When to Use Emigrate or Immigrate

Instructor: Charles Kinney, Jr.
There has been a lot of news about people emigrating and immigrating, but these words can be confusing to use. In this lesson, we will look at the correct usage of both words and examine different word forms of both emigrate and immigrate.

In The News

There has been a lot of talk in the news about immigration and emigration. People coming in boats, leaving a war, coming for work, leaving for a better life. But wait, who's going where, or are they coming? What is the difference between 'emigrate' and 'immigrate'?

The basic difference between emigrate and immigrate is the same as go and come. It depends how you look at the meaning of the sentence using the term. Let's look at the words a little deeper.


Emigrate is a verb, which is an action word. 'Emigrate' means to leave one's country to go and live in another. You use this word when someone is departing their country.

  • Joe has decided to emigrate from the United States to Canada. (Joe will leave the United States and go to live in Canada)
  • It is difficult to emigrate and leave your family behind. (It's difficult to move to another country)
  • Many people emigrate to find a better life. (Many people leave their country and move to another one)

A person leaving a country (but not a tourist) is emigrating to another country.


Immigrate is also a verb. 'Immigrate' means to come into another country to live. You use this words when someone is arriving to live in a new country.

  • You must have the proper papers when you immigrate to a country. (when you come into a country)
  • The community center will have a meeting to welcome people who immigrated to our city. (people who came into the country and now live in a new city)
  • When people immigrate to the USA, New York City has traditionally been a center. (when people move to and arrive in the USA)

A person arriving in a country (also not a tourist) is immigrating to that country.

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