Find information and resources for research and interdisciplinary studies on immigration. Immigration is the act of international movement of people to a country of which they are not native with the hope to live permanently and pursue citizenship. The process of pursuing citizenship, or legal resident status, is known as naturalization.
Often used interchangeably, the term immigrant is used in reference to the country moved to, and emigrant is used in reference to the country moved from. People are emigrants when they leave their country of origin, and immigrants when they arrive at their destination.
While many people make the choice to immigrate, there are various reasons for people to leave the places where they were born and cross international borders. Refugees, sometimes referred to as migrants, are people forced to leave their country because of ethnic, religious, or racial persecution; to escape war or violence; or to flee a natural disaster. People who leave their home countries to escape political persecution are known as asylum seekers. Increasingly, members of the global LGBTQ+ community seek asylum to escape discrimination or violence based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. These situations are known as push factors.
Push factors are the reasons people are forced to flee their homelands, and pull factors are the reasons people seek to become citizens in a new country. Climate change is increasingly pushing people to immigrate. War is a major push factor. For example, millions of people fled their home countries during World War II as well as later wars in Afghanistan, Sudan, and Vietnam. The European Migrant Crisis, one of the largest immigration events in modern times, was due in large part to the 2011 Syrian Civil War. Travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic also complicated the lives of people seeking to immigrate.
Countries have varying immigration policies. In the United States, a nonimmigrant visa, such as an H1-B visa, is a temporary document that allows people to live and work in the country for a specific purpose, and without the intent of becoming a permanent resident. An immigrant visa, also called a green card, allows a person to live and work in the United States permanently, often on the path to citizenship. Some immigrants are undocumented, meaning they have entered the country without obtaining official paperwork, or have allowed a temporary visa to expire.
Supporters of immigration maintain that it has its benefits. While some immigrants may regularly send money, known as remittances, back to family in their home countries, they also contribute to the economy in their new country. Immigrants positively impact a country’s gross domestic product (GDP) as they pay for housing, shop, study, raise families, and work. For countries with aging populations, younger immigrants can replace an aging workforce, support and sustain community growth, contribute to industries, and share their diverse cultures and ideas. Opponents of immigration cite drawbacks such as the increased competition for jobs, and stress on services such as schools, hospitals, housing, and the environment. While immigrants face challenges and are vulnerable to discrimination in the countries where they settle, many citizens welcome immigrants and see the benefits these newcomers bring.