Official MM2H Workshop (Looking Forward to Updates!)

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On 20th March 2018, it was publicly announced for the first time at the British Council event (where I presented my Wills Seminar to British expats) held at E&O Hotel, Penang that new MM2H guidelines would come into effect mid-2018. This announcement resulted in more questions than answers and the expat community in Malaysia were understandably concerned. On our part, we wrote to the Immigration Department for clarifications and our proposed suggestions (in a nutshell for existing MM2H holders as well as applicants who had submitted their applications to be “grandfathered”).


On 9th May 2018, Malaysia welcomed a new government in our momentous elections. It is now end of July 2018 and we have yet to hear of the changes being implemented. As a quick update, there will be an official MM2H workshop organised by the Ministry of Tourism in Putrajaya on 9th August 2018. We look forward to some updates and we’ll certainly keep you posted once we have more information.


Important MM2H Updates! Popular FAQs Answered!

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in MM2H, Penang, Property, Retirement, Tax


It’s been months since I published our last MM2H FAQ. Since then, I’ve had an overwhelming number of questions from those of you seeking clarification as you consider making Malaysia your new home. As there have been many questions, I’m going to list the most common ones in our latest MM2H FAQ sheet, which I hope will help to ease the process for you!


  1. How do I qualify for Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) if I’m under 50?

You need to demonstrate that you have the financial means by meeting the following requirements:

(i) At the application stage, show proof through your last three bank statements (prior to the application date) that you have:

  • the cash equivalent of RM500,000/- anywhere in the world. This means a fixed deposit, current or savings account and not shares or bonds.
  • an income equivalent to RM10,000/- per month anywhere in the world.

(ii) After you receive the letter of approval, you must place RM300,000/- into a fixed deposit account in a Malaysian bank. This amount can be taken from the RM500,000/- which you used to prove financial means. This money needs to remain in the account for the duration of your permit. Once the money has been transferred, you can get your MM2H approval stamp in your passport.

If you fully own a house or apartment in Malaysia worth RM1,000,000/- or above, with no mortgage, the fixed deposit can be reduced to RM150,000/- after the first year.


  1. How do I qualify for Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) if I am over 50?

(i) At the application stage, show proof through your last three bank statements (prior to the application date) that you have:

  • the cash equivalent of RM350,000/- anywhere in the world. This means a fixed deposit, current or savings account and not shares or bonds.
  • an income equivalent to RM10,000/- per month anywhere in the world.

(ii) After you receive the letter of approval, you must place RM150,000/- into a fixed deposit account in a Malaysian bank. This amount can be taken from the RM500,000/- which you used to prove financial means. This money needs to remain in the account for the duration of your permit. Once the money has been transferred, you can get your MM2H approval stamp in your passport.

If you fully own a house or apartment in Malaysia worth RM1,000,000/- or above, with no mortgage, the fixed deposit can be reduced to RM100,000/- after the first year.


  1. Can I withdraw the fixed deposit under Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) lien?

As a general rule, the fixed deposit should not be withdrawn until the termination of the MM2H permit. However, one year from the approval date, part of the deposit may be withdrawn if it is for medical expenses, your children’s education, or for the purchase or reimbursement of a house.

Individuals under 50 years of age can withdraw up to RM150,000/-, and individuals over 50 years of age can withdraw up to RM50,000/-.


  1. How long does the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) application process take?

A decision is given in approximately 4 to 5 months upon submission of a complete application. Recently, it has taken longer to approximately 6 to 7 months, supposedly due to a large number of applications.


  1. What are the benefits of Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H)?

(i) There are many benefits for the Malaysia My Second Home programme, such as:You will have permission to remain in Malaysia for up to 10 years. Please note that this duration is restricted by your passport’s expiry date. Once you have renewed your passport, you will be able to have the remainder of your MM2H term endorsed on it. This includes multiple entries and there is no requirement that you spend a minimum time in the country.

(ii) Dependants such as your spouse, parents (over 60) and children (under 21) can accompany you.

(iii) Land and property are governed by individual states. In general, foreigners are restricted to owning certain types of properties at certain price levels. On the island of Penang, for example,  foreigners can only purchase apartments and houses above RM1,000,000/- and RM3,000,000/- and above respectively. In contrast, MM2H holders can purchase up to two residential houses (excluding commercial properties and shophouses) or apartments at the lower threshold of RM500,000/-.

(iv) You can employ a foreign maid, subject to the current immigration guidelines on maids.


  1. What happens when a Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) participant passes away?

If a MM2H participant passes away and his/her spouse wishes to stay in Malaysia, they must apply to the MM2H department to be named as the main participant. Upon approval, the fixed deposit must also be changed into his/her name. Depending on the dispositions in the participant’s will, the spouse may be required to show financial evidence that he/she has the means to continue under the MM2H programme.

If the spouse does not intend to stay in the country, then the executor or administrator can request to have the MM2H visa terminated. Two letters will need to be issued: one to the immigration authorities, and the other to the bank, requesting the release of the fixed deposit.

Of course, having an experienced Malaysian administrator can help to expedite this process.


  1. Do I need to show financial strength when I renew my 10-year MM2H visa?

The official MM2H website doesn’t mention it, however, you may be asked to show proof of the RM10,000- monthly income at the counter, upon submission of the 10- year renewal, and you will already have the MM2H fixed deposit under lien.


  1. How do I qualify to be a tax resident? How can I register myself to obtain a tax file in Malaysia?

As a country to emigrate to, Malaysia has many lifestyle draws (see below).  One such attraction is our territorial tax system. One pays tax only on income derived from Malaysia, and money brought in from abroad and derived from outside Malaysia is not taxable. This system has many advantages for foreign nationals looking for tax efficiency. I’ve had numerous queries on how to be a tax resident and how foreigners can open a tax file in Malaysia.

To become a tax resident, a foreign national needs to satisfy any of the following criteria:

  • Be resident in Malaysia for 182 days of the tax year;
  • Be resident in Malaysia for less than 182 days of the tax year, but have been resident in Malaysia for a total of 182 consecutive days linked to days from the year immediately preceding or following that tax year;
  • Be resident in Malaysia for at least 90 days of the current tax year and have been resident in Malaysia for at least 90 days in three of the four preceding years; or
  • Be resident in Malaysia in the year following and have been resident in Malaysia in the three years preceding the one being taxed.

To open a tax file in Malaysia, a foreign national needs to either purchase a property or derive income within Malaysia. For online registration please go to


  1. Can an MM2H applicant bring in mentally ill adult son or daughter as dependant? (NOTE: UK uses that spelling, US with an “e”)

Yes, provided the applicant furnishes the supporting documents to MM2H department.


  1.  Is Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) a PR? Does it allow the applicant to work?

Malaysia My Second Home doesn’t entitle you to Permanent Residence status or a passport but it does entitle you to part-time work if you fulfil the criteria.


  1. Does Malaysia recognise de facto/common law marriages/same sex marriages?

Unfortunately, Malaysia has yet to recognise such marriages, so for now, both partners would have to apply separately for MM2H.


  1. Duty free cars?

The MM2H department decided to abolish the tax incentive on the purchase of a new locally assembled vehicle or import of a pre-owned private vehicle into Malaysia under MM2H effective from 1st January 2018. Therefore, MM2H visas endorsed into the participants’ passports after 1st January 2018 will not qualify to apply for the tax incentive.The Ministry of Finance however extended the deadline for MM2H participants with MM2H visa endorsed before 31st December 2017 to submit for car tax exemptions (best to have it approved) before 31 December 2018.


    13. Increase in the financial threshold? 

We have been verbally informed by the MM2H department that approximately mid-2018, the cash minimum for the financial requirement for MM2H applications will be increased to RM600,000.00 instead of RM500,000.00 or RM350,000.00 (as the case may be) now and the subsequent Fixed Deposit (FD) placement will be increased to RM500,000.00 instead of RM300,000.00 or RM150,000.00 (as the case may be) now.

Good news: MM2H participants are allowed to withdraw up to RM250,000.00 from the RM500,000.00 (we were made to understand that this is after the first year – to be confirmed) for medical expenses, purchase of property and/or children’s education.

Some of the other amendments verbally mentioned to us are:

  • MM2H holders will be entitled to buy properties over RM1,000,000/- (this of course, will still be subject to the guidelines of the respective state where the property in located);
  • Applicants who are 60 years and above no longer need to show a recurring income of RM10,000/- a month;
  • MM2H holders will not be permitted to work in Malaysia.

Please note these are verbal updates so it would be advisable to wait for the official updates in writing.


As Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) is a lifestyle visa, here are some links I’d like to suggest. They show the cultural, artsy & fun parts of Penang:- &


Estate planning talk for the British High Commission

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Estate Planning, MM2H, Penang, Retirement, Tax, Wills



I’m sitting on a long wooden table at my surf camp on a rugged tiny island in the Indian Ocean, hours by boat, west of Sumatra in Indonesia. We wait patiently for favourable winds to bring peeling walls of water for us to carve on. There’s time to reflect during these waits.


Exactly this time last week, I was in a seminar room at a 5-star hotel in Penang, going through last minute preparations and chatting with colleagues and business associates. I presented a talk on wills and estate planning on behalf of the British High Commission exclusively for the sizeable British expatriates who have retired or relocated to Malaysia. These expats are in Malaysia mainly on a long stay visa called Malaysia My Second Home (more commonly known as MM2H). A few days later, I bumped into one of the attendees and she kindly complimented me on a job well done. But it was what she said later that truly struck a chord with me and prompted me to pen this blog.


“You forced the audience to put their thinking caps on,” she remarked and added that Brits tend to procrastinate or see no urgency when it comes to estate planning. And here I was thinking that procrastination was purely a Malaysian affliction!


That comment was particularly satisfying because it’s difficult for a speaker to give a large audience exactly what they want. Everyone has different needs with varying knowledge levels. If the speaker goes into too much depth on the topic, he risks losing the attention of some in the audience; while those with in-depth knowledge might be disappointed or bored.


It would seem that many of us choose not to confront or even think about our mortality. And this fear transcends nationalities! My take on this is, instead of dreading the inevitable; I prefer to focus on our loved ones and leaving them in a better place when we depart. With that in mind and instead of lecturing the attendees on the substantive laws of succession, I shared examples of problems which cropped up frequently and cost our clients or their estate.


Here are some points I shared with the Brits who attended my talk:


  • Don’t leave it till it’s too late (because when you’re no longer alive, no one else knows where things are, or you may no longer have testamentary capacity and also, there is the question of whether an unsigned will is valid);
  • Professional trustees and executors such as nominees from professional will writing companies may not always be necessary (fees charged by professional trustees may be as high as a few percentage of the gross value of your estate);
  • UK inheritance tax, what is domicile and how your domicile may have an adverse impact on your inheritance tax – and how should you plan for all this;
  • When and why you may want to have a separate Malaysian will;
  • Gains tax and stamp duty in Malaysia and how estate planning can minimise these; and
  • Avoid a simple will. Taking the time to chat with your lawyer about your circumstances (as opposed to having a quick simple will just to tick the box) is worth more than its weight in gold.


I do hope this discussion about death and wills doesn’t terrify but persuades you to put your thinking caps on and to be suitably prepared to confront your fears. I know I’ll be doing that when I surf the strong Indian Ocean swells later.


As my new surf mate here from Maui would say, “Aloha!”


See you at my next blog,



PS. Just in case you are thinking of locating or retiring to Malaysia or have friends who are, some important topics were discussed at the seminar which was also graced by senior officers of the Malaysia My Second Home and the Immigration Department. Among the noteworthy subjects, the rumoured increase in the financial criteria for Malaysia My Second Home — this has been approved by the Malaysian cabinet and will take effect around the middle of the year. A formal announcement will be made soon.


The main points are:

  • The new financial criteria will no longer be based on the age of the applicants;
  • At the application stage, all MM2H applicants have to show they have cash of at least the equivalent of RM600,000/- anywhere in the world;
  • Upon approval, a fixed deposit of RM500,000/- will have to be placed in a fixed deposit account under lien with a Malaysian bank;
  • MM2H holders will be entitled to buy properties over RM1,000,000/- (this of course, will still be subject to the guidelines of the respective state where the property in located);
  • Applicants who are 60 years and above no longer need to show a recurring income of RM10,000/- a month;
  • MM2H holders will not be permitted to work in Malaysia.


All the above was conveyed verbally so I would advise that we await the official version in writing.


Estate Planning for SMEs at Vistage

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Estate Planning, Investments, Tax, Wills

Posted by Sam Choong on Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Laws of Succession and Estate Planning

As someone who likes his advice to be user friendly, there’s nothing like getting direct feedback from the business community. Specifically, in terms of the laws of succession and estate planning, what type of guidance they need. I recently received an invite from Vistage, a peer advisory grouping of CEOs and business owners, to chat to them about Estate Planning for family owned SMEs. Of course, I accepted without hesitation.

This particular group consisted of members who have built successful businesses from scratch, as well as second generation business owners. One member was legally trained and runs practices in KL and Penang, so a cross section of the business community was well represented.

Wills and Estate Planning

Without going into the details of our discussion, here are 3 points which cropped up during our chat and Q&A . I thought they were worth sharing, especially if you run your own business:

  1. Estate planning is not just about having a will — it’s more than that. It includes taking steps during one’s lifetime (there’s no time like the present!) to structure your business, company or assets in order to achieve your objectives. For example, to ensure certainty and the wellbeing of your loved ones and your business.
  2. Go with the experts! You must have a legally trained writer. There is nothing worse than a poorly written will. It could put your loved ones in a worse position than having no will at all.  A will is not only about saying who gets what or filling in a ‘template will’. So long as you own a property, say a house or a factory, there are tax and legal issues which even experts need to research before coming up with a succession plan. We haven’t started talking about assets in multi-jurisdictions!
  3. Who takes over when the key person passes away? Does he or she start looking for a successor? From within the company or from outside? Would they have the charisma vis-à-vis the staff and customers of the business? Will they have the respect of the heirs? In my opinion, when a personality is identified in a business, this becomes a double-edged sword. As obvious as it is, it’s often overlooked for a host of reasons. Avoid or mitigate the chaos that can ensue.

I do hope the above prompts some thinking into this.

Happy to help if you have questions.



Posted by Sam Choong on Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Bazaar at the Hin Bus Depot

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in MM2H, Penang, Retirement

The Bazaar at the Hin Bus Depot

The Bazaar at the Hin Bus Depot








Bazaars can be engaging places and the Hin Bus Depot bazaar is no different. No matter where they are: the historical Spice Bazaar in Istanbul; the ‘Flea markets’ in Camden Town; or the “Pasar Malam” in Bandar Aceh.

The Joys of the Hin Bus Depot Bazaar

We are in a world of increased homogeneity where fashion, phones or cars are dominated by chains and high street brands. Therefore, it’s a welcome respite, at least to me, to browse through a market where homemade cakes and Nasi Kunyit are sold by the vendor who made it earlier themselves. Best of all, there aren’t any middlemen or foreign workers buzzing around. As a result, some of the vendors are amateurs or part-timers experimenting with an idea or passion. Some were just getting in touch with their artistic side. So, if you are curious about what’s on sale, just ask the person who made it. They’ll be happy to chat with you all day about their wares.


First of all, there’s a laid-back sense of community here. It’s also is a great place to people watch and feel the pulse of the younger, artistic side of Penang. Whatever your view, it’s an interesting way to spend the afternoon. You’ll find something to enjoy, no matter who you go with. Spend the day browsing all the local treats with family and friends. Sample food in the semi al fresco grounds of the former Hin bus company depot.

I have been to the market once or twice before. However, one day some relatives took a booth for the kids to try their hand at being milkshake vendors for the day. They had such a great time selling and interacting with the patrons it inspired me to write about the Hin Bus Depot pop up market.

The Hin Bus Depot pop up market market operates Sundays 11am to 5pm.

This is one of my “go to” recommendations for my MM2H or culturally inclined visitors.


Stamp (Amendment) Bill 2017 WITHDRAWN!

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Here’s a quick update, especially for those of you in the market for a property. Some time in September 2017, I reminded prospective purchasers of properties to be mindful of the 2016 Malaysian budget announcement that transfers of RM1,000,000/- and above will be subject to an increased stamp duty of 1% and this was to take effect from 1st January, 2018 (See my earlier post at Well, some good news! It would seem, after its first reading in the Malaysian Parliament recently, this proposed increase is to be put on hold for the time being as the Stamp (Amendment) Bill 2017 has been withdrawn in Parliament.

For more on the topic you can also refer to:


Inheritance Tax

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Inheritance Tax

Estate Duty and Inheritance Tax

Speculation has been rife, over the past two months, that estate duty or inheritance tax would be reintroduced. This rumour isn’t new. In fact, such talk has recurred over the years.

This, in turn, spurred my high net-worth clients to research and attend talks by private banks with wealth preservation departments, as well as promoters of offshore financial centres. This, as opposed to it’s nebulous relation, the tax haven. These places range from nearby Labuan to exotic jurisdictions like the BVI & Cayman. Out of curiosity, and to better understand my client’s needs, I too attended such presentations.

Wealth Preservation Talks

These talks usually consist of sales representatives from private banks or fund managers extolling the virtues of setting up generic, or boiler plate, on shore or off shore trusts or foundations.  Legal terms and representations are made repeatedly. These include terms such as “firewall”, “control retained by the settlor through ‘protectors'” or “letters of wishes”, along with the use of seemingly simple charts. The representatives offer trusts or foundations as an all encompassing solution to estate planning and wealth preservation needs of those attending.

The Malaysian Budget

They announced the Malaysian Budget last Friday, 27th October 2017. Therefore, it’s a busy time for tax accountants and us lawyers. We have to juggle our work and digest the parts of the law which concern our areas of practice. I’m happy, however, to report there has not been any imposition of estate duty.

See my previous blog title “What is Inheritance Tax? Will Malaysia Introduce Inheritance Tax?” for more information.

Estate Plan

So, with the long list of ‘help’ at hand, who should the prudent high net-worth person go with to estate plan?

Rather than suggest the structures mentioned above as an all encompassing panacea for the ‘ails’ of my clients, I prefer a different approach.

On the surface, the template structures often talked about at seminars, namely trusts or a foundation, are relatively simple concepts. A settlor, in the case of a trust, is the person who sets it up. In the case of a foundation, they are called a founder. Similarly, a trustee or council member respectively are who manage the structure. Finally, in both structures, the beneficiaries are the people provided for.

In practice, however, there are numerous types of such structures. Whichever structure you choose, and the way the aforementioned people are placed, may differ depending on the needs of the client.

The Laws for Inheritance Tax

Laws where these structures are set up may differ from the laws where the creator, subject matter assets, or parties being provided for, are. The pros & cons of which are well covered by the promoters/private banks/lawyers setting up such structures.  All the speakers seemed unaware or ignored this basic, but fundamental, piece of the puzzle.

Both the person setting up the structure, and the person being provided for, may be in different jurisdictions. It is not uncommon, at least in my experience, for us to appoint a team of specialist advisers across jurisdictions and areas of law to advise on one estate.

What To Do?

I would therefore start by ascertaining the needs of the clients. Namely are they looking for protection against forced heirship, creditor claims, inheritance tax and/or looking after a family member needing guidance. Then, I would study the laws relating to the subject matter of interest to the client. Namely, I would study the laws of the possible jurisdiction where the structures are to be set up, calling in “outside” experts where necessary. Size does matter after all, and in this case being small and unrestricted by affiliations has its advantages. We then advise on the appropriate structure, in the appropriate jurisdiction, for the client.

Estate Duty/Inheritance Tax in Malaysia

As for estate duty or inheritance tax in Malaysia, this is a bit tricky. The laws have not yet been drawn up, if indeed they ever will be. Therefore, to create a structure and move assets in, and incurring stamp duty should be considered in order to avoid it being wasted.

Worse still, if the structure doesn’t work, further stamp duty and possible gains tax may be incurred. Assets will have to be transferred into a further structure. Take, for example, the UK and the Inheritance Tax Act, 1984 which is being updated by Finance Bill (No.2) 2017. This Act has resulted in those setting up offshore company structures having to undo or “de-envelope” such structures.

What Next?

So, how does one estate plan for a law that has yet to be drawn up? I would take into account the points mentioned above and consider how the latest inheritance tax laws are drafted in the leading financial centres around the world, as the Malaysian drafters are likely to take their cue from there.


Big Band Jazz in Penang on Sept 27th,2017

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Sam Choong and Guests at the Big Band Jazz Event

Jazz has always struck a chord with me. Men and women dressed to the nines in their elegant frocks and black ties, all for the occasion and what an occasion it was! The Big Band Jazz concert exhibited the best of jazz from a bygone era of art deco and sophistication; the Great Gatsby, Ellington, Count Bassie. It’s the very best of music, fused with sartorial elegance.

It’s a period I totally connect with. On my travels, I’d check out jazz clubs as often as possible. I’ve been to wonderful places, such as the Blue Note in Tokyo and the Fairmont Peace Hotel in Shanghai (but that’s another story for another day).

Jazz at the Philharmonic

At the end of September, I received the “Jazz @ the Philharmonic” invite. Immediately, I got to work and rounded up a dozen like-minded friends and MM2H clients. I informed them about the mid-week jazz concert by the Penang Philharmonic Orchestra. The event was at its home, The Star Pitt Street on Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling in Georgetown’s old quarter. Built in 1906, this was previously the base for the home-grown Penang Star newspaper. However, they soon outgrew this charming old building, and now the 2nd floor, which used to be the administrative office, has become the base of the Penang Philharmonic Orchestra. I’ve attended concerts by Jerome Quah before and they’ve been consistently outstanding, so expectations were high.

Jerome Quah 

Jerome Quah, whose passion is musical improvisation, found an affinity with Jazz from a young age. His lecturer at the University Sains Malaya, the Jazz Maestro, Jeep, introduced him to this genre of music and he found his passion. Furthermore, he led about 20 volunteer musicians from the local community, ranging from teachers and students of music to engineers and MM2H retirees, all with one thing in common: their love for Jazz.  Standards by Ellington and Hancock, such as “Watermelon Man”, “Take the A train” and an original, aptly called “Island Breeze” by Mike Tomaro, became firm favourites.

The musicians took turns to play their solo pieces and exhibit their own take on the pieces.  It was an hour of magic. We were transported back to 1930s; back to elegance and sophistication.

Myself and my guests were both thrilled. The music lived up to the hype and the charm of the building — a place I recommend keeping an eye on for future events.


What is Inheritance Tax? Will Malaysia introduce Inheritance Tax?

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Estate Planning, Tax, Wills

About a month ago, I caught up with some Singapore and BVI trust lawyers over some off shore trust work. Coincidentally, on my return, WhatsApp  messages started trickling in, asking whether inheritance tax will be introduced in the upcoming budget. I, of course, immediately thought that an article on inheritance tax or death duties would be timely. Unfortunately work got in the way and Esther Lee of the Edge Malaysia has actually done a credible write up on the topic. I’d like to refer you to the article below and I shall follow this up shortly with my own about how I would estate plan in the event inheritance tax or estate duty becomes a reality in Malaysia.