Someone within the borders of or residing in a nation that is not their own.
In legal terms, an alien is a visitor or resident of somewhere other than their country of origin. The term is used to differentiate between the status of residents in a nation. This can be useful in immigration cases, employment opportunities, and government assistance eligibility. Legal status in the country in which an alien is residing is incredibly important for their day-to-day functions. This status can affect when they are able to work, study, and participate in programs set in place by the government.
Despite common misconceptions, someone who is an alien is not necessarily illegally residing in the foreign nation they are occupying. They may be awaiting citizenship through legal means, or simply have a permanent residency, more casually known as a green card. In some circumstances, the person in question may have crossed the nation's borders illegally. Some countries require aliens to present themselves at the borders in order to claim refugee status.
Example of Alien
An example of an alien would be if John goes on a trip to France from his home country of the United States of America (USA). At this time, he would be considered an alien. He meets a French citizen named Kathy during his trip, and the two fall in love. When his trip ends, John returns to the United States. Together, John and Kathy date long-distance for several years, eventually deciding to get married.
The next step would be for John and Kathy to apply for a fiancé visa to bring her to the USA. After about a year of waiting and applications, Kathy finally arrives in the USA. From her arrival, Kathy has a set time period to marry John. Once they are legally married, John and Kathy can then file for her permanent residency. After a period of several years, Kathy meet all requirements to apply for full citizenship.
During the time that Kathy comes to the United States, but is not a citizen, she would be considered a legal alien. She was lawfully residing in a country that was not her own, yet she was not a citizen of the United States. In her case, she was a permanent resident for much of her stay.
Significance of Alien
In recent decades, the term alien is often confused or associated with the term "illegal immigrant," a phrase often used with negative connotations. But many people are presenting at the border for different reasons. This can include but is not limited to the following:
- Seeking work
- fleeing political persecution
- Escaping violence in their home countries
As the southern border of the United States has seen an influx of people presenting themselves in hopes to cross in recent decades, many American citizens have strong feelings about the term. Since this occurrence has been heavily politicized both by the American government and its citizens, it's become a hot-button topic — so much so that many presidential hopefuls have made the topic of immigration a cornerstone of their running platforms.
Because of how influential immigration policies are for a nation at large, and how passionately people of all viewpoints hold their beliefs, the term alien has been essential in shaping the political landscape of the United States today.