Expat News – September 2011

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In recognition of the Malaysian Government’s plans to attract more foreigners to Malaysia and liberalise the rules on visas and work permits, we are introducing this news section to keep resident and prospective expats updated on news affecting them working or living here.

Residence Pass To Be Expanded

Currently the Residence Pass is only available to people who have lived in Malaysia for over five years and earn above RM12,000 a month. It should be noted that merely meeting the basic criteria does not necessarily guarantee approval as the applicant’s skill set has to be considered relevant to those required in the country’s key industries.

However, as previously announced, there are plans to expand the availability of the Residence Pass. This would most likely allow foreigners who have obtained a Master’s Degree or PHD in selected subjects from a local university to be eligible for the visa even though they are on much lower salaries.

Eventually it would be made available for people who have not even lived in Malaysia but have special skills that the country needs.

British High Commission Moves

The British High Commission has announced that it plans to relocate as they are selling off the current property which according to some sources has an estimated value of RM200 million.

Officially the move is to give them more space and it is expected they will relocate to a prestigious office building in Central KL. An official was quoted as saying that the running cost of the current building are very high and it would be a lot more cost effective in a rented premises.

The British Government has been selling off a number of its overseas embassies in recent years and trying to cut costs as part of the UK austerity measures.

Invest KL Being Set Up


Setting up Invest KL is one of the so called Entry Point Projects (EPP) in the Government’s Greater KL Plan. The primary objective of this new body is to attract 100 major multinational corporations to set up operations in the Greater KL area.

It was recently announced that Zainal Amanshah will become the CEO of this new body. He was previously CEO of RedTone International a leading broadband company. He joins many other people from the private sector who have decided to support the various initiatives under the Government’s Economic Transformation Programme.

Although Malaysia has had some success at attracting foreign companies it pales into insignificance when compared to Singapore which has been very successful. They are also currently home to most of the major multinational regional HQs based in Asia. It is our view that Malaysia could attract quite a few of these to relocate here.

Currently many expats in Singapore have a rather negative view of Malaysia and this acts as a barrier to considering moving here despite the much lower operating cost and the favourable lifestyle.

Klang River Clean Up Aand Beautification Project Taking Off

Part of the Greater KL Plan involves a major initiative to revitalize and transform the Klang River. As most expats are very well aware, KL is not known for its attractive rivers or waterfront developments. There are ambitious plans to change all this.

The Government has recently announced that Aecom, a US based engineering and architectural firm, has been awarded the master plan for the project with a reported value of around RM1 billion.

The project has been named the “River of Life” and involves cleaning up the river Klang and beautifying a ten kilometre stretch of the river. It will involve redevelopment of some eleven precinct areas along the waterfront to include various amenities such as pedestrian walkways, cycle tracks, retail outlets, restaurants, bars and other attractions.

Permanent Residency Still Not Easy

Any hopes that Malaysia was going to follow Singapore’s very liberal approach to awarding Permanent Residency seem very unlikely to happen. Singapore has over half a million permanent residencies – a staggering 10% of the population. Malaysia does not reveal the number of PRs in the country but it is safe to assume it does not even reach 1% of the population.


Although the process has been made somewhat easier and the qualifying criteria now includes foreigners who invest over US$2 million and those with unique skills needed by the country, it is still a slow and highly selective process. Preference still seems to be given to foreigners married to Malaysians.

The best solution for people wanting to stay here long term is either the MM2H programme for those who wish to retire and the Residence Pass for those who want to work here.

Source: The Expat September 2011
his article has been edited for
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