Becoming a permanent resident of any country calls for a lot of consideration, research and immigration formalities. Depending on your social and economic preferences as well as the quality of life in that particular country, you might choose to become a permanent resident; obtain Malaysian citizenship at some point (changing your citizenship at birth), for example; or just get an Employment Pass for employment opportunities. Hence, you might opt for permanent residency from the Immigration Office, (instead of citizenship applications) or other options such as an Employment Pass in Malaysia for many reasons of your own. In Malaysia, a permanent resident means having certain benefits and rights but is distinguished from actual citizenship, a resident pass or other types of visas and permits. There are several ways to become a permanent resident in Malaysia or obtain a permanent residence which involve official departments such as the Immigration Department, Immigration Affairs or the Immigration Authorities.
Securing permanent residency in Malaysia
By definition, being a permanent resident in Malaysia means you have the right to live in the country without time restraints. There are no visa renewals or Malaysian citizenship applications required; however, you are still considered a citizen of your home country and do not possess Malaysian citizenship. Although you can enjoy the benefits of Malaysian citizenship, that is, citizenship rights such as working (without an Employment Pass) in various employment opportunities in a Malaysian corporation, leaving and entering the country as you please as well as buying property, you don’t have the right to vote. These benefits are determined by the Immigration Affairs of Malaysia or the Immigration Office. Your time of application is also important, so do make allowances for your application to be processed and immigration formalities.
Here are some things to note as a permanent resident (PR) of Malaysia or a potential resident:
You must adhere to the laws and rules of the country
You must not join any political parties or political activities
You must be aware that your PR status can be cancelled at any time by the government.
The application fee to process your documents is RM40. Furthermore, your income is taxable and EPF contribution is required under a contract of service. As a benefit, you are entitled to public healthcare and can work in professional fields such as medicine and law without an Employment Pass and as determined by Immigration Affairs and as per immigration formalities.
Other important entities to be familiar with are the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Ministry of Home Affairs manages the immigration and foreign workers’ affairs of the country. The Ministry of Home Affairs’ mission is to ensure internal safety and security for the well-being of the people. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ mission is to “protect Malaysia’s sovereignty and interests through the advancement of effective diplomacy by a corps of world-class diplomats.”
Other thoughts on PR in Malaysia
With regards to domestic and international student classification, it is worth mentioning here that permanent residents are subject to the “domestic tuition fees” as opposed to “international tuition fees for an international student in Malaysia” when it comes to education. Hence, they end up paying less than an international student would. Also, they are permitted to acquire properties with reference to the price cap imposed. Another plus point here is that you will have a dual identity – both as a PR in Malaysia and citizenship rights of your home country as determined by the Immigration Department or Immigration Affairs and the Malaysian authorities. This may be important for some as they would like to maintain their roots as well as the foundation of their particular identity.
Who can apply?
There are many ways of becoming a permanent resident in Malaysia. For successful applicants, you (a potential resident) must have lived 5 years in Malaysia to be considered by the Immigration Department or Immigration Affairs. As part of the immigration formalities and if you have made up your mind about it, consider these five short- and long-term solutions where your professional skills may be invaluable.
Options to obtain permanent residency
As an investor
Many find this a viable option for getting PR as opposed to just marrying a Malaysian. If you choose this option through investment, there are a few important things to take note of including the financial requirement as well as your financial standing and bankable assets. The financial requirement is you need to have a deposit of at least USD2 million in a fixed deposit account in a bank in Malaysia. You also need a Malaysian citizen to sponsor you. That person should ideally be a good-standing Malaysian citizen.
Most foreign workers are attracted to the stable business climate or the state of business services in Malaysia which includes an open market, diversity, an experienced workforce, its values of investments, tax system, financial standing and that one can establish a business easily. All these advantages make it a suitable country for investment, therefore, you may get the latest insights from industry experts.
As an expert
This is one of the applications for experts. To qualify for this option, you would need to demonstrate to the Immigration Department (or relevant authority) or Immigration Affairs that you can contribute to the country and that your skills are valuable.
Usually, in order to do this, you would need a recommendation from an agency in Malaysia such as the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Higher Learning, the Central Bank, the Securities Commission, Malaysian Industrial Development Authority, Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry (providing agriculture services), Ministry of Information, Communication and Culture, Ministry of International Trade and Industries, Ministry of Youth and Sports, and the appropriate government agency responsible. Furthermore, you would be required to demonstrate your Good Conduct from your home country or country of origin. Lastly, to apply for experts, you need a good-standing Malaysian citizen as a sponsor.
As a professional
What if you don’t qualify as an expert but have professional skills in other fields? Well, the professional option which is both for highly-qualified professionals as well as skilled professionals is one way to go. However, you must have worked in Malaysia for 3 years and have valuable skills or outstanding skills as well as experience in your field of expertise. You must be certified and obtain a recommendation from the relevant agencies in Malaysia, including the agencies listed above including the Malaysian Industrial Development Authority, the Ministry of Health and other Malaysian agencies. You would need to demonstrate your Good Conduct from your home country or country of origin. You will also need a Malaysian citizen sponsor. This option is specifically for highly qualified professionals or skilled professionals.
This point-based system is rather unique and has 7 different criteria. You need to have a score of at least 65 based on the allocation of points determined by the government. The criteria include age, education and professional qualification, duration of time in Malaysia, how well you know the Malaysia Institute, total investments, work experience and how fluent you are in Bahasa Malaysia.
Spouse of citizen
Probably the most common option of getting PR in Malaysia or “citizenship by registration” is if you are married to a Malaysian citizen and have lived in Malaysia continuously for 5 years under an appropriate pass, visa or its equivalent. In this case, your Malaysian spouse will be your sponsor.
Steps to apply for PR
You would need to submit the relevant documents to the Malaysian Immigration Department (Jabatan Imigresen Malaysia) or Immigration Affairs. Check with the officials there as to immigration requirements and which additional documents are required but you can expect the basic requirement to consist of (firstly, the applicant’s passport):
letter of recommendation from appropriate agencies
marriage certificate or birth certificate
2 passport-sized photographs
a cover letter and other forms as deemed necessary
Along with your sponsor, you will have to attend an interview at the Immigration Department or Immigration Affairs.
What are my other options?
If you think the process of getting a PR is lengthy and difficult, there may be other options or straightforward alternatives for you to change your resident status, examples being the Employment Pass (solutions for foreigners) and the Resident Pass. These will also serve the purpose of letting you stay in the country for specific purposes. Also, these might prove to be easier to obtain from the Immigration Department and more convenient depending on your need. Ensure your contract of employment has the specifics of your status and your tenure while you are here.
One of the straightforward alternatives, if you are a professional already working in Malaysia for some time, is the Residence Pass. There are 2 types: the Residence Pass issued by Immigration and the Residence Pass-Talent (RP-T) issued by the government agency responsible, TalentCorp. Through the Resident Pass, you will be able to work, study and own a business. The Residence Pass-Talent is a 10-year renewable pass. If you are a professional in certain areas such as education, ICT, biotech, business services and other National Key Economic Areas, then this Residence Pass-Talent is worth considering. This is different from the Employment Pass, which is one of the solutions for foreigners.
Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) program
This is a visa that was initiated by the government in the hopes of portraying Malaysia as a positive place to live. It is a renewable 5-year visa and is intended to be beneficial to both the country and expatriates at the same time. It is known as the “world’s most successful long-term visas.”
Also known as a work permit, this Employment Pass gives the right to foreigners to work in Malaysia in a Malaysian corporation and is based on the contract of service or contract of employment (up to 60 months). This Employment Pass is especially suited for those who have decided to earn income in Malaysia in a specific company and who wish to pursue employment opportunities here.
Dependant Pass and Long Term Social Visit Pass
For dependents of applicants, those Employment Pass holders with a minimum salary of RM5,000 can apply for their spouse, children if they are under 18, parents and in-laws. Foreigners or dependents of applicants can apply for The Long Term Social Visit Pass which will enable him or her to stay temporarily in Malaysia for up to 6 months.
So you might have other questions…
So far by reading this article, you might have a good impression of Malaysia, and no nightmare stories! After all, Malaysia has a popular standing amongst foreigners, the requirements for the Permanent Residency Status including the application fee are reasonable, and there are a variety of passes including the Employment Pass to choose from depending on your preference. But there may still be some lingering general questions about having the PR status in Malaysia, for instance regarding property buying and how easy it is to get PR at all. Here are some questions that you might have and the corresponding responses to them.
Questions you might have
Can I buy property as a PR?
Firstly, to avoid misinterpretation of the PR status, it is imperative that for property insights we are clear that permanent residents fall under the category of “foreigners” and are subject to the rules and regulations that apply to “foreigners”. So the answer to the question is a resounding “Yes!” But one needs to consider several property insights – where the property is – as each state may have its own regulations and other foreign property limitations. As such, buying property in Peninsular Malaysia may be different than in East Malaysia, according to property insights from industry experts. Also, there might be a minimum price cap required for foreigners.
In line with that, it is important to note that there are certain types of restrictions on foreign property purchases (in order to prevent conflict with locals): properties on land reserved for Malays; properties defined by the state as low-cost or medium-cost units; and properties reserved for Bumiputeras as part of development projects. Hence, be sure to check the latest property insights from relevant sources or real estate guides in the country on foreign property purchases so that there are no aforementioned conflicts with locals as well as consider minimum price caps. Also, consider insights from industry experts.
Is it easy to get PR?
Well, suffice to say that having strong academic and professional qualifications will put you at the top of the list. It also doesn’t hurt to have the right connections who can help expedite your application process. Being thoroughly prepared for the interview, and abiding by the requirements of the Immigration Department or Immigration Affairs and the relevant authority, including ensuring renewal of passports and availability of additional documents will also speed up the process. Consider getting the Employment Pass if you are a foreigner specifically intending to work in Malaysia and gather insights from industry experts on what your next step should be.
Why get a PR in Malaysia?
Malaysia is a warm place (both in terms of weather and the people!). We love meeting new people and we love our food. We are known for our hospitable character, where inviting someone over for a meal is a norm and we take pleasure in hosting foreigners in our homes. We are rather curious about people from other countries but at the same time, take pride in our own culture. So think about it – Malaysia might just be the place for you! You may choose to live in Peninsular Malaysia, East Malaysia; or get an Employment Pass to work here if you are a foreigner. What are the consequences of not having a PR or pass?
The punishment for staying illegally in Malaysia without a PR or a pass is grim: a fine not exceeding RM10,000 or not exceeding 5 years in prison or both as well as capital punishment as determined by the law of the land or the Malaysian government. This indeed could be one of the nightmare stories that you need to stay away from!
Which is the easiest option to get a PR?
Some might say just get married to a Malaysian citizen! The PR is very much similar to the American green card in this sense. Yes, if you do fall in love with a Malaysian citizen and plan to live in Malaysia, then this option would work. But how often does that happen anyway? It would very much depend on your destiny or fate (if you believe in these!).
In any case, consider all the options listed in this article including the Employment Pass to the Long Term Social Visit Pass and make an informed decision based on your skills, experience and future goals. The decision may not be an easy one to make and you might have hurdles along the way, but as they say, “Where there is a will, there is a way.”
Living or working in any country is a choice that each of us has to make. Some are comfortable where they are – that is, with their citizenship at birth; some want to move, thinking the grass is greener on the other side and some might be in limbo. Essentially we all need a place where we feel we belong and where our heart and soul can reside.
It is interesting how the place we are born or our citizenship at birth may not be the place we ultimately reside in. As we see more of the world, we may be drawn to the diversity and plethora of cultures around us.
Every country has different requirements for permanent residence according to the Immigration Department or Immigration Affairs of that country. There are many reasons why you might be interested in finding out the requirements of becoming a permanent resident in Malaysia, including its popular standing amongst foreigners. You might one day want to obtain Malaysian citizenship and change your citizenship at birth. Maybe you want to comfortably live among your Malaysian spouse’s family, be a part of Malaysian society or have a growing business to run.
Whatever the case may be, we hope the best for your future endeavours, whether you choose to live in Peninsular Malaysia or the East Coast. Also, whether you choose an Employment Pass or Dependent Pass, ensure the renewal of passports is done in a timely manner so that you don’t run into any application glitches.
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