Setting the Record Straight on the i-PASS

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There can be few expats that have not heard the chatter about the i-PASS – the new identification card for working expats – and the scramble to get them has proven just what a superb initiative they are. Both the cyber and the real world conversations swirl with rumours about these cards and cries of ‘where’s mine?’ mingle with grumbles of bewilderment about what these i-passes are and what they do. We hope that this article will help clear up the confusion.

First, a bit of history: The i-PASS was first unveiled in 2011 to replace the i-Kad, an identification card first introduced in 2007 by the Home Ministry and the Immigration Department for all foreign workers, expatriates and their spouses, and students.

The i-Kad was phased out from 2010, and the golden i-PASSes arrived in their place, and are available for all foreign workers holding an Employment Pass. That said, before expats go rushing off to immigration with open hands, it is worth noting that the cards will only be issued upon issue or renewal of the Employment Pass. Those who are already on Employment Passes will have to wait until their renewal date is up before they can get their i-PASS.

As of September of last year, a pink version of the i-PASS was created and the very first one made its way into the open hand of Stuart Dean, the CEO of General Electric ASEAN, who, after a decade spent in Malaysia, was thrilled at the benefits that this nifty little card has brought him. “The i-PASS has helped me tremendously,” he said. “My role requires me to travel extensively 75% of the time and the i-PASS really facilitates my mobility.”

You may be wondering how a small card can make a high-flying CEO’s life easier, but these new cards are vastly superior to their predecessors, containing a Quick Response Code that can be scanned into a smart phone for speedy identification while the card can be used instead of a passport as an identification tool. i-PASS holders are also exempt from filling in an embarkation card when entering the country, and for someone like Dean, who has been zipping in and out for the past ten years, it is a hugely welcome addition to his wallet.

Both colours of i-pass share the same nifty features, so why the colour difference? The i-PASSes for Employment Pass holders are gold, but the pretty pink version was given to Dean because he is, like 542 other expats, the holder of a Residence Pass-Talent.

The Residence Pass-Talent is a fairly new scheme that offers a ten-year renewable pass for highly-qualified expatriates, allowing them to live and work in the country for various employers without having to re-apply for a work permit. The Residence Pass-Talent is a joint product of Immigration Department of Malaysia and TalentCorp; the latter of which is an organisation set up to encourage and retain talented workers in Malaysia to help boost the pool of talent in the country.

Edwin Raspe was one of the first expats to get approved for a Residence Pass-Talent, and cannot speak highly enough of the difference it has made to his life in Malaysia. “Labour mobility drives innovation and the Residence Pass enables and stimulates this mobility on the expatriate knowledge worker level. To me, having a Residence Pass means that I can do what I really like and want to do: help technology companies in Malaysia professionalise their software development and IT recruitment processes,” says Raspe.

Rohit Chadha, GM of Bumi Armada Berhad, is also a Residence Pass-Talent holder and upon receiving his pink i-PASS last year, was thrilled with the difference it made to his life. Like Dean, Chadha found that the i-PASS “has simplified my travel in and out of Malaysia and has been such a convenient tool for me and my family.” When zipping around West Malaysia, Chadha can travel passport-free and doesn’t need to continually fill in embarkation cards.

Those expats holding the Residence Pass-Talent will be contacted, if they haven’t been already, by TalentCorp, who will have handled all the processing and collection of the i-PASS. Any new applicants receiving their Residence Pass-Talent will get their pink i-PASSes in the near future, while anyone receiving a new or re-issued Employment Pass will get their gold i-PASS simultaneously.


While some may have a fair wait until the can get their hands on an i-PASS, there can be no doubt that these cards are set to make life easier for expats living and working in Malaysia and is a superb initiative that must be applauded.

For more information on TalentCorp and the Residence Pass-Talent, visit their website at

For more information on the Employment Pass, visit


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Source: The Expat March 2012 
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