In 2018, the Malaysian government stopped allowing holders of foreign driver’s licences to apply for a local licence. They required people living here for more than three months to either show an International Drivers Permit, or sit a local driving test.
Both options presented problems. Often you can only obtain an International Drivers Permit from your own country, and it usually requires a personal visit. Given that they must be purchased in person, and are only valid for one year, it can create some serious logistical problems.
For those who are forced to sit a driver’s test, that arguably gets harder with each year that passes since you sat the exam in your home country. Every driver develops their own personal style of driving, and while most are perfectly safe, they may not meet the expectations for a test designed for a first-time driver.
As of November 1 this year, exceptions are being made for people holding a Malaysia My Second Home visa. As long as they hold a fully-fledged licence (e.g., not a learner’s or provisional licence), they can apply for a Malaysian probationary licence. They must come from a country which was a signatory to the Geneva Convention on Road Traffic 1949, in order to apply, but though that doesn’t include all countries, it includes most of them.
The P licence is usually given to people who have passed the written and practical driver’s test. They are required to display a P plate on the front and back of their car while driving. After two years, they can convert to a full licence. However, if they acquire more than 20 demerit points during this probationary period their P licence will be revoked.
Hopefully, the government will eventually allow all resident expats to apply for a local licence on the same terms. It is not clear why they stopped this in the past, because we have never seen any evidence to support the notion that the previous system posed any dangers to other road users. We do think there would be a benefit to explaining to foreign drivers some of the driving styles which are different to other countries as well as the meaning of the most common Malay-language road signs.