In a somewhat questionable move towards digitalisation, the government has stopped issuing physical visas for its Employment Pass renewals… and signs already point to it being a potential problem for expats who travel.
If you’re a working expat in Malaysia, you’re likely well-accustomed to the full-page visa sticker in your passport which outlines the details and terms of your Employment Pass (EP), and is evidence of your legal status to not only be in the country, but to exit and enter it freely.
As of December 1 last year, all that changed. Whilst first-time EP holders will still get the physical sticker, those who renew their EPs will not. Instead, they will be “issued” an ePass, which is exactly what it sounds like.
We reached out to Immigration for clarification on this matter, and whether or not a physical sticker could still be requested if desired, and this was their response:
If the application has been issued for the ePass by Immigration, thus please be advised that Immigration is unable to reissue the sticker printed for this application once the ePass is issued.
The ePass is provided and issued by Immigration and any agency are aware regarding this matter and there will be no issue for the ePass as proof for traveling document.
The applicant must carry the ePass all the time, and they may save the ePass on their phone for their convenience to travel around.
You may show the announcement from the ESD website that the ePass was the replacement for the physical sticker under the renewal application.
IS THIS REALLY SUCH A GOOD MOVE?
The logic behind the ePass certainly seems sound: No longer is it necessary to dedicate an entire page of your passport for your Malaysian EP. It’s all stored online.
But what works well in theory doesn’t always do so in practice. That ePass may or may not be easily accessed by airline and immigration staff in other countries (we’re voting for “not”), making every check-in at every overseas airport a roll of the dice.
We’ve already been informed of instances involving expats with the ePass (as well as an expired visa in their passport, which is all that can be seen) being questioned at their international points of embarkation when returning to Malaysia.
Airlines will generally be reluctant to allow someone with an expired visa and no onward ticket board a plane to Malaysia – or they may flatly refuse. So you’ll need to carry a print-out of the ePass, possibly a copy of the announcement from Immigration regarding the change for EP renewals, and that’s still no guarantee you’ll be able to convince the person at the check-in counter, because the ePass print-out frankly looks like something anyone with Microsoft Word, a printer, and a bit of layout skill could generate.
And even though the policy change took effect last December, it appears some frontline Immigration officers aren’t quite up to speed, judging by reports of expats returning to Malaysia only to face extra scrutiny because of an “expired work visa.”
Trust us, once you get that precious EP renewed, be sure to get a printed copy of the ePass. Consider having it reduced in size and laminated, too, or having a digital copy stored on your smartphone.
If this all sounds like a bit of extra effort and potential stress for working expats in Malaysia… well, that’s only because it is.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The government of Malaysia introduced an electronic pass (ePass) renewal scheme for Employment Passes on December 1, 2022. Through the government of Malaysia’s Expatriate Services Division (ESD) Online Service, an employee’s sponsoring company can sign in and download the ePass that can be provided to the employee.
The ePass can only be issued for renewals of a previous Employment Pass if the employee’s passport information has stayed the same. With the ePass, no physical visa sticker may be issued.
Expats are advised to print a copy of their ePass upon on its issuance and possibly a copy of the general ePass announcement (linked above) and carry with their passport when travelling in the fairly likely event airline or immigration officials raise questions about the expired physical visa in the passport.
For additional information on the ePass, click here.
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