A work permit (called an “employment pass” in Malaysia) is the most important documentation required for those seeking employment in the country. Normally, this is obtained for the employee by the employer once in the country. Employees and their family members are allowed to enter the country on social visas issued by Malaysian Immigration officials upon arrival.
The documentation for a work permit is precise and its processing is sometimes quite lengthy and involved. Completing this by yourself is possible, but may prove to be a frustrating experience – perhaps your first encounter with “culture shock” and government bureaucracy. There are authorized agents who, for a fee, do the running around for such permits, and for first-timers, this is highly recommended. Many larger companies will arrange the work permit for their employees.
Permits will be issued for varying periods, but are usually given for a period of two years. The permit will be placed in your passport and will note your position, employer’s name, and address. Dependents will also be given a permit stating that “any form of employment is strictly prohibited.” Should any dependent want to work, they will have to go through a separate and personal application process for a work permit.
Some people choose to work without a permit and leave the country every three months (when their social visa expires) to re-enter a day or so later with a new social visa. This is a risky practice, as your passport will be stamped each time you enter and exit, and may lead to difficult questions and possible deportation.
The immigration department is now located in Putrajaya (halfway between Kuala Lumpur and Kuala Lumpur International Airport). If any documentation is incorrect or missing, you will be asked to resubmit, requiring another round trip. It’s best to try and get it right the first time, and some people choose to use an agency to help them through the formalities. The primary factors in deciding whether to do it yourself or use an agency are money and time. Many people have done it themselves, but the vast majority found it a slow, frustrating experience. For example, if you are issued a new passport when you are living here and want to transfer your visa, you will be asked to submit a written request for the transfer written in Bahasa Malaysia. If you fail to bring it, you may well be sent away to get a properly written request.
The East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak have their own immigration procedures, and travelling from the Peninsular (West) Malaysia to East Malaysia requires separate formalities (this means taking your passport when you travel there). Work permits must be obtained in these respective states upon arrival.
In an effort to enhance and tighten national security, as of May 2015, employers have been required to ensure all foreign worker candidates have already undergone the Immigration Security Clearance (ISC) as a mandatory requirement in application to work in Malaysia.
The ISC verification document is mandatory, and needs to be attached with the VDR approval letter during Visa application at Immigration Atase/Embassy Malaysia. Foreign worker candidates can carry out ISC registration at ISC centres in all source countries. Note that ISC services are subject to a service fee.
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