How to Apply for Permanent Residency in Malaysia

How to Apply for Permanent Residency in Malaysia

Malaysia is a rapidly developing country with a thriving economy and a relatively high standard of living compared to Asian and global standards. It is considered one of the prime investment destinations, offering a favourable business environment that welcomes experts from various fields.

Life here is both comfortable and safe, with a relatively low crime rate. Malaysia, having been a former British colony, has integrated the English language into everyday life, and the majority of locals are proficient in it. Additionally, learning Malay, the official language, is often perceived as straightforward.

The local population is known for their friendliness and warm reception of foreigners. Malaysia is a diverse and multicultural nation with a rich history of immigration. Moreover, it's a true haven for food enthusiasts, beach lovers, and those who appreciate tropical natural beauty.

Malaysia has stringent immigration laws in place. Citizenship is primarily reserved for ethnic Malays and their descendants, with no provisions for naturalisation, marriage-based citizenship, or investment-based citizenship. Living in the country often involves continually extending your visa, provided you meet its ongoing requirements, or pursuing a residence permit, which, while challenging, is still attainable.

What Are the Benefits of Malaysian Permanent Residence Permit

A Malaysian permanent resident status grants its holder many privileges akin to those of a citizen of the country, with some exceptions. Political involvement, such as running for office, voting in elections, or forming political associations, is strictly prohibited for non-citizens. However, permanent residents of Malaysia are entitled to the following benefits:

  • Free entry and exit from the country, without additional requirements. 
  • The ability to reside in Malaysia indefinitely.
  • Participation in entrepreneurial activities.
  • Employment without the need for additional permits, as well as the ability to obtain licences in fields such as medicine, engineering, and law.
  • Eligibility to pay local tuition fees, as opposed to international student rates.

However, holders of a permanent residence permit are obligated to pay the same taxes as Malaysian citizens and make contributions to the Employees Provident Fund.

Securing permanent resident status in Malaysia is a challenging endeavour. Even immigrants who have established their lives, work, and assimilated into local society often face difficulties in obtaining permanent residence. Furthermore, authorities retain the discretion to revoke this status if they deem it necessary. Nevertheless, under specific conditions, it is still possible to attain permanent resident status in Malaysia.

Kuala Lumpur. Photo: Esmonde Yong (Unsplash)

Requirements for Obtaining a Permanent Residence Permit in Malaysia 

You can apply for a permanent residence permit in Malaysia after legally residing in the country for a minimum of five years on a long-term visa. Permanent resident status is available to individuals falling into one of the following categories:

Investors

High-income individuals are eligible, provided they open an account with one of the Malaysian banks and deposit a minimum of $2 million, which must remain untouched for at least 5 years. Additionally, the permanent residence applicant will require one guarantor—a reputable Malaysian citizen.

Experts

To be eligible for this category, you must possess recognized expertise and knowledge in the following fields:

  • Healthcare and Medicine
  • International Trade
  • Production Industry, Services, and Manufacturing
  • Agriculture and Agro-Industry
  • Sea, Air, and Land Transportation
  • Higher Education
  • Science, Technology, and Innovation
  • Information, Communication, Culture, and Art
  • Sports
  • Banking and Finance
  • Investments and Capital Management

The applicant will need to demonstrate the specific value of their skills to Malaysian society and how the country can benefit from them. To achieve this, they must submit a letter of recommendation from the relevant Malaysian state authority responsible for overseeing their specific professional field to the immigration authorities.

Furthermore, applicants will require a certificate of a clean criminal record from their home country, as well as a sponsorship or guarantee from a Malaysian citizen.

Batu caves. Photo: Meimei Ismail (Unsplash)

Professionals

This category applies to highly skilled specialists whose abilities are endorsed by a recommendation from the corresponding Malaysian authority. In contrast to experts, professionals are required to possess a minimum of three years of experience in their field, along with a professional qualifications certificate issued by the relevant authority in their country of residence. They must also demonstrate good conduct by furnishing a suitable certificate from their country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and securing sponsorship from a reliable Malaysian citizen.

A Spouse of a Malaysian Citizen

Individuals in this category are eligible to apply for permanent residence if:

  • They have been married for at least 5 years.
  • Throughout this period, both spouses have resided in Malaysia (with the non-Malaysian citizen spouse holding a long-term visa).

Applicants in this category will also be required to provide evidence of good conduct and a Malaysian guarantor with a solid reputation.

Point-Based System for Permanent Residency Candidates

If you do not qualify for any of the categories above, you can try to use the point-based system for evaluating permanent residency applicants. You need to score at least 65 points out of 120 possible.

Applicants are evaluated according to the following criteria:

  • Age: Applicants aged 18 to 35 receive five points, while those aged 36 to 60 receive 10 points.
  • Education: A doctoral degree is valued at 15 to 20 points, a master's degree is awarded 10 to 15 points, and a diploma of higher education grants between five and 10 points.
  • Duration of stay in Malaysia: Applicants who have legally resided in the country for 5 years or more receive 10 points.
  • Proficiency in Malay: This criterion can earn you 10 points.
  • Family ties: If the applicant's close relatives (children or parents) reside in Malaysia, they may receive additional points: five points if the relative is a citizen of Malaysia and two points for a relative who is a permanent resident. Points are assigned for each relative and summed up, but a maximum of 30 points can be obtained in this category.
  • Size of investment: For every 100,000 ringgit ($22,000) invested in a business, real estate, or a deposit in a Malaysian bank for a period of more than 1 year, 1 point is granted (with a maximum of 5 points for each type of investment).
  • Creating jobs for Malaysian citizens: Creating 30 to 50 job positions awards five points and 51 to 100 jobs awards 10 points. If the applicant has created 100 or more job positions, they receive 15 points.
  • Work experience in Malaysia: For each year of work in the trained occupation, the applicant earns one point (up to a maximum of 10 points).

An applicant seeking permanent resident status in Malaysia will be automatically disqualified if they commit any criminal offence.

Little India in Kuala Lumpur. Photo: Job Savelsberg (Unsplash)

Required Documents for Applying for Permanent Residency in Malaysia

To apply for permanent resident status in Malaysia, you will need the following documents:

  • An application form (available for 1 ringgit, approximately $0.22, from the Malaysian immigration department).
  • An original and a photocopy of the Malaysian Entry Permit.
  • A complete photocopy of your passport (all pages and the cover) or other travel documents.
  • Two clear, recent passport-size photographs of the applicant.
  • One passport-size photo of the Malaysian sponsor.
  • An individual cover letter detailing the purpose of your visit to Malaysia, including information about all movements within the country and your residential addresses.
  • An agency recommendation in Malaysia: If you are applying for permanent residence as an expert or professional, you will require a letter from the government agency responsible for your industry. For instance, doctors will need a recommendation from the Ministry of Health.
  • A photocopy of your work permit if you are employed in Malaysia.
  • A Letter of Marriage (Surat Akuan Perkahwinan) if you are married to a Malaysian citizen. Additionally, you will need a copy of your marriage certificate and a copy of your spouse's identity card.
  • Photocopies of children's birth certificates (if you have children).

Depending on the criteria you choose to apply for a permanent resident card, additional documents confirming your status may be required, such as a bank statement, tax returns, and more.

Kek-Lok-Si Buddhist Temple. Photo: ONG WEI (Unsplash)

How to Submit a Permanent Residency Application

After gathering all the necessary documents, you will need to submit your application to the Malaysian Immigration Department in Putrajaya, the country's new administrative capital. This applies to applications submitted as an investor or an expert. However, if the application for permanent residence is made as a professional, by the spouse of a Malaysian citizen, or through the point-based system, you should contact the State Immigration Service.

The application cannot be submitted through mail or online; it must be done in person. To initiate the document processing, you will be required to pay a fee of 40 ringgit ($9).

Subsequently, both the applicant and their Malaysian guarantor undergo an interview with the Department of Immigration, and the police conduct a background check on the permanent residence applicant.

Afterward, the authorities commence the processing of the permanent resident status application, which may have an indefinite duration. You can monitor the status of your application on the immigration service's website.

10-Year Residence Visa in Malaysia

For the past two decades, Malaysia has been operating the Malaysia – My Second Home (MM2H) program. This initiative was established to attract foreign direct investment to the country and provides affluent individuals with the opportunity to reside here for an extended period. By meeting specific requirements, participants receive a 10-year visa, effectively functioning as a residence permit.

This program is most appropriate for retirees or individuals with passive income sources outside of Malaysia, as the MM2H visa does not grant the right to work.

The eligibility criteria for participation in the program have become significantly stricter as of 2022. Currently, to obtain a long-term residence permit under MM2H, applicants must meet the following requirements:

  • Be at least 35 years of age.
  • Demonstrate the ability to sustain a lifestyle in Malaysia without engaging in employment within the country. To achieve this, the applicant must deposit 1 million ringgit ($218,000) into a fixed account with one of the Malaysian banks and maintain liquid assets of 1.5 million ringgit ($327,000).
  • Maintain a clean criminal record and successfully pass a security check (Malaysian authorities have raised concerns about espionage activities involving some MM2H program participants).
  • Undergo a medical examination and obtain suitable insurance coverage.

Cebu Island. Photo: Louis Gan (Unsplash)

In a Nutshell

Several applicant categories are eligible for permanent residency, including significant investors with a minimum of $2 million in a local bank account, spouses of Malaysian citizens after five years of marriage, as well as experts and professionals in fields prioritised by the state (who must demonstrate extensive experience and relevant skills). Additionally, the country utilises a point-based system for assessing candidates for permanent residency.

Cover photo: Sultan Mosque in Perak State. Hongbin (Unsplash)

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