It has been a dramatic few months for Malaysians, starting in May 2018 with a new Government in place after 61 years, and the re-election of 93-year old former Prime Minister Tun Mahathir as our new Premier. From a political standpoint, this is exciting for us Penangites because Lim Guan Eng, the former Chief Minister of Penang — who was instrumental in bringing about radical positive changes to Penang despite being sidelined by the then Barisan-led Federal Government — is now Malaysia’s new Minister of Finance.
Then, Malaysia maintained its position as one of the top countries in the world for retirement (https://www.cnbc.com/2019/01/02/retiring-abroad-in-2019-consider-these-top-5-locations.html?fbclid=IwAR0YuQJdYlSnv_b4oBzqS1_J4jEtc65ECx23K5v9kiEATp81ocbhkC8Iqnc). There is much hope and anticipation that the new Finance Minister will be able to replicate his successes in Penang for the whole country. At the very least, it is expected Penang will continue to prosper with better access to federal funding, previously not available as an opposition State (for instance, GST has been zerorised and motorcyclists no longer pay toll on the Penang bridge). The Penang Transport Master Plan was recently announced along with plans to balance out the roads with greenery (https://www.malaymail.com/s/1708741/penang-to-develop-18000ha-green-network-by-2030). Looks like things are taking shape!
On the immigration front, a temporary moratorium on approvals for MM2H was announced in September 2018, even though applications continue to be accepted by the authorities. We’ve been informed unofficially that the staff at the MM2H department in the Ministry of Tourism (the Ministry of Tourism has been responsible for the promotion of MM2H together with the Ministry of Home Affairs) has been replaced with a new team from the Ministry of Home Affairs that will, in time, take over the sole promotion and running of the MM2H programme. Based on this, we believe MM2H approvals will resume once the new team under the Ministry of Home Affairs are ready to run MM2H on their own.
In light of these developments, many have approached us for our views on alternatives to MM2H for Peninsula Malaysia. One such which comes to mind is the Spouse Visa. This is a visa which allows a foreigner who is married to a Malaysian to remain for a longer term in the country. Here are the 7 main differences between MM2H and the Spouse Visa you need to know about:
|Show cash of RM500,000/- (under 50 years) or RM350,000/- (if over 50 years) anywhere in the world prior to the approval. Fixed deposit of RM300,000/- (under 50 years) or RM150,000/- in a Malaysian bank after approval.||No need to show financial means but need a Malaysian sponsor who earns at least RM2,000/- per month.|
|10-year visa renewable.||Initially given for a few months and renewable up to a maximum of 3 years.|
|No need to be present at the immigration office on application.||Both spouses and sponsor must be present on application.|
|No possibility of PR but currently renewable for a further 10 years.||Possible to apply for Permanent Residence after 5 years, especially if the foreign spouse has been continuously residing in Malaysia.|
|Part time work is permissible, on application, if the applicant possesses special skills.||Full time work is permissible upon application.|
|Parents over 65 years and children under 21 years can come in as dependents.
|Can bring in children under 18 years.|
|Typically, a 5 to 8 months approval period after submission of the application.
|Approximately 1 month after submission of the application.|
Someone interested to relocate to Malaysia could also consider other alternatives such as the Sabah and Sarawak MM2H or the Investor’s Visa (Permanent Residence – PR).
I trust the above information has been helpful. It’s not a comprehensive list but these are the ones a typical investor or retiree might consider for relocating or retiring to Malaysia. Feel free to contribute a comment or add to this list!
Last updated on 7th January 2018
Author: Sam Choong
Sam Choong is a lawyer practising in Malaysia. His areas of practice include estate planning, wills and UK inheritance tax for expats residing or seeking to retire in Malaysia.