What Is Happening with MM2H?

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Nearly three months after the news about a revised Malaysia My Second Home programme, questions still remain, but answers continue to be elusive. TEG Media CEO Andy Davison unpacks what we know – and what we’re still waiting to learn.

There has finally been an announcement about the revamp of the MM2H visa, although it was not exactly what everyone had been waiting for. It did not come from the Ministry of Tourism, which now sets the policy for the visa, but from the Home Ministry. In essence, it seemed like more of the same as the Minister stated that the new policy would be unveiled “soon.” We have to hope that he would not make such a statement unless he was certain it was true.

It’s been a rough ride for the visa programme over the last few years. Prior to this period, MM2H brought large amounts of foreign exchange into Malaysia, as thousands of foreigners decided to relocate here, primarily for retirement. Many purchased properties in Malaysia, which together with the monthly living expenditures for those who relocated here, amounted to a welcome flow of foreign inflow. Clearly, MM2H made good financial sense for Malaysia.

But the non-financial benefits were, arguably, equally attractive. The country was regularly listed as one of the best countries in the world in which to retire and often the best country in Asia. Foreign investors also liked the fact that Malaysia was attracting people who wanted to move here, as it meant it was a pleasant country in which to reside. Larger corporations that assign expats around the world often consider livability as one factor when deciding where to locate their businesses. The visa was also taken up by people, mostly from Asian countries, who wanted their children educated at international schools in Malaysia. 

The MM2H visa was launched in 2002, and the number of applicants slowly increased as word spread about the visa. In 2017 and 2018, nearly 12,000 applicants were approved, which is almost 500 a month. There were some concerns among certain quarters about this influx of foreigners, but the numbers were relatively small, especially when you consider the Malaysian population was growing at around 500,000 people a year. Also, most MM2H applicants were older and just wanted to integrate into the local society and have a quiet life, something which cannot always be said about tourists who come here for a short holiday. Moreover, not all approved applicants actually relocated to Malaysia.

Then things went downhill. First, comments made in August 2018 by then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad indicated he would ban foreigners from buying into the massive Forest City development in Johor. The development, which has a majority China-owned stakeholder, was openly targeting mainland Chinese, who made up the majority of property purchasers. Mahathir professed concern about allowing large numbers of foreigners to reside in Malaysia, saying, “One thing is certain, that city that is going to be built cannot be sold to foreigners. We are not going to give visas for people to come and live here. Our objection is because it was built for foreigners, not built for Malaysians.”

Mahathir drew criticism for his comment, but the damage was done, both to Forest City and by extension to MM2H. Following this, there was a serious slowdown in processing new applications, which some observers felt was related to his statement. Then came Covid and the country’s treatment of resident MM2Hers caught overseas who were not permitted back into their homes in Malaysia. This understandably upset many of them.

Next, the government decided to suspend the visa, ostensibly so they could revamp it. That surprised everyone because the visa was regarded as a success story. After a lengthy suspension, new rules were introduced which included raising the required offshore monthly income from RM10,000 per month to RM40,000, which was out of reach for most existing applicants, especially retirees. This was not well-received by many potential applicants, and with other countries started launching retirement visas or making their programme more attractive, people decided to move elsewhere. The Malaysian visa was suddenly seeing more cancellations than new applicants. Of course, the major downturn in applicants badly hurt MM2H agents, causing many of them to lay off local employees.

In the wake of all this, research conducted by TEG Media among resident expats revealed that most of them regarded the country as being generally unfriendly toward foreigners, a marked change from previous years.  When Anwar Ibrahim became prime minister at the end of 2022, he vowed to make Malaysia more friendly to foreigners and everyone hoped the MM2H visa would be improved. That did not come to pass; indeed, no changes were announced until the end of 2023 when Anwar stated in his 2024 budget speech that he was planning to make revisions to the terms and conditions.

Then in December, the Minister of Tourism announced a brand-new programme and laid out some information, but did not clarify what changes if any would be made to the biggest obstacle for the current visa which was the RM40,000 monthly income requirement. Despite many articles in the local press pointing out this omission, no clarification has been offered in the nearly three months since. New applications were suspended once again.

Rumours circulated that the terms that were announced never received cabinet approval, whereas in the past the programme and changes were always signed off at cabinet level. While this would seem like something that could have been clarified by a quick announcement, nothing was forthcoming despite many people enquiring.


This month, The Edge newspaper announced the policy paper on the MM2H changes would be announced “soon.” This information was given by the Home Minister, Datuk Seri Saifuddin. He is in charge of the immigration department and he clarified that his ministry was only responsible for approving the visa and not setting policy. Apparently, he declined to comment on why there were delays in finalising the guidelines. Hopefully, he has good reason to make this statement. The fact that new applications have been suspended once again is certainly not desirable for the country’s international image, nor for re-establishing the MM2H visa as one of the world’s best for retirees, so we certainly hope that the revised terms and conditions and overall policies will be clarified – as mentioned – very soon.

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