Alien (law)

In law, an alien generally refers to any person who is not a citizen or national of a given country,[1][2] though definitions and terminology differ to some degree. The term alien includes a foreign national and a refugee or asylum seeker.[3][4]


The term "alien" is derived from the Latin alienus, meaning stranger, foreign, etym. "belonging (somewhere) else".[citation needed]


Different countries around the world use varying terms for aliens. The following are several types of aliens:

  • a legal alien is a foreign national who is permitted by law to be in the host country. This is a very broad category which includes permanent residents, temporary residents, and visa holders or foreign visitors.
    • a resident alien is a person who has permission by the government to reside and work in the country.[5]
    • a nonresident alien is a foreign national who is visiting a country as a tourist (e.g., for pleasure, for studies, on business, to receive medical treatment, to attend a conference or a meeting, as entertainers or sportspeople, and so forth).[citation needed]
  • an illegal alien or undocumented alien is any foreign national inside a country where he or she has no legal right to be.[6] It covers a foreign national who has entered the country through illegal migration.[7] In some countries it also covers an alien who entered the country lawfully but subsequently fallen out of that legal status.[8][9]
  • an enemy alien is a foreign national of a country that is at war with the host country.[citation needed]
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