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Malaysia – Eligibility to Work

In terms of work, Malaysia is a great location for expats. It’s usually best when international employers send people to Malaysia as expatriates, rather than them trying to find a job after arriving in Malaysia, as this can be almost impossible. As with all countries, Malaysia has its own set of laws that allow individuals to work here.

Employees and their families coming to Malaysia, who have not obtained work permits before arrival, are allowed to enter the country on social visit passes (SVP) and to obtain the work permit afterwards. As Malaysia imposes stringent laws for illegal workers, it is highly recommended not to start working before the work permit is issued.
There are several different visas available, depending on your type of employment. However, in order to be eligible to work here, there are some basic rules;

  • The foreign national coming to Malaysia to work must be 25 years and above (exception in IT sector, where required minimum age is 23).
  • The work permits are usually issued for periods between 12 months to 60 months. (Approval is dependent on the Immigration Authority)

Malaysia issues different work visas depending on the type of job and skills needed. The most common choice, the expatriate visa type is intended for people earning over 8000 MYR (Minimum salary is MYR 5000) a month in professional jobs. However, there are certain job roles, which can’t apply for this visa type. Furthermore, companies in Malaysia are allowed to hire foreigners only when they can prove to the government that the potential employee and the position are of vital importance and local personnel cannot fill the job. The approval of the employment will be granted by different regulatory agencies in accordance with the Immigration Department, depending on the industry and nature of work involved.

There’s also a ‘foreign-workers’ visa, but this is intended for immigrants working in relatively low paid sectors rather than ‘professional’ jobs. Eligibility for a work visa can be dependent on the type of role and the specific individual applying. The three main categories that the work permit falls into are as follows:

The Professional Visit Pass: The Professional Visit Pass is issued to a foreigner employed by an overseas company but working with a company in Malaysia. This pass is appropriate for technical experts and trainees, as well as volunteers. This Pass is normally valid for short periods of around 1 month to a maximum of 12 months (cannot be renewed).

Temporary Employment Pass: This pass is for unskilled or semi-skilled workers in the manufacturing, agriculture, construction and services fields, with a salary of less than RM 5000. The pass is normally valid for minimum two years, with extensions available on a yearly basis.

Employment Pass: An Employment Pass applies to those wanting to work in Malaysia and who have specific skills often-managerial positions. It is usually issued for a minimum period of two years.

There are several terms that one has to meet in order to be eligible for a work permit. Besides the basic requirement of age, the company that wants to undertake the contract has to have enough paid up capital, the actual amount of money that has been contributed towards the company. Local companies also need to register with the ESD (Expatriate Service Division) before applying for the Employment Pass. Usually a permit is requested for 1 or 2 years, and in a few cases 3 or even 5 years. After that period the employer will need to request the renewal of the permit. With a work permit one is not only allowed to work in Malaysia, it is also possible to open a bank account and get a mortgage.

If the offer in the contract is over RM8000 per month then the work permit application is instantly approved and immigration guarantees the work permit within one week. Highly skilled expatriates are now able to apply for a special 10-year visa that is tied to the actual individual instead of the company hiring the expatriate. With this new type of residence pass also known as talent pass, the government of Malaysia aims to attract and retain top talent in the country. (This info is incorrect). All application must go through ESD online. The minimum processing time is 14 working days and the endorsement process takes another 5 working days.

Besides being a tourist attraction, Malaysia is a growing economy that also allows expatriates from various countries to live, work and settle here smoothly. General workers to highly skilled professionals can find suitable jobs and earn a better living. Malaysia offers expatriates from both the West and the East good work opportunities combined with a great standard of living.

Last update: 26 February 2020