Working in Malaysia as an Expat

Malaysia has seen an increase in tourists and expats over the last handful of years, drawn to the country’s tropical beaches, low cost of living, and exotic culture and cuisine. If staying longer than a 90-day tourist visa is your goal, you have a few options when it comes to legally residing in the country. If you are looking to retire, invest a large sum ($2 million USD), or generate enough foreign income to support yourself in Malaysia without working, the process is simple. Check out the famed MM2H Program (My Malaysian 2nd Home) for more details. If, however, working abroad in Malaysia is more relevant to you, you’ll need to apply for an Employment Pass.

Employment Pass in Malaysia

Obtaining an Employment Pass is generally done in cooperation with your new Malaysian employer, as they will have to help you in the application process. If you want to go to Malaysia first to look for a job, you can do so under the short-stay tourist visa. This visitor visa can be upgraded to a work visa while you are in the country, but the process can be lengthy, so plan ahead.

The Employment Pass in Malaysia grants foreign workers the right to live and work abroad in the country for up to 60-months, or the duration of the work contract. Once obtained, the pass is linked to the company you applied under. Changing companies or careers will require you to reapply for another pass. Illegal worker laws can be quite strict, and you will not be able to work until you have received the new permit, so be mindful.

Dependent Pass

Once you have received a valid employment pass, you are granted the ability to apply for a Dependent Pass or Long-Term Social Visit Pass for you spouse, children (under 18), and parents (over 60). You are also able to apply for a Social Visit Permit, which allows you to bring a foreign housekeeper or au pair to Malaysia (between the ages of 21 and 45, for a maximum of 12 months, renewable). These visas are also only valid so long as the Employment Pass holder’s visa remains valid.

Required Documents

To obtain an Employment Pass to work abroad in Malaysia, you will need to provide the following documents to the Immigration Department:

  • Valid passport, plus photocopies
  • Extra passport-style photos
  • Letter from employer, confirmation of hire
  • Details provided by employer to show that company is up to regulation and operating within the law

Working as a Retiree

Technically, the MM2H permit doesn’t allow for paid employment in Malaysia. However, the program is split into two categories: Under 50 Years Old and Over 50 Years Old. Each category comes with its own minimum income/investment requirements, and, recently, the Over 50 Years Old category was amended to allow for approved part-time work, if you’d like to supplement your retirement income.  Consumer Resource Guide

Foreign Worker Visa

While the employment pass is typically granted to foreign workers in the corporate world, or those with university degrees making above MYR 8000 ($1,800 USD) per month, there is a pass granted for those looking to work in lower-income, physical labor jobs in Malaysia.

This Foreign Worker Visa is offered only in the fields of manufacturing, construction, plantation, agriculture, and services. To qualify, you must be between the age of 18 and 45 and pass a physical examination.

  • Approved countries for the Foreign Worker Visa include: Thailand, Cambodia, Nepal, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Philippines, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, India, Indonesia, and Bangladesh.

Working abroad in Malaysia can be an unforgettable experience. There is so much to see and do in this great Southeast Asian country. It is imperative, however, that you obtain the appropriate documentation to live out your overseas dream without complication. As with any global visa laws, things are always changing. Contact your local Malaysian consulate, embassy, or the Immigration Department of Malaysia to get all up-to-date requirements before you file your visa application and book your flights.  

Economic Data

  • Average monthly net salary: $802 USD
  • Labor force: 15.03 million
    • By occupation: Services (53.5%), Industry (36%), Agriculture (11.1%)
  • Population below poverty line: 0.6%
  • Unemployment: 3.4%
  • Ease of doing business rank: 23rd

Author Bio:

Tyler Sorce is an American writer and digital nomad currently living in Lisbon, Portugal. In a past life he was a chef in Manhattan and Paris, follow his travels and favorite dishes on Instagram.