opposite meaning “immigro” that means “move in”.

According to the UN assessments, the USA had accepted more immigrants than any other country by 2017. About 49.8 million people relocated to the USA in pursuit of an American dream.

Immigration in 2017 (millions)Emigration in 2017 (millions)
Saudi Arabia12.2Russia10.6
South Africa4.0Kazakhstan4.1

Как иммигрировать в Европу?

Emigration and immigration causes

The most common causes of emigration are economic when people search for a better living environment where their children will have more opportunities. Political processes, like repressions or civil wars, can also sometimes lead to emigration.

Migration flows are usually directed towards the most developed countries and regions of the country. Native citizens and immigrants often have common history. It is true for the UK immigrants who mainly come from the former colonial territories.

It is important to underline that historic and economic ties are not obligatory for migration. You may have nothing to do with the country you want to move to. For example, if you have sufficient financial resources, you can benefit from one of the investment programmes that offer residence by investment or citizenship by investment. Or you can relocate to a country with a spouse visa, if you are a partner or spouse of its citizen.

Immigration to Europe: how to do it?

To stay in any EU country legally, you have to obtain a long-term visa or residence.

The easiest and, at the same time, the most expensive way to obtain residence is to take part in one of numerous investment programmes. Immigration authorities pose much less requirements on investors while a residence card will open for an immigrant plenty of opportunities for leisure activities, education, work and business in the EU. Later, if all the requirements are met, you will be able to apply for permanent residence, get a European passport and become an EU citizen.

Immigration is possible when you have close relatives in the receiving country or when you immigrate only for the purpose of study, work or business.

If you want to immigrate only to obtain the document that will allow you to travel across the world and stay in any country for up to 180 days, Caribbean passport programme is just for you. A Caribbean passport guarantees visa-free entry to the Schengen zone, the UK and 100 other jurisdictions across the world. To get a passport, you don`t have to become an emigrant: most Caribbean countries that implement passport programmes allow investors get passports without leaving their home country.

If you choose a migration destination among the EU countries, our article on this topic will provide you with more information about temporary residence by investment in these countries, their peculiarities and advantages.

Emigration and immigration: pros and cons?

Unfortunately, migration is not always caused by the desire to improve living conditions. Wars, uncontrolled natural disasters and economic crisis still exist in our world. Fortunately, the ability to choose a place for living and work turns into a basic need of a modern person. So, the typical “citizens of the world” approach is not condemned now.

For many years, Imperial & Legal has been helping people to find their new home in Europe and the UK. Qualified assistance will allow you and your family to move to any country you like without hassle.

FAQ about migration, emigration and immigration

What countries offer residence by investment?

Swiss cantons first started to implement investment programmes as we know them now. In the 19th century, they already offered foreigners residence in exchange for lump-sum taxation. Now, investors can obtain residence by investment in the following countries:

In the last three countries, generous investors may immediately apply for citizenship by investment.

Are Caribbean passport programmes used only for visa-free travel or for immigration as well?

In most cases a Caribbean passport is obtained to live and travel in Europe, the UK and developed Southeast Asian countries. Sometimes investment programmes in these small island countries serve as the first step to the UK citizenship.

However, if you have to go to the islands to run from problems or to use a beneficial tax regime, local government will not interfere as foreign investors do not differ from any other citizens.

Almost all Caribbean countries with which Imperial & Legal cooperates on passport programmes offer safe and comfortable living conditions. Investments partially go to the development of tourism and social projects, so every year the living standards improve.

Ruralisation: what does it mean?

Ruralisation is the process opposite to urbanisation when people move to the countryside. This trend is witnessed in the most developed countries that shift their production to developing countries. The causes of ruralisation include economic difficulties, low quality of life in megapolises, for example, due to degradation of urban environment: poor planning, traffic jams, lack of public transport, worsening sanitation and poor ecology.

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