Expat vs Immigrant: Exploring the Distinct Differences

Are you confused about the terms "expat" and "immigrant"? You're not alone. While these words are often used interchangeably, they actually have distinct meanings.

In this article, we'll explain the difference between expats vs immigrants and challenge some assumptions about the two groups.

Expat vs Immigrant: Exploring the Distinct Differences
Expat or Immigrant? Which is Correct?

Expat or Immigrant? Which is Correct?

First, let's clarify the terms. An expat is a person who lives outside their native country, usually for a limited period of time, and may or may not intend to return to their home country. On the other hand, an immigrant is a person who moves to a new country with the intention of settling there permanently.

But it's not just about the length of time someone plans to spend in another country. There are also cultural and social connotations associated with each term.

The word "expat" often carries a positive connotation and is associated with a certain level of privilege, while "immigrant" may have negative stereotypes attached to it.

So, why do these assumptions exist? How do they affect our perceptions of expats vs immigrants? And what are the experiences of these two groups actually like? Let's explore these questions in more detail.

Now that you have a general understanding of the terms "expat" and "immigrant," let's delve deeper into their definitions and how they differ.

Defining Expat

An expat, short for "expatriate," is a person who lives outside of their native country. However, unlike immigrants, expats usually have a definitive plan to return to their home country at some point. They also tend to be living and working in another country due to their own personal choice, often for career or lifestyle reasons.


Expats may be highly skilled professionals, managers, or executives who are transferred to a foreign branch of their company for a set period. Alternatively, they could be entrepreneurs starting a new business venture or retirees seeking a new adventure in their sunset years.

Defining Expat
Defining Immigrant

Defining Immigrant

An immigrant, on the other hand, is a person who moves permanently to a new country. They intend to make their new country their home, and to live and work there indefinitely.

Immigrants usually move to a new country for more practical reasons such as seeking better economic opportunities, joining family members, escaping persecution or conflict, or simply wanting to experience a new culture.

It's essential to note that unlike expats, immigrants don't necessarily have a definite time scale for their stay in a new country. They also may face different legal requirements and restrictions compared to expats.

Expat vs Immigrant: Challenging Assumptions and Privilege

When it comes to expat vs immigrant, there are often assumptions made about class, education, and privilege. The term "expat" is typically associated with individuals who are seen as more affluent and highly educated, while "immigrant" is associated with people who are perceived as having lower socio-economic status.


However, these assumptions can be harmful and perpetuate stereotypes that are not necessarily accurate.

Expat vs Immigrant: Challenging Assumptions and Privilege

One of the reasons for these assumptions is the history of how the terms have been used. The term "expat" originated in the colonial era and referred to Europeans who were living outside of their native countries for short periods of time. However, over the years, the term has evolved to include people of any nationality who work and live abroad, regardless of the length of their stay or their reasons for relocating. As a result, the connotations of the term have also shifted to emphasize a certain level of privilege and sophistication.

It is important to note that there are many individuals who may identify as expats, but who do not fit the stereotype. For example, individuals who are refugees, students, or migrant workers may also live and work outside of their native country, but they are not typically referred to as expats. This is because the term "expat" is often reserved for individuals who are seen as having a certain level of cultural capital and financial stability.

Furthermore, the assumptions about expats can also perpetuate a sense of privilege and entitlement. Many expats are able to maintain a certain standard of living while living abroad because of their income, and they may also benefit from a level of cultural capital that enables them to navigate their new surroundings more easily. However, these advantages are not necessarily available to all people who live and work abroad, and it is important to recognize the inherent privilege that comes with being able to call oneself an expat.

On the other hand, the term "immigrant" is often associated with individuals who are viewed as having lower levels of education and socio-economic status. This stereotype is not only inaccurate but also harmful. It perpetuates the idea that immigrants are not contributing members of society, and it reinforces negative stereotypes about certain groups of people.

Ultimately, it is important to recognize that both expats and immigrants have unique experiences living and working abroad, and that the terms used to describe them should not be used to perpetuate harmful assumptions or stereotypes. Instead, we should strive to understand and appreciate the diversity of experiences that come with living and working abroad, regardless of the labels that are used to describe them.

Expat and Immigrant Experiences: Similarities and Differences

Expat and Immigrant Experiences: Similarities and Differences

Living outside of one's native country can be a challenging and exciting experience, whether you are an expat or an immigrant.

While there are some differences between the two, there are also many similarities in their experiences.

Similarities between Expats and Immigrants

Cultural Adaptation
Language Barriers

Both expats and immigrants need to adjust to a new cultural environment, including language, customs, and values.

Learning a new language can be a challenging task for both groups, but it can facilitate integration and communication with locals.

Both expats and immigrants may experience homesickness, especially during important cultural events and holidays, due to being away from family and friends.

Differences between Expats and Immigrants

Foreign Workers

Expats typically plan to return to their native country at some point, while immigrants intend to stay permanently in the new country.

The term "expat" is often associated with individuals who have a certain level of education and privilege, whereas "immigrant" is a broader term without these connotations.

The term "expat" is frequently used for foreign workers who may face additional challenges related to work visas and employment discrimination.

Living Abroad

Overall, while there are some differences in the experiences of expats vs  immigrants, there are also many similarities.


Both groups need to navigate cultural differences, language barriers, and potential homesickness, as well as the challenges of living outside their native country.


By recognizing these shared experiences, we can foster greater understanding and appreciation for individuals who have chosen to live abroad.

Living Abroad
Considering a Move Abroad?

Considering a Move Abroad?

According to the Legatum Institute, nearly 260 million people resided outside of their birth country in 2018. When it comes to living in a foreign country, one thing is certain: Moneycorp can help.

When people move to a new country or work abroad, they may need to send money back home to their families or handle financial matters in their home country. Similarly, they may need to convert their earnings from the local currency of the country they are living in into the currency of their home country.

A Moneycorp account gives individuals the ability to transfer funds between different countries.


For expats and immigrants, Moneycorp offers several services and benefits that can help them manage their finances while living abroad including:

Currency Exchange
International Money Transfers
Multi-Currency Accounts

Expats and immigrants often need to exchange currencies regularly, whether it's to transfer funds between their home country and the country they're residing in or for other financial transactions. Moneycorp provides competitive exchange rates and no transfer fees to help individuals get the most out of their money.

Moving money across borders can be costly and complex, but Moneycorp simplifies the process by offering international money transfer services. We can help expats and immigrants send money to family, pay bills, or make investments in their home or host country.

Moneycorp's multi-currency account lets expats and immigrants to hold and manage money in different currencies. This can be advantageous for those who receive income or have expenses in multiple currencies, as it reduces the need for frequent conversions and minimizes exchange rate risks.

Forward Contracts and Rate Alerts
Personalized Service
Market Expertise

At Moneycorp, we provide tools like forward contracts, which allow expats and immigrants to lock in exchange rates for future transactions. We also offer rate alerts, enabling customers to set target exchange rates and receive notifications when the rates are reached, ensuring they can make timely decisions.

When you sign up for a Moneycorp account, you get acess to a dedicated account manager. Your account manager can offer personalized assistance and guidance based on your individual financial needs and circumstances.

As a currency exchange specialist, Moneycorp has access to market insights and analysis. Both expats and immigrants can benefit from these resources to make informed decisions about their financial affairs in the context of foreign exchange fluctuations.

Working with Moneycorp

At Moneycorp, we advocate for embracing the diversity of experiences that both expats and immigrants bring to the table. Each individual's journey is unique, shaped by personal motivations, dreams, and aspirations. By breaking free from these stereotypes, we can foster a more inclusive and understanding global community.

Working with Moneycorp

To learn more about all the ways Moneycorp can help both expats and immigrants, contact us today.