Immigrate vs. Emigrate

Do you keep using “emigrate” instead of “immigrate” when you want to say you leave your native country and move into a new one? These two words are closely related and similar enough to create confusion. The easy way to remember which one is which is to think the em- word has to do with leaving, and the imm- word has to do with entering (this includes emigrant, immigrant, emigration, and immigration).

IMMIGRATE means to enter into a country

EMIGRATE means to leave one country to another

 • I immigrated to the US.

 • I emigrated from Indonesia.


Pay more attention to these examples:

• I immigrated to the US from Indonesia.

   [This focuses on arriving.]

 • I emigrated from Indonesia to the US.

   [This focuses on leaving.]


New friends in the US might say:

• Demi immigrated to the US last year (from Indonesia).

[From their perspective, I arrived.]


While relatives in Indonesia might say:

• Demi emigrated (from Indonesia) to the US last year.

[From their perspective, I left.]


In a nutshell:

IMMIGRATE = entering

EMIGRATE = leaving


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