Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Immigrants and Expatriates

The other day, a friend of mine told me that he was being sent by his firm to the US of A. ‘So you’ll be leading an expat life in New York ? I asked him. I got a delighted nod in reply. Expats all over the world lead a comfortable life, padded with double pay and perks which are meant to compensate them for the ‘hardship’ they put up with in leaving ‘home’ and moving to a foreign country.

I couldn’t help but wonder why my friend the Expat was getting such a different deal from say, an Asian or African immigrant in New York . No, I’m not talking of illegal immigrants who travel to an El Dorado and discover the harsh nature of an illegal existence. Every year, so many people legally migrate to the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom and various other western European countries. They are considered to be a burden on the host society and most locals don’t really want them there, though their employers do. I decided to ask various friends what in their opinion is the main difference between an immigrant and an expat. These are the answers I got:

“Immigrants have made a permanent move to a new country whilst expats are there only for a fixed period.” This is not always the case, since many immigrants do return to their home countries and expats may stay on permanently.

“Expats are sent to their new country by their employer, whilst many immigrants start looking for a job once they get there.” Again, this may not always be the case. Highly Skilled Immigrant Programme (HSMP) immigrants to the UK , now called Tier 1 immigrants, don’t need to have a job in hand when they get to the UK . However, all immigrants to the US (H1B or L1 visa holders) have a job in hand when they get off the boat.

The best answer I got was this: “Just a matter of status Old Chap”

1 comment:

Sirensongs said...

Thanks for the link, Winnowed!

Here in Nepal there's a major snobby expat scene. They love to differentiate themselves from academics, volunteers and of course "tourists" (other classes of foreigners, some of whom also stay long term).

Strictly speaking, anyone living outside their home country is an expat. But in this sense it has come to mean, it seems, someone who has moved from a more developed country to a less developed one.

Therefore, if an Indian or Nepali were willing to move to, say, Rwanda or Haiti, they too could enjoy a better lifestyle than they did at home.

It's when one tries to move to a more developed country than one came from that you are then an immigrant and not an expat.

Or so it would seem...?