What is the difference between a migrant and an immigrant?

The terms migrant and immigrant are often used interchangeably in the media and public discourse, but they have different meanings and implications.

Both refer to people who leave their home country and move to another country, but the reasons, duration, and legal status of their movement vary.

What is the difference between a migrant and an immigrant?
What is the difference between a migrant and an immigrant? | photo courtesy | Getty Image


In this article, we will explore the differences between migrants and immigrants, and why they matter.


A migrant is a person who moves from one place to another, either within the same country (internal migration) or across international borders (international migration).

The main reason for migration is usually to seek better opportunities for employment, education, or quality of life.

Migrants may also move to escape conflict, violence, persecution, or natural disasters.

Migrants can be classified into different categories, such as seasonal workers, students, refugees, asylum seekers, or internally displaced persons.

A migrant is not necessarily an immigrant, because their movement is temporary and they may return to their home country at any time.

Migrants do not have permanent residency rights in the host country, and they may face legal restrictions on their work, education, health care, or social benefits.

Migrants may also face discrimination, exploitation, or abuse from the host society or authorities.


An immigrant is a person who moves from their home country to another country with the intention of settling there permanently.

Immigrants usually have a legal status that grants them permission to live and work in the host country without any restrictions. Immigrants may apply for visas, green cards, citizenship, or other forms of legal residency.

Immigrants may have various reasons for wanting to resettle in a new country, such as economic prosperity, family reunification, political freedom, cultural diversity, or personal fulfillment.

An immigrant always starts as a migrant, but not every migrant becomes an immigrant.

To become an immigrant, a migrant has to go through a process of applying for and obtaining legal residency in the host country.

This process may be lengthy, costly, complex, or risky depending on the immigration policies and procedures of the host country.

Immigrants may also face challenges in adapting to a new culture, language, or society.


Migrant and immigrant are two distinct terms that describe different types of people who move from one country to another.

Migrants move temporarily for various reasons and do not have permanent residency rights in the host country.

Immigrants move permanently with the intention of settling in the host country and obtaining legal residency rights.

Understanding these differences helps us to respect the humanity and dignity of every person who leaves their home in search of a better life.

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