Obtaining visas for Malaysia

Expats entering Malaysia, whether for business or holiday, need to obtain a visa. However, nationals of some countries do not require a visa for entering Malaysia for short-stay tourist or business visits. Those wanting to live and work in Malaysia for an extended period will need to obtain a residence visa or work permit prior to their arrival.

There are three different types of entry visas for Malaysia, namely single-entry, multiple-entry and transit. Nationals of some countries are able to apply for a visa on arrival, but visas should generally be applied for at a Malaysian embassy or consulate before departure. 

A single-entry visa is normally valid for one entry of up to three months from the date of issue. Multiple-entry visas are issued to foreign visitors wishing to travel in and out of Malaysia a number of times, and are normally for business or official government matters. Multiple-entry visas are usually valid for a period of three to 12 months from the date of issue. Transit visas for Malaysia are for those entering Malaysia in transit to other countries.

Upon entry into Malaysia, tourists will have their passport stamped with a Social Visit Pass, the validity of which depends on a person's nationality. Holders of a Social Visit Pass are not allowed to take up employment in Malaysia. 

Expats wishing to work and live in Malaysia permanently can apply for residency in Malaysia if they fit into certain categories, such as being a high-net-worth investor, possessing exceptional skills, being married to a Malaysian, or qualifying under a points-based system. Points are allocated according to age, qualifications and language proficiency.

Malaysia My Second Home Programme

The Malaysia My Second Home Programme (MM2H) was introduced by the Malaysian government as a means of allowing foreign nationals to retire or live in Malaysia on a long-term basis. The programme invites foreigners to gain residence status for the applicant as well as their family/dependents. 

As part of the programme, applicants will get a ten-year visit pass and multiple-entry visa, which is renewable every ten years. Unless specific approval is sought, expats are not allowed to be employed in Malaysia under this programme and are required to pay a fixed deposit into a local Malaysian bank; the funds must be left in the bank during the period of validity of the visa.

Expats wanting to work in Malaysia will need to obtain a work permit, which is often a lengthy and complicated process. 

There are currently restrictions on the number of foreign workers a Malaysian company can employ. If wanting to hire foreign workers, the company will have to prove to the government that the position is of vital importance and cannot be filled by a local. The approval of the employment will be granted by different regulatory agencies in conjunction with the Immigration Department, depending on the industry and nature of work the foreigner will be undertaking. Once approval has been granted, the company can then begin the application process for the work permit on behalf of the expat.