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A magic portal between our world and another earthlike one opens near a large city of a first-world country in the present day. Governments on both sides learn about it and take control within days.

The aliens on the other planet are at a similar tech level to us (including weaponry!) with relatively similar societies. Their language don't resemble anything close to any human language. The aliens have relatively similar biology (i.e. bipedal, multicellular, DNA based, etc) for reasons that are out of scope of this question.

The portal is about 10 metres in diameter, hovering just above ground level, and will not close but cannot be widened or moved.

Assuming that both humans and aliens are eager to cooperate, how long would it roughly take, at a minimum, to go from the portal opening, to civilian aliens being able to immigrate and live in the nearby human city?

I'm writing a story about one of these immigrating aliens and I want to know roughly how long humans have known about the aliens by the time they're able to move over.

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    $\begingroup$ Which country? This will have an impact, as different countries will have different policies, and people may have xenophobia or other counties may pressure the host country to let them in/keep them out. $\endgroup$ May 11, 2023 at 17:38
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    $\begingroup$ It can be five minutes, it can be five centuries. Depends on the story you want to tell. Throughout most of history, most countries did not have a notion of requiring paperwork for rich foreign people to be allowed to move in. In most places of this world, immigration controls are a very modern thing. Even today there are countries which will accept anybody on the spot provided they have money to invest. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    May 11, 2023 at 18:37
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    $\begingroup$ This is looking a lot like a story-based question. Maybe make it clear that you are looking for a minimum period rather than an estimate, and provide more information on both the destination country and the specific immigrant - are we talking about an ambassador, an astronomy professor or an itinerent labourer? (The ambassador - not really an "immigrant" - gets a tick as soon as the language, law and logistics can be negotiated, the astronomy professor gets invited 5 minutes later, the labourer possibly never.) $\endgroup$ May 11, 2023 at 22:39
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    $\begingroup$ This question is unanswerable speculation, and anyway it doesn't matter. It's your story, make it take as long as you need it to. $\endgroup$
    – Ian Kemp
    May 12, 2023 at 12:30
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    $\begingroup$ The question assumes it's inevitable, but even "relatively similar biology" leaves plenty of room for biochemical or environmental issues that would make immigration impossible or as difficult as you might want. $\endgroup$ May 14, 2023 at 18:12

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If both humans and aliens are eager to cooperate and are essentially equals, I would think that emigration would not really be allowed or considered necessary for the common populous until trade relationships had been going on long enough for both sides to get a handle on communication issues, security concerns, and understand how the other society works. Not to mention international agreement with everyone on the same side of the portal.

I'm thinking that ten Earth years would be on the fast side of things for all that to happen. If they're both eager to interact and things go well then it's difficult to see it taking longer than 50 years.

EDIT: Pathogens...let's not forget the pathogens. That could actually put quite a stop to things for decades if not hundreds of years despite the desire to cooperate. It might take decades for the medical researchers to work things out and immigration by the common populous might not even be allowed until natives on both the portal have had sufficient immunological resistance to things on the other side of the portal. That could take...hundreds of years. Immunizing an immigrant against local pathogens is one thing, but it is quite another to protect the all the locals from the immigrants.

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  • $\begingroup$ I just noticed my first paragraph is mostly one long sentence. But it doesn't seem to be run on at least. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    May 11, 2023 at 20:25
  • $\begingroup$ Good point about the pathogens! I had forgot about those, they will definitely put a damper on things $\endgroup$
    – Pyritie
    May 11, 2023 at 20:43
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    $\begingroup$ @Pyritie Except that the pathogens issue is not an issue at all. Viruses have problems even crossing a very closely related hosts, and same could be said for other microorganisms. And stuff that could survive in a human body would have an issue with our immune system. Even if on the other side we would have a paralel Earth(and thus they would actually have pathogens that could infect us) the issue wouldn't be that serious, as medical technology has advanced since 16th century. $\endgroup$
    – Negdo
    May 12, 2023 at 10:22
  • $\begingroup$ @Negdo We've seen with Covid19 the exception and consequences... $\endgroup$ May 12, 2023 at 13:13
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    $\begingroup$ @Negdo It depends on the pathogen. You only need one to get something like smallpox or measles and wipe out a population. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    May 12, 2023 at 13:49
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Until adequate medical trials are complete to prove that we won't kill each other by accident.

I'd guess an absolute minimum of twenty years, allowing for three or four 5-10 year phases of trials, assuming everything goes better than anyone could imagine.

The humans will be familiar with the ending of The War of the Worlds... and its real life antecedents: the diseases that killed off non-indigenous colonists in sub-Saharan Africa, the diseases brought from Europe and Africa that ravaged the indigenous peoples of the Americas, cross-species plagues affecting livestock, wildlife, and plant life, the threats posed by invasive animal species, and on and on. Presumably the aliens have similar experiences from their own world.

If we have similar enough biology to immigrate, so do our microbes and bugs - to each other's planets, bodies, crops, wildlife, etc, with potentially horrific results. Everybody loves making new friends with the nice biologically similar aliens until one of them has a little bit of toenail fungus that turns out to really love eating terrestrial food crops, plunging Earth into a murderous famine that ends with 20% population attrition and the collapse of global civilization. We can walk across the magic portal and start living in harmony with ET thirty seconds after first contact if we want to, but we'd be fatally stupid to try, and they'd be stupid to let us.

The sensible thing to do is to treat the portal like the world's most heinous biological weapons facility times a thousand until proven otherwise. Bury it under a mountain of hermetically sealed concrete, quarantine the scientists that work there, and take it slow.

Beyond that, I think it's story-based.

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    $\begingroup$ Reality isn't a fairy-tale from a time when we didn't even understand what pathogens even really are... Cross-species diseases are extremely rare. As far as I know there is not a single disease that can affect the members of different kingdoms of life. And aliens would be even further away than that. First contact scenario has literally nothing in common with contacts of colonists with indigenous peoples. It is more like expecting to catch a computer virus from imported PC. $\endgroup$
    – Negdo
    May 12, 2023 at 10:29
  • $\begingroup$ COVID-19 disproves this hypothesis. $\endgroup$
    – user253751
    May 12, 2023 at 12:37
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    $\begingroup$ @user253751 The whole point of my comment was that you CANNOT get a disease from a being that is even further away from you than a tree. The whole idea that we could comes from a 19th century novel, an era when writers wrote about Martians... $\endgroup$
    – Negdo
    May 12, 2023 at 14:27
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    $\begingroup$ It doesn't have to cross species. Imagine a fungus that is essentially harmless on their side, but rabidly consumes our plastics, or infests electronics, or some such. Microorganisms don't need to directly kill us to deal a lot of damage to our civilization. $\endgroup$
    – Zephyr
    May 12, 2023 at 14:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Negdo you're mistaking the specific case of viruses, which need to target specific genetic code segments, for the general case of pathogens (and invasive animal species). Bacteria, fungi, and animals need an environment with the right approximate temperature, chemistry, and resource availability. They bring their own genes with them and have no need of the host's. This antibiotic-resistant lettuce disease kills a few thousand people a year in the United States. $\endgroup$
    – g s
    May 12, 2023 at 16:18
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How long does it take from human discovery of a place to settlement?

New Zealand was discovered by Europeans in 1642, but it was only in 1840 that enough people were settling that they decided to create the Treaty of Waitangi to (try) settle peacefully with the Maori who were already living there. However, by this time there was already commercial exploitation of the surrounding water by ships hunting whales and seals, and numerous conflicts had already happened.

This isn't quite the same as your situation because there was a 6 month sailing voyage to get to New Zealand, but compared to 200 years, 6 months is negligible.

So anyway, as a ballpark figure, I'd say 100 years or so from discovery.

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    $\begingroup$ counterpoint: Columbus found the caribbean in 1492, and by 1493 permanent settlement begun, by 1521 the Spanish had subjugated the Aztec empire and by 1530, most of the Caribbean, Central America and the northern Andes was Spanish controlled. That is 38 years from discovery to conquest by a highly aggressive country. The southern Andes were fully conquered by 1572. $\endgroup$
    – Trish
    May 11, 2023 at 19:36
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, I forgot to specify this in my question, but this is set in the present day, and both sides have modern day technology (including weaponry!) so I don't see conquest being an outcome. $\endgroup$
    – Pyritie
    May 11, 2023 at 19:39
  • $\begingroup$ counterpoint: Things move way faster now (both in Newtonian speeds or otherwise than in the old boomer centuries you are mentioning. $\endgroup$ May 12, 2023 at 14:45
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Legal Immigration

This will take a while, because of concerns about weapons, drugs, disease and many other factors. I don't think it would take 100 years, but before any legal immigration you would have:

  • Exploratory teams
  • Political negotiations
  • Embassies
  • Trade

all of which will take time. If either side tries to move too fast, the other side may assume ill intent, and each side knows that. Plus the language barrier will slow things down initially.

Somewhere between 1 and 10 years before you could get to any legal immigration.

Illegal Immigration

One day to one week.

Seriously. There will be people on each side who will either see the grass as greener on the other side. Home is: poor, disease-ridden, oppressive, etc. The new place is fantastic by comparison. Or they see opportunities to sell things that are not as profitable in their own world and don't feel like waiting for the politicians and bureaucrats to get everything ready.

Some of these people will try to get to the other side as quickly as possible, by sneaking through in the middle of the night, defecting quietly from an official delegation, hitchhiking on a trade caravan, etc.

Once they get here, or humans get to the new planet, they will find a way to hide, make friends, change their appearance to more closely match the natives, etc.

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    $\begingroup$ While it's not too easy to prevent illegal immigration when the border is 1000 miles long, it's damned easy to prevent when the border is a 33 foot wide tube: a big door and some guns will do the trick. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    May 12, 2023 at 6:05
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    $\begingroup$ @RonJohn it took decades for the Soviets and GDR to seal the Berlin wall enough to stop "leakage" of refugees... $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    May 12, 2023 at 6:54
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    $\begingroup$ @jwenting you're still comparing a 96 mile long wall with a 33 foot hole. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    May 12, 2023 at 14:35
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    $\begingroup$ Y'all are all forgetting that before the illegal immigrants, there'll be dozens of infiltrators and "Mission Impossible" operatives being smuggled either way to gather intel and do recon. One more honest body or two can get by if people is already part of the clandestine cargo. $\endgroup$ May 12, 2023 at 14:44
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    $\begingroup$ @manassehkatz-Moving2Codidact the question is, "how long until The Country With The Portal implements strict border controls?" Consider Stargate SG-1: There was an iris just in front of the gate, and guys with heavy machine guns there to take care of anyone who got through when the iris was open. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    May 12, 2023 at 17:31
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One week

Lets assume the aliens are on our level of technology and just as xenophobic as humans are. Well, maybe more unified.

After initial contact with humans, they send in a single nuke to clear their landing site. Humans, unable to comprehend that the origin is some alien species through a portal and not the US/Russia/China starting a nuclear war, react with nuclear counterstrike on one another. As a result, the Humans eradicate themselves with nuclear fire within a couple of hours to days.

Because the humans are mostly gone, the first explorative immigrations start a week later into the wastelands. Some settle in the place closeby, welcomed by the survivors because they bring food. They never learn that the initial nuke of the third world war came from the aliens.

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    $\begingroup$ That's not really "immigration". $\endgroup$
    – Pyritie
    May 11, 2023 at 19:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Pyritie absolutely it's immigration. Even better, the nuke is a lot like small pox wiping out the indigenous Americans. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    May 12, 2023 at 6:07
  • $\begingroup$ The problem with this answer is that very few people want to live in a nuclear wasteland. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    May 12, 2023 at 6:08
  • $\begingroup$ @RonJohn who knows, the aliens may well have evolved in a high radiation environment and like it that way. $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    May 12, 2023 at 6:53
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    $\begingroup$ 1/8th death toll would result in total collapse of society as crucial shipping and transport fall away, resulting in a huge wave of deaths from other sources. $\endgroup$
    – Trish
    May 12, 2023 at 12:38

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