Emigrate vs Immigrate – What’s the Difference?

Photo of author

Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

If you’re permanently moving to another country, does that make you an emigrant or immigrant? That’s a good question; even I get the two terms mixed up because of their similar usage.

I’ll show you the difference between emigrated vs. immigrated. Understanding their definitions will help you learn how to use the words in a sentence.

What Does Emigrate Mean?

Grammarist Article Graphic V3 33

The verb Emigrate means to leave one’s country to settle permanently in another. This verb is synonymous with move abroad, move overseas, and migrate.

This verb’s noun versions are emigrant and emigration. An emigrant is an individual who leaves their country to settle permanently in another. Meanwhile, emigration refers to the act of emigrating.


  • Luke’s father and sisters emigrated from Canada. (Luke’s father and sisters moved abroad from Canada).

What Does Immigrate Mean?

The verb Immigrate means to come to a country different from one’s native country. Other words for immigrate include migrate, moved abroad, and relocate.

This verb’s noun versions are immigrant and immigration. Immigrant is someone coming to a foreign country permanently. Meanwhile, immigration is the act of immigrating.


  • Luke’s father and sisters immigrated to New York. (Luke’s father and sisters moved abroad to New York).

Emigrate vs. Immigrate: Simple Ways to Tell Them Apart

Emigrate vs Immigrate ngram
Trend of the words emigrate and immigrate through the years.

From my examples, you can see that both emigrate and immigrate have similar synonyms. But how come they have different meanings? Personally, I think the two are almost too similar. Here are some ways to know the difference between emigrated vs. immigrated.

Emigrate Means Leaving

Someone who moves from one country to another permanently is both an emigrant and immigrant. But you should use emigrate when you are focused on the individual leaving. That means one is an emigrant when they have left the country.

People can emigrate by themselves or with other people. But when many people from a specific country emigrate at once, the correct term is mass emigration. This often happens when the country is experiencing famine, war, or an economic crisis.

Remember that emigration is different from the word evacuation. The latter means leaving an area due to an emergency.

Emigrate Usually Uses “From”

Because the focus of emigrate, emigrant, and emigration is the country which the person has left, you’ll usually find the preposition from with it. That’s because emigrate means exiting or leaving.


  • We are emigrating from Argentina. (We are leaving from Argentina).

Immigrate Means Entering

Use immigrate when you are focused on the individual’s act of entering the country. That means one is an immigrant once they have entered the new country where they’ve moved. Therefore, immigration is the act of moving to a new country.

Just like emigration, immigration can be done by one person, group, or thousands of citizens. When many foreigners enter a new country, it’s called mass immigration.

Immigrants are permitted to live in the country and work there. But an illegal immigrant is someone who enters and lives in a country without permission.

Immigrate Usually Uses “To”

The focus of immigrate, immigrant, and immigration is the country where the person is moving. That’s why you’ll find the preposition to with it instead of from.


  • We are immigrating to Argentina. (We are going to Argentina).

Emigrate in a Sentence

Here are some example sentences that use emigrate.

  • Lory wants to emigrate from Slovenia to become a teacher.
  • Tonight’s guests emigrated from Europe because of the crisis.

A group of Irish bars in Belgium is looking for staff, and it could be the perfect opportunity for someone looking to emigrate from Dublin. [Dublin Live]

Immigrate in a Sentence

Here are some examples of immigrate in a sentence.

  • His parents are immigrants to California.
  • Immigration gives the country a chance to have a stronger workforce.

The Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) is one way for skilled workers to immigrate to Canada and get permanent resident status. [CIC News]

Remember the Difference Between Emigrate vs. Immigrate

While emigrate and immigrate have similar definitions, their usage depends on the point of view of the sentence. Remember that emigrate means you’re exiting a country of origin or country of birth, while immigrate means you’re entering a non-native country, aka a destination country.

Now that you know the difference between emigrated vs. immigrated, you can add this to your writing tips. What other words do you find confusing?