Even though the words are often used interchangeably, there is a difference between immigration and emigration. Immigrate means to move to a country. Emigrate means to move away from a country.
How to Immigrate Legally
There are three levels of legal immigration.
- Visas give you temporary permission to visit a country for a specific purpose such as tourism, education, or business. They are granted for a limited period of time, and you are required to return to your home country when they expire.
- Permanent residency grants you the ability to live and work in a country indefinitely. However, you do not receive full rights, such as the right to vote, and you may be subject to deportation for crimes or other offenses.
- Citizenship gives you the full rights and obligations of any other citizen in the country. Your status is considered permanent and generally not subject to revocation.
The application process varies based on the status you are trying to obtain. Visas can sometimes be obtained online, while citizenship is an exhaustive process that often requires an intermediate step such as permanent residency.
How to Emigrate Legally
There are three major considerations when emigrating.
Permission to Leave
In most countries, you can simply walk, drive, sail, or fly across the border without government permission when leaving. They only check your documents when you return. A small number of countries require an exit visa. Depending on the country, you may be required to show that you have paid all of your taxes, intend to return, or meet other criteria. Even if you have no intention of returning, you should consider the potential impact on any family members or assets left behind before attempting to evade exit visa requirements.
Many countries require their citizens to pay income taxes on foreign income. This means you have to file an income tax return in both the country of your citizenship and the country where you are working. There is usually a tax credit to help offset foreign taxes paid in order to reduce the burden.
If you wish to become a full citizen of your new country or obtain a sensitive job, you may be required to formally renounce your original citizenship. This is a legal process in which you sever all ties with that country. If you ever wish to return, you will be treated as someone who was born abroad.