This is a topic that has been discussed in detail, on meta and on the chat room, since the inception of the website. There has been a lot of debate on whether travel and immigration should be kept on the same SE site - even I initially was on the side of merging - but overall the consensus, through SE staff and the community, has been that they should NOT be merged. To those who are new to this community or didn't follow the discussion early on, it might appear that we haven't "given it much thought", so I'll try to explain the rationale here and give a history of how this decision came about.
The first reason is that StackExchange is a network of vertically-integrated Q&A sites. The idea is to have separate websites for a specific subject area. When Travel.SE was launched, just like every other StackExchange website, there were no pro-tem moderators or elected community moderators. Instead, moderators from within StackExchange staff are appointed to see each beta through it's initial phase. At the time, Dori was a StackExchange staff moderator, and through discussions in chat and meta, her judgement was thus:
Expat questions are different enough from travel questions that they
have their own proposal: Immigration. The on topic questions there
appear to be more oriented towards moving and settling in, and those
would be considered off topic here.
There was a proposal on Area51 for an "Immigration" site to cover expat questions, which failed to get enough support. This was respawned as the Expatriates proposal. So while the current stance is that immigration / expat - in general, long-term stay - questions are off-topic here, we encourage those users to support the proposal on Area51.
Let's define "long-term" first. Some people think "immigration" or "expatriation" means permanently moving to a different country. It doesn't! In strictly legal terms, "immigration" doesn't necessarily mean becoming a citizen of a country. "Long-term" is any travel where a person is legally considered the resident of a country or is issued a visa classified as 'long-term' visa by the country being visited. Under this definition, these topics are ON-TOPIC:
- Business travel
- Working holiday
These are OFF-TOPIC:
- Immigrant workers
- Permanent residents
Why are long-term travel questions considered off-topic? It basically boils down to these:
- The legal / paperwork long-term travel are significantly different: Any sort of long-term stay typically requires much stricter requirements. For instance, as a student currently in the UK, I'm considered a resident of the UK (legally) by both the UK and my home country (India). I get special rights as opposed to short-term travellers in terms of healthcare, voting rights (I get to vote here as a passport holder of a Commonwealth country), et al.
- Expats may be good at answering travel questions about a specific country, but not the other way round: I could be considered as living as an expat in the UK and Singapore, so for questions about two countries I can answer travel-related questions more easily because I have hands-on knowledge. However, travellers in general are unlikely to know details when the situation is reversed.
- Rules related to those on long-term travel visas and the kinds of question likely to arise are likely to be different from those relevant to travelling: Across all issues where there's an overlap with travel - such as accommodation, communication, transport, paperwork - the rules are different from those applicable to short-term travellers, hence it gives rise to a different type of questions which is NOT a good fit for this website. (See examples on the Expatriates proposal to understand what I mean.)
Yes, this a judgement call that was initially made by a StackExchange employee, and then carried forward by the community and its moderators. But it's a justified position to have. Unlike other websites, Travel.SE is NOT a forum and in trying to be something for everyone, we'll end up with a site that is so diluted that it attracts neither travellers nor expats.
This whole current controversy started off due to the closure of this question: Can I use “Récépissé de demande de carte de séjour to re-enter” to France?
I am student in France but I am not French. During the holiday, I came
back to my country. Before I came back, I have received the "Recepisse
De Demande De Carte De Sejour" in the form of paper from Préfecture
finistere. My school told me that I can use it to reenter to France.
Is it true?
And the top-voted answer:
The récépissé is a "receipt of request for residence"
The facts of this case are clear as to why this a "long-term" question: the OP is clearly, as a student AND as demonstrated by the answer, someone who is considered a resident - even if temporarily - under French law. Rules for this are very likely to be different from, say, someone on a multiple entry Schengen visa trying to return to France. Hence, this was closed as off-topic.
I hope the explanation above makes the situation clearer. I finally got time during the weekend to write out a comprehensive answer. As a moderator, I want to make sure that the community's voice is heard on all issues but on this occasion I feel the decision take with regard to that particular question which was closed as well as on the broader issue of whether questions related to long-term travel are off-topic here is justified.
UPDATE: I forgot to add another point. I was involved with the Travel.SE Area51 proposal during its commitment / definition phase, and that was another point the community raised there about not wanting to have expat / immigration questions.