The Definitive Guide to Working as an Expat in Malaysia

While travel and business have had a standstill over the past few months due to the virus, there’s still plenty of good reasons to find work abroad, especially here in Malaysia.

Aside from the prospect of earning more, there’s also the benefit of enjoying a new culture, environment, meeting new people, and getting accustomed to a new way of life. In this guide, we will share some of the important things you need to know as an expat living and working in Malaysia.

The Definitive Guide to Work as an Expat in Malaysia

Here’s Everything Expats Need to Know about Working in Malaysia

Malaysia is a popular destination for individuals to migrate to since it is not only a faraway adventure, but it is also a beautiful country with many natural riches for them to enjoy throughout their stay. There are many job options available, and the cost of living is quite modest. Malaysia offers great healthcare facilities, and there are numerous foreign schools to select from if you have children. Malaysia is a developed country, so your move should not be too difficult.

There are also many Malaysians who did not come there to work. They come to enjoy the good life in this beautiful country. The majority of them enroll in the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) program, which allows them to purchase a second home in Malaysia. Some people live in Malaysia for a few months each year to hibernate since the environment is delightfully tropical and thus preferable to the typically frigid Western climate.

What You Need to Know About Finding a Job in Malaysia

It is possible to live and work in Malaysia in a variety of ways. The greatest option is to be sent to Malaysia as an expatriate by a multinational corporation. This is the ideal option because an expat package usually implies that you will be able to live a prosperous life in Malaysia. When they are transported to Malaysia, the conditions are usually better than when they try their luck after arriving.

The best choice is to learn about multinational companies that are involved in Malaysia and whether these companies are also active in your home country. If this is the case, prepare to send your application and C.V. along with clear intent. Most of the time, you won’t be able to travel directly to Malaysia, but these firms provide a solid starting point. If you have a higher degree, you can try to get recognized by some of the international headhunting firms. Another location to begin your search is on LinkedIn or in your own personal network.

What About Work Permits in Malaysia?

The Definitive Guide to Work as an Expat in Malaysia

Companies in Malaysia are only permitted to hire foreigners if they can demonstrate that Malaysians are unable or unwilling to perform the job. Exceptions are made for strategic positions such as management, finance, and so on. This is because Malaysians have become well educated and competent in various roles, thus you must have good qualifications to compete in the market; at least a bachelor’s degree, ideally a master’s degree, and some years of job experience.

When you locate a job, you must request that your employer file a permit application with the Malaysian government. To be qualified for a work permit, you must meet a number of conditions, such as:

  • You must be at least 27 years old and earn at least RM5000 every month.
  • The company that wishes to hire you must have sufficient paid-up capital, which is the amount of money that has been given to the company. This is RM200.000 for a local firm, RM350.000 for a portion of foreign ownership, and RM500.00 for whole foreign ownership.

If you are offered a contract worth more than RM8000 per month, your work visa application will be granted immediately, and immigration will promise that you will get your work permit within one week.

Highly skilled expats can apply for a special 10-year visa that is related to the individual rather than the organization that hired the expatriate. The Malaysian government hopes that by issuing this new sort of residence permit, it would be able to attract and keep top talent in the country.

Process of Acquiring a Work Permit

Typically, a work permit is requested for one or two years, but in certain situations three or even five years. After that time, your company must request that your permit be renewed. You can work in Malaysia if you have a work permit. It is feasible to create a bank account in Malaysia with a work visa, and it is even possible to secure a mortgage.

During their employment, expatriates pay taxes in either their home nation or Malaysia. Malaysia has most of the time reached an arrangement with other countries to prevent double taxes. Malaysia has the highest tax rate of 26 percent. Keep your receipts for your tax return if you reside and work in Malaysia.

Pension in Malaysia

Malaysia has an EPF pension program, in which a small amount of monthly income is set saved for retirement. Employers must save this money for local employees, however, it does not apply to international expats. This sum is frequently added to the monthly salary. If not, you have the option of claiming it yourself.

How Much Do Expats Earn in Malaysia?

The Definitive Guide to Work as an Expat in Malaysia

Expatriates who are brought in on an expat package by their companies frequently make well above RM10.000 per month. Most packages include a variety of extras, such as one-time moving charges, a car allowance, and, in certain cases, a start-up allowance (to buy suits and such). There are occasionally stories about foreigners earning approximately RM50.000 per month, however, this is usually the exception rather than the rule (only a lucky few earn this much). With RM10.000 a month, you can live comfortably in Malaysia. If your wife or spouse does not have a separate salary, this is a fairly typical income for foreigners in Malaysia.

You can rent a great condo and enjoy western activities every now and then. You can live life to the fullest in Malaysia if you earn between RM15.000 and RM20.000 each month. You can rent a high-end property and dine out every day at upscale eateries. Most others, however, are not so fortunate. Locals typically earn between RM2.000 and RM4.000 per month (non-management).

People who work in restaurants, shops, and food courts frequently make a fraction of this amount (usually less then RM1000 per month). If you are here on a local package, you will most likely make between RM5000 and RM8000 per month. Of course, highly skilled individuals with extensive expertise will earn more. If you move to Malaysia on your own and sign an RM5000 contract, you should be able to live comfortably.

Watch Out for Expat Scams in Malaysia

Just like with the rest of the world, some have been victims of expat scams. Those who were offered nice positions with good pay only to discover that it was all a fraud. Victims frequently pay a nominal charge of a few of thousand ringgits upfront. If an offer appears to be too good to be true, it usually is. No 27-year-old is granted a monthly salary of RM25,000. Keep an eye out for frauds involving companies that hire people under the age of 27 (there are exceptions to this age-related rule though).

What to Know About the Dependent Pass Procedure

If you have a work permit, you can begin the dependent pass procedure to bring your spouse or wife and children to Malaysia. The dependent pass is valid for the duration of the principal’s employment pass. The dependent pass procedure can only be carried out if the following documents are provided:

  • Cover letter and an authorization letter from the company (that applied for the initial work permit).
  • Form DP11A including a photograph.
  • The dependent’s proof of relationship with the expatriate.
  • Photocopy of the complete passport of the dependent.
  • Photocopy of the complete passport of the expatriate.

What are the Other Ways to Stay in Malaysia?

The Definitive Guide to Work as an Expat in Malaysia

As with the rest of the world, Malaysia offers a special program that allows expats to reside in the country for up to ten years. This is known as the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) program.


If you desire to live permanently in Malaysia, you may consider joining the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) program. If you meet the requirements of this program, you can live in Malaysia for a minimum of ten years using a multiple-entry social visit pass. There are numerous perks to participating in this program, including a local bank account, health insurance, and a mortgage to allow you to purchase a home. Do note, however, that the financial requirements are fairly stringent. These are as follows:

  • Applicants under the age of 50 must provide proof of a minimum of RM500,000 in liquid assets and a monthly offshore income of RM10,000.
  • Applicants aged 50 and up must provide financial proof of RM350,000 in liquid assets and RM10,000 per month in off-shore income.
  • Retirees must show documentation of receiving a monthly pension of RM 10,000 from government-approved funds. • New applicants who have purchased houses worth at least RM 1 million qualify for a lower fixed deposit sum following approval.

Tourist Visa

Malaysia has fairly lax laws regarding tourist visas. When in possession of a tourist visa, citizens of most (western) nations can stay in Malaysia for a maximum of 90 days. This tourist visa is issued upon arrival at Kuala Lumpur International Airport or at the Thai or Singaporean border.

While this may be the case, Malaysia also places tough laws on illegal citizens staying in the country. That said, if you plan to acquire a job or plan to stay longer in the country, it’s best that you find other ways to do so, but not using a tourist visa.

Live in Malaysia without employment (Visa Run)

Did you know that there are many foreigners who stay in Malaysia for an extended period even without a permit? They are allowed to stay in Malaysia for years despite the fact that they do not have a work permit and are not participating in the MM2H programme. This is possible by getting visa runs in order to renew their tourist visas before the 90-day period expires. People who are in Malaysia on a tourist visa must leave the country before the period expires. A visa run usually entails leaving the country for a few days and then returning for a new stamp in your passport (another 90-day tourist visa).

A Fair Warning

As mentioned, Malaysian immigration police are constantly on the lookout for those working illegally in the country. This is a crime, and you may be barred from entering Malaysia in the future. It would be foolish to cross the Thai border fast and then return to Malaysia or to fly or take the bus to Singapore only to return the same day. In some circumstances, there is a greater probability that immigration agents may ask you difficult questions, and you risk being denied re-entry into the country.

It is advisable to spend more time in a foreign nation before returning to Malaysia. A week or two weeks in Bali, Thailand, Sumatra, Cambodia, or Vietnam should be sufficient to receive a fresh stamp in your passport with no questions asked. Customs, however, has become more stringent over the years, so after three or four visa runs, you might be questioned about your movements and activities in Malaysia. In some situations, you might be asked to go to the immigration headquarters in Putrajaya to explain what you are doing in the country. It is critical that you do not work in Malaysia and that you do not stay in Malaysia for more than 90 days in a row.

The Definitive Guide to Work as an Expat in Malaysia

Undoubtedly, while some expats find this method to work for them without causing any legal alarm, this proves to be risky. With this in mind, it’s better to do your research first and plan how long you intend to stay or work in the country. From there, you can decide on your course of action and apply yourself through options that will help you achieve your goals in staying here in Malaysia for as long as you need to.

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