This site has limited support for your browser. We recommend switching to Edge, Chrome, Safari, or Firefox.

9 Immigration Terminologies to Know When Moving Abroad

When navigating the bureaucracy of moving abroad, you will likely have to browse through government websites and news articles to keep up and learn about policies affecting immigration in your destination country. To this end, it’s important to familiarize yourself with terminologies that are often used to describe different immigration, residency, or citizenship status.


Note: This article uses the term “visa” and “permit” interchangeably, as different countries around the world use either term exclusively, although sometimes interchangeably.

Although it’s likely you are familiar with some of these terminologies already, here is a list that you can go through to fill any knowledge gaps you may have.

1. Visa / Permit

A visa or a permit is a travel and immigration document that allows non-citizens of a country to live in the country for a specified period of time for a specific purpose (such as tourism, work, or study).

2. Temporary Resident

You are a temporary resident of a country if:

  • You physically live in the country, and
  • You hold a foreign nationality, and
  • You possess a temporary visa or permit such as a work or study permit, and
  • You do not hold the status of a permanent resident or a citizen

Aside from work or study permit holders, there are other temporary resident categories as well, such as those on retiree or spousal visas.

3. Permanent Residency

You are a permanent resident of a country if:

  • You have been granted the privilege to live in the country permanently without the need to renew your visa status, and
  • You hold a foreign citizenship

Permanent residents often have similar rights and responsibilities to those of citizens, with some exceptions. Sometimes, there are also additional rules that permanent residents should adhere to for the purpose of maintaining their status.

4. Citizen

You are a citizen of a country if:

  • You are a legally recognized individual by a country possessing the full rights and responsibilities resulting from the allegiance to that country

Some countries such as the United States and Canada bestows citizenships for individuals born in their respective countries regardless of the citizenships of the parents. This is known as the jus soli rule, or birthright citizenship.

The majority of other countries in Asia, Europe, Africa, and Oceania imposes the jus sanguinis rule, where citizenships of individuals are determined by those of the parents.

Citizenships are typically not lost even if an individual does not live in the country for an extended period of time.

5. Resident

A resident is a catch-all term to refer to everyone who physically lives in a country as a temporary resident, a permanent resident, or a citizen.

6. Visitor / Tourist

You are a visitor or a tourist to a country if:

  • You hold a visitor or tourist visa, or
  • You entered a country using a passport not issued from that country, and
  • You are entering in the country for a short-term activity allowable on your condition of entry to the country, for example: tourism, social visit (to meet friends and families), short-term courses, business meetings, medical treatment, et cetera.

7. Foreigner

You can be termed a foreigner in a country if: 

  • You are a temporary resident of the country, or
  • You are a visitor or a tourist to the country

8. Non-Resident

People who do not physically reside in a country can be termed as non-residents.

Non-residents do not include only foreigners and temporary residents, but also permanent residents and citizens who have not lived in the country for a period of time.

9. Tax Resident

You are a tax resident of a country if you have tax obligations there.

Cross-border tax laws can sometimes be complicated and countries around the world have varying approaches to determining an individual’s tax residency. However, it is possible to:

  • Become a tax resident of a country without being a physical resident, or
  • Become a non-tax resident of a country despite being a physical resident

Hi, I'm Ryan.

Over the past 10 years, I've lived & worked in 5 cities across 3 countries.

I like helping others to move abroad, and helping them to decide whether they should.

MY VISA GUIDE →

Spark a Conversation

Cart

No more products available for purchase