Alien vs. Foreigner vs. Immigrant

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Difference between Alien, Foreigner and Immigrant

Alien, foreigner, immigrant…such terms carry with them strong connotations, and they are often construed to be positive or negative even when they mean quite the opposite. There is a great deal of confusion with regard to how these terms are used, which is why a comparison between them is warranted.

Foreigner
Immigrant

Definition

According to immigration law, an alien is a person residing in a country that is not his or her own. An immigrant on the other hand is a person who has moved to a new country for good. The term foreigner refers to pretty much the same type of person as an alien, so for purposes of this article, we may use the term interchangeably except when a clear distinction should be made between the two types.

Categories

The terms alien and foreigner are typically used in reference to people that are allowed to remain in a country that is not of his origin. This definition actually encompasses a wide spectrum of people, and it may include tourists, visiting workers, permanent residents and students with resident alien visas. Of course there are illegal aliens as well, a term that encompasses those who are present in a country not of his origin unlawfully.

An immigrant on the other hand can mean anything from a non-citizen that marries or plans to marry a citizen of the said country, a student who is there for educational reasons, a temporary or permanent business visitor, and a citizen who has since gained legal status.

Implications

The term alien generally refers to people that do not owe any allegiance to the country in which he has taken up residence. An "illegal alien" is something else entirely, and it refers to people that do not owe allegiance to the particular country as well, in addition to being there in violation of immigration laws and customs. People that fall under this category are of course considered criminals under the laws of the particular country in which he has taken up residence.

As for immigrant, the term is generally used to refer to people that have taken up residence in a particular country via legal means by going through the customary immigration process. In addition to being there legally, such people have also expressed a desire to remain in the said country for good, and have agreed to swear allegiance to the country in which he now resides. At the very least, such people agree to observe and respect the laws and the Constitution of the new country.

Similarities and Differences

Alien

  • A person residing in a country that is not his or her own
  • May include tourists, visiting workers, permanent residents and students with resident alien visas

Foreigner

  • Pretty much the same type of person as an alien
  • A person in a country that is not his or her own either permanently or temporarily

Immigrant

  • A person who has moved to a new country for good
  • A non-citizen that marries or plans to marry a citizen of the said country, a student who is there for educational reasons, a temporary or permanent business visitor, or a citizen who has since gained legal status

Alien and Foreigner and Immigrant Video

Which term do you use out of habit?
  • Alien
  • Foreigner
  • Immigrant
 
 

Discuss It: comments 1

  • Guest
  • Milldred Rattiger wrote on June 2013

Dear Mr. President. Its about, time that Legalizing Foreigner like French people to come and stay to live here and don't have to leave every 3 months to go back. Than there aloud to come again after so many weeks. Make them legal to stay and let them become citizens of the United States of America. We are suppose to be called FREEDOM OF AMERICA. WELL WHY CAN SOME COME AND STAY AND THE OTHERS CAN NOT. The UNITED STATE of America is not being FEAR to those that wants to come here and live. And they are French people that has good thinking and thought from Islands and France. LET THEM BE LEGAL PLEASE. Millie

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