Emigrate vs. immigrate?

The verbs emigrate and immigrate have opposite meanings. To emigrate is to leave one’s country permanently. To immigrate is to arrive in a foreign country for citizenship.

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What is the difference between emigrate vs. immigrate?

The words emigrate and immigrate are easy to confuse because they’re related to the word migrate. But what many English speakers overlook is that emigrate and immigrate have opposite definitions. 

The act of emigrating (to emigrate) involves leaving a home country with the intention of staying away. Immigrating (to immigrate) is the act of entering a foreign country to acquire citizenship or residency. 

For instance, a person may emigrate from the United Kingdom before immigrating to France. The key difference between using immigrate and emigrate lies with “to” and “from.” People emigrate from their homelands in the hopes of immigrating to a new country. 

The verbs immigrate and emigrate are similar to the word migrate, which is an umbrella term for moving around. But unlike immigrate and emigrate, the verb migrate doesn’t imply a permanent move to a different country.  

Another way to interpret the word migrate is to recall how birds travel between seasons. In the fall, many birds fly from the northern hemisphere to the equator for warmer climates. But when spring arrives, birds travel back north to mate. The process of moving between homes is called migration

In summary, if someone migrates, they’re staying at a temporary, new home or traveling abroad. An immigrant’s country of origin is where they’ve emigrated from and their new permanent country is where they’ve immigrated to. 

What does emigrate mean?

The verb emigrate (also written as emigrated or emigrating) is the act of leaving a native country or region to reside elsewhere. The word emigrate stresses the act of leaving a homeland rather than arriving in a different country for residency. 

For example,

“Our family will emigrate from a different province.”
“Kayla emigrated from the United States to Mexico.”
“They are emigrating to an isolated region.”


Depart, migrate, move, relocate, resettle, vacate. 


Arrive, immigrate, remain, settle, stay, show up.

Etymology of emigrate

The word emigrate entered the English Language in 1766. However, the word stems from Latin emigratus, which included the past participle of emigrare (to migrate). 

What does immigrate mean?

The word immigrate (also used as immigrated or immigrating) is a verb that describes the act of entering a foreign country to reside. For example,

“He wants to immigrate to Southern France.”
“He’s immigrating to Argentina.”
“Our family immigrated to the U.S. after WW2.”


Abide, arrive, dwell, come, remain, settle, show up, stay.


Abandon, bail, emigrate, exit.

Etymology of immigrate

English speakers began using the word immigrate around 1623. The verb originated with the Latin word immigratus, the past participle of the verb immigrare for in- (into) + migrare (migrate). 

How to conjugate immigrate and emigrate?

Outside of sharing similar meanings, the words emigrate and immigrate have comparable verb forms for the present, past, and future tenses. 

For example, immigrating and emigrating are present participles, while immigrated and emigrated represent past participles. For the future tense, we use the infinitive ‘to immigrate’ or ‘to emigrate’). 

Here’s a quick breakdown on how to conjugate immigrate vs. emigrate for the English Language: 

Present: immigrate(s) vs. emigrate(s)
Simple past: immigrated vs. emigrated
Present continuous: (am/is/are) + immigrating vs. emigrating
Present perfect: (have/has) + immigrated vs. emigrated
Future: (will) + immigrate vs. emigrate
Future perfect: (will have) + immigrated vs. emigrated
Past continuous: (was/were) + immigrating vs. emigrating
Past perfect: (had) + immigrated vs. emigrated
Future continuous: (will be) + immigrating vs. emigrating
Present perfect continuous: (have been) + immigrating vs. emigrating
Past perfect continuous: (had been) + immigrating vs. emigrating
Future perfect continuous: (will have been) + immigrating vs. emigrating

How to use immigrate in a sentence?

To use the verb immigrate in a sentence correctly, it’s important to double-check the sentence context. From the subject’s point of view, are they arriving in a foreign country for citizenship? If so, then “immigrate” is the correct verb. For example, 

“My grandmother immigrated to the United States from France.” 
“Many people are immigrating to Canada from around the world.” 
“She plans to immigrate to Spain.” 

News examples containing the verb immigrate:

“The order will affect thousands of people seeking to immigrate to the United States …” –– The New York Times
“People also immigrate for professional purposes …” –– Deutsche Well
“It cost more than $2,500 for my husband to immigrate to the United States.” –– Business Insider

How to use emigrate in a sentence?

As with “immigrate,” it’s important to double-check sentences to ensure the proper use of the verb emigrate. From the subject’s point of view, are they leaving their homeland for a permanent residence abroad? If so, use the verb “emigrate.” For example, 

“My grandmother emigrated from France to live in the U.S.” 
“Citizens of the U.S. often emigrate to Canada illegally.” 
“Neighbors are emigrating en mass.” 

News examples containing the verb emigrate:

“‘Thousands of people are asking to come to Israel for medical assistance or to emigrate…’” –– The Jerusalem Post
“Talented Ethiopian students are often forced to emigrate because of a lack of local opportunities…” –– Nature
“… others who lived through similar chaos will still try harder to emigrate.” –– Politico

How to remember the difference between emigrate vs. immigrate?

One trick for remembering emigrate from immigrate is to associate the word’s first letter with its meaning. For the word “immigrate,” let the letter “i” stand for “in.” For the word “emigrate,” allow the letter “e” to stand for “exit.” As a bonus, try associating the letter “m” of “migrant” with “move around.” 

Emigrate = E = exit (to permanently leave homeland)

Immigrate = I = in (to arrive in foreign country permanently) 

Migrate = M = move around (to move around between different countries)

Test Yourself!

Ready to show off your English skills? See how well you understand the difference between emigrate vs. immigrate with the following multiple-choice questions. 

  1. Your family member is _______________ from home if they are permanently leaving to live in a different country.
    a. Immigrating
    b. Emigrating
    c. Migrating
    d. A and B
  2. If you’re applying for citizenship in a different country, you are __________ to a foreign land. 
    a. Immigrating
    b. Emigrating
    c. Migrating
    d. A and B
  3. True or false: emigrate and immigrate have the same meaning as migrate. 
    a. True
    b. False
  4. A whale that lives in Alaska for the summer and Hawaii for the winter is said to ____________.
    a. Immigrate
    b. Emigrate
    c. Migrate
    d. None of the above
  5. If you’re seeking asylum, that means you’re seeking temporary or permanent residence in a foreign country to escape inhumane conditions back home. Therefore, asylum-seeking is a form of ________.
    a. Immigration
    b. Emigration
    c. Migration
    d. A and C


  1. B
  2. A
  3. B
  4. C
  5. D


  1. Burch, K. “It cost more than $2,500 for my husband to immigrate to the United States. Here’s every dollar we spent.” Business Insider, 20 Nov 2019. 
  2. Castelvecchi, D. “How coronavirus dashed Ethiopia’s dream of hosting Africa’s first major AI conference.” Nature, 21 May 2020. 
  3. Emigrate.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2020.
  4. Emigrate.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., 2020.
  5. Emigrate.” Reverso Conjugation, Reverso-Softissimo, 2020.
  6. Germany: Migration experts propose cash-for-visas for Africans.” Deutsche Well, 28 Apr 2020. 
  7. Harkov, L. “Thousands of Iranians ask Israel for asylum, help.” The Jerusalem Post, 20 May 2020. 
  8. Immigrate.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2020.
  9. Immigrate.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., 2020.
  10. Immigrate.” Reverso Conjugation, Reverso-Softissimo, 2020.
  11. Kanno-Youngs, Z. “Executive Order Halting New Green Cards Includes Exceptions.” The New York Times, 22 Apr 2020. 
  12. Khanna, P., Prasad, K.K. “How Coronavirus Could Make People Move.” Politico Magazine, 13 May 2020. 
  13. Migrate.” Collins Online English Dictionary, 2020.