There is an ongoing debate among practitioners and scholars about the security consequences of transnational migration. Yet, existing work has not, so far, fully taken into account the policy instruments states have at their disposal to mitigate these risks, and reliable evidence is lacking for the effectiveness of such measures. This article addresses both shortcomings as whether and to what extent national migration policies affect the diffusion of terrorism via population movements are analysed. Spatial analyses report robust support for a moderating influence of states’ policies: while terrorism can travel from one country to another via larger migration populations, this only applies to target countries with extremely lax regulations and control mechanisms. This research sheds new light on the security implications of population movements, and it crucially adds to our understanding of governments’ instruments for addressing migration challenges as well as their effectiveness.