Are You An Expat Or An Immigrant?


If you are a Brit abroad for any length of time other than on holiday, how do you think of yourself?

Many say they are expats, but back in the UK, we don’t think of settlers from overseas as expats, but as immigrants or foreigners.

To try and solve the riddle, expat news platform The Local is asking readers in France how they define themselves – and some of the responses are surprising.

The newsroom has been flooded with hundreds of comments a very tight vote on Twitter showed most Brits abroad think they are immigrants (51%) or expats (49%).

On Facebook, where the poll is still open, the result reversed – with 51% preferring the term expat and 49% plumping for immigrant.

Different names for the same person

Technically, there is not an official term for someone living in another country, and the words probably change with the culture of each place.

The Local says taking the dictionary terms gives some more options:

  • An expat is someone living outside their native country
  • An immigrant is someone who comes to s country as a permanent resident
  • An economic migrant is someone moving to a new country to improve their standard of living
  • Another suggestion is ‘émigré’ who is someone settling in a foreign country, generally for political reasons

And there’s residence rules and tax laws.

Tax residence

It doesn’t matter how you think of yourself – your residence status is decided by rules applied to reflect the time you spend in a country. The rules are slightly different everywhere, but as well as a time element – typically spending more than six months in a country – personal ties also apply as well.

For instance, if you maintain a home to return to in your home nation, hold a driving licence or a credit card, you may remain tax resident in the country you thought you had left.

The typical picture of an expat is someone on a high salary, sitting by a pool in the sunshine sipping a drink. The reality is this is far from the truth for many.

The image many have in mind of an immigrant is completely different – usually someone who is poorer, fleeing an African or Middle Eastern country with limited resources.

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