WES Style Guide

Content Guides

Appendix I: Writing About Immigration

The following guidance is provided to help those who write for WES to write accurately and inclusively about immigration and related issues.

Asylum seekers. (no hyphen, as per Chicago, but AP hyphenates it) Asylum seekers are already in the U.S. (on a student or tourist visa) and request to stay in the U.S. as refugees. They can also arrive at a port of entry–airport, seaport, or border crossing–with or without authorization and request asylum.

There are two types of asylum in the U.S.: affirmative asylum (granted at initial application) and defensive asylum (winning asylum on appeal after an order of deportation). In common parlance, a person granted asylum is called an asylee.

Foreign. Minimize use of foreign, foreigner, and foreign-trained.

In our writing we want to be inclusive and welcoming. At the same time we should minimize our use of jargon and instead use real words that convey standard, conventional meanings. “Foreign” is OK if it’s the best word to use in the context, but also consider these alternatives:

Alternatives to foreign: international, expatriate or expat, offshore, from overseas, from outside of Canada or the U.S., from [name of country or world region]; or use the appropriate nationality, for example, Barbadian; or region, for example, West Indian or Caribbean.

Alternatives to foreigner: immigrant, expatriate or expat, offshore, newcomer, new Canadian, originally from [name of country], a [adjective form of country, for example, French] national or native; or use the person’s nationality, for example, Portuguese; or region of origin, for example, European.

Alternatives to foreign-trained: trained overseas, trained in [name of country], educated in [name of country or world region], educated abroad, internationally trained

Immigrate, Emigrate, Migrate. Those who immigrate to a new country come to settle in a new land. The word “to” usually follows the word “immigrate.”

Those who emigrate leave their home country. They emigrate from their homeland to pursue new opportunities. The word “from” usually follows the word “emigrate.”

Migrant is a more general term that describes people who have moved or who periodically move (to find work, for example). A group made up of immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers can be described as a group of migrants.

Refugees. According to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, a refugee is a person who “owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.” The term “refugee” can include resettled refugees (in the U.S.; Canada uses the term “settled” (see Canadian terms)) and asylum seekers.

In the U.S., the term “refugee” can include people who have been forced “to abort a pregnancy or to undergo involuntary sterilization, or who have been persecuted for failure or refusal to undergo such a procedure or for other resistance to a coercive population control program.”

Resettled refugees. (A U.S. term. The program is called refugee resettlement. See Canadian terms for what is called settlement in Canada.) People living outside the U.S. who have been designated refugees by international law, usually by UNHCR, who, once vetted (security and health) are then resettled in the U.S. through a specific process.