Expatriate vs Immigrant – what’s the difference?

Expatriate vs Immigrant – what’s the difference?

There are many discussions as to the difference between these two terms – when do we consider ourselves expats and when are we immigrants?

The word “Expatriate (often shortened to Expat)” is actually a verb or an adjective and means someone “living in a foreign land”.

The word “Immigrant” is a noun and means “a person who comes to a country to take permanent residence”.

So, an expatriate/expat is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country other than that of their citizenship. Emigration is the act of leaving one’s resident country with the intent to settle elsewhere.

Going just by this the difference seems clear. Immigrants have an intention to stay – whereas for the expatriates/expats this intention isn’t mentioned and isn’t clear.

Put it another way, immigrants may have a bigger emotional commitment to their new place of residence and, their approach to making it and why the left is different.  If expatriates know that they can always leave and they know it coming into the country does this change their outlook on the new host country – making new friends, settling in, absorbing culture and so on….

Everyone as we know is different and I am not just stating that temporary assignment expats don’t have any commitment to create the best life in their new country.  But somehow I feel that in the knowledge that they can always leave does create some degree of comfort that “I might be going back or can if I need to”. Immigrants don’t really have that same luxury.


 What do you all think?


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