act of leaving one's country or region with the intent to settle permanently or temporarily in another

Emigration is leaving one's country or area to go live in another. Emigration (leaving) from one country is usually followed by Immigration (coming into) into another. The difference between the two is the perspective (or point of view) of which country a person is leaving and which country they are going to.[1]

The Last of England by Ford Madox Brown, depicting emigrants leaving England
Japanese government poster promoting South America

The urge to migrate is a part of human nature.[2] People migrated well before we had written history.[2] Emigrants from a place are its diaspora.

People who move around all the time are called nomads.



Emigration happens for different reasons:

  • People think that they benefit from moving elsewhere, because they have a better job, or they have a better chance of economic success, or they are economically better off. This kind of migration is generally called economic migration.[3]
  • The climate, or climatic events force people to move. Climatic events include floods, droughts, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. This kind of migration is generally known as environmental migration.[4] As an example, people left Plymouth, on the Island of Montserrat, after a series of volcanic eruptions in 1995.
  • People have disadvantages where they live, often because they have special views or opinions, or they disagree with the majority or those in power. Often they face persecution, for example because of special religious views or because they belong to an ethnic group. Many people emigrated from Europe to what was the "New World" because they had religious beliefs that were different from the majority.[5]
  • People who emigrate (or flee) from one country to another, for reasons including armed conflicts or wars are usually called refugees, once they arrive in another country.[6]
  • Very often people move to where the rest of their family lives.[7]

International law handles the different groups of migrants differently.




  1. "Emigrate vs. Immigrate". Diffen.com. Retrieved 28 April 2015.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Ann Katherine Isaacs, Immigration and Emigration in Historical Perspective (Pisa: Edizioni Plus, Pisa University Press, 2007), p. vii
  3. Joel P. Trachtman, The International Law of Economic Migration: Toward the Fourth Freedom (Kalamazoo, MI: W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, 2009), pp. 4–5
  4. Étienne Piguet; Antoine Pécoud, Migration and Climate Change (Paris: UNESCO Pub.; Cambridge, UK; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011), p. 2
  5. Michael H. Crawford, Benjamin C. Campbell, Causes and Consequences of Human Migration: An Evolutionary Perspective (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), p. 299
  6. Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, The State of the World's Refugees, 2000: Fifty Years of Humanitarian Action (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), pp. 1–2
  7. Steven J. Gold; Stephanie J. Nawyn, Handbook of International Migration (London; New York: Routledge, 2013), p. 283