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Migration vs. Immigration: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on November 29, 2023
Migration refers to the movement of people or animals from one place to another, while Immigration specifically denotes entering a new country to reside.

Key Differences

Migration and Immigration, although closely related, distinguish themselves in their application and scope. Migration is a broad term, capturing the general movement of individuals or groups from one locality to another. This can be within a country or across international borders. Immigration, on the other hand, is a subset of migration and specifically refers to the act of moving into a new country with the intent of living there.
Migration can be influenced by a variety of factors, including environmental changes, economic opportunities, or personal choices. Animals engage in seasonal Migration to access resources or for reproductive purposes. Humans might migrate due to changing job opportunities or to be closer to family. Immigration, however, generally implies a more permanent move and is usually driven by the pursuit of better economic prospects, political asylum, or family reunification.
Migration doesn't necessarily imply a permanent move. For instance, a person might migrate temporarily for education or short-term job assignments. Immigration typically indicates a more lasting or permanent relocation, often accompanied by legal formalities to establish residency or citizenship in the new country.
The terms also differ in their legal and administrative implications. Migration, being a broader term, may not always involve legal processes unless it's cross-border. Immigration usually requires a legal procedure, involving visas, permits, or gaining citizenship, depending on the laws and regulations of the destination country.

Comparison Chart


Movement from one place to another
Moving into a country to live


Can be temporary or permanent
Typically more permanent


Broad, includes internal and cross-border moves
Specific to entering a new country

Legal Implications

Varies, not always present
Often involves legal processes like visas or permits


Seasonal bird Migration, urban-rural shifts
Immigrating to the U.S. for work or as a refugee

Migration and Immigration Definitions


The act of changing position or place.
The Migration of young professionals to tech hubs has been notable.


Moving to a new country for permanent residence.
Her family's Immigration to Canada was a big step.


Relocation of people within or across borders.
The Great Migration in the U.S. saw many African Americans move from the South to the North.


The act of coming to live in a foreign country.
Immigration policies in many countries have become stricter.


Seasonal movement of animals.
Birds engage in Migration to warmer regions during winter.


Establishing oneself in a country other than one's origin.
The U.S. has a long history of welcoming Immigration.


Shifting from one area to another due to various factors.
Economic opportunities have led to a significant rural to urban Migration.


The process of entering another country for better opportunities.
Immigration has contributed to the diverse culture of many metropolitan cities.


Movement from one region to another.
The annual Migration of monarch butterflies is a fascinating event.


The action or process of immigrating.


The act or an instance of migrating.


The place where authorities check the documents of people entering a country.


A group migrating together.


The act of immigrating; the passing or coming into a country of which one is not native born for the purpose of permanent residence.


The movement of one atom or more from one position to another within a molecule.


The process of going through immigration checks at a border checkpoint.
It took ages to get through immigration last time.


The movement of ions between electrodes during electrolysis.


The act of immigrating; the passing or coming into a country for the purpose of permanent residence.
The immigrations of the Arabians into Europe.


An instance of moving to live in another place for a while.


Migration into a place (especially migration to a country of which you are not a native in order to settle there)


Seasonal moving of animals, as mammals, birds or fish, especially between breeding and non-breeding areas.


The body of immigrants arriving during a specified interval;
The increased immigration strengthened the colony


Movement in general.
The migration of lead from a can to the food inside it can cause lead poisoning.


Legal entry and establishment in a new nation.
The debate on Immigration reform has been ongoing for years.


(computing) Instance of changing a platform from an environment to another one.


(biochemistry) The movement of cells in particular directions to specific locations.


The act of migrating.


The movement of persons from one country or locality to another


A group of people migrating together (especially in some given time period)


(chemistry) the nonrandom movement of an atom or radical from one place to another within a molecule


The periodic passage of groups of animals (especially birds or fishes) from one region to another for feeding or breeding


How does Migration differ from Immigration?

Migration is a general movement, while Immigration is entering a new country to reside.

Is Immigration always permanent?

Not always, but it usually indicates a more lasting or permanent intention.

Can animals engage in Migration?

Yes, many animals have seasonal migrations, like birds or whales.

Does Immigration always involve legal processes?

Typically, yes. Immigration often requires visas, permits, or other legal formalities.

What drives Migration in humans?

Factors like job opportunities, family, or environmental changes can influence migration.

How do countries control Immigration?

Through policies, visas, permits, and border controls.

Can Migration be forced?

Yes, forced migrations occur due to reasons like conflicts or natural disasters.

Can Migration occur within a country?

Yes, Migration can happen within a country's borders, called internal migration.

What are the challenges of Migration?

Migrants might face cultural adjustments, economic challenges, or social integration issues.

What's an example of historical Migration?

The westward expansion in the U.S. during the 19th century.

What's the difference between an immigrant and a refugee?

Immigrants choose to move, while refugees are forced to flee due to danger.

Can Migration lead to cultural diffusion?

Yes, Migration often results in the blending and sharing of cultures.

Is a tourist considered an immigrant?

No, tourists are temporary visitors, not immigrants.

How do governments support Immigration?

Through integration programs, legal pathways, or refugee support.

How does technology influence Migration patterns?

Technology can facilitate migration through information sharing, job opportunities, or networking.

How does Immigration impact economies?

Immigrants can contribute skills, labor, and diversity, but also present integration challenges.

Can climate change influence Migration?

Yes, environmental factors can lead to Migration, termed as climate migration.

Why are Immigration policies contentious?

They touch on economic, cultural, security, and humanitarian concerns, making them complex.

Why do people choose Immigration?

For better opportunities, safety, or to join family in the new country.

Is Migration natural?

Yes, many species, including humans, have migrated for millennia for various reasons.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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