Status on Immigration and Our Suggestion for an Instant Improvement
We had hoped to share some feedback from the Department of Immigration, but unfortunately our attempts to meet with the relevant officials have been unsuccessful. We remain hopeful to see someone in the Department who can give us the answers we seek. One Malaysian lady called me saying her French husband had submitted a request for Permanent Residency in 2000 and they had been called for an interview in 2002 and told they would be contacted.
Since then, she has heard nothing and many attempts to get information on the status of their application, with no results. She wanted to know if we could help. Unfortunately, our efforts to contact the Department has also been a challenge, and we were not able to get answers or assist in any way. We feel the Immigration Department and its perception among expats would be enhanced if a Hotline was set up that could answer the many applicant questions. We will certainly recommend this when we eventually meet with them.
The MM2H programme could potentially attract a large number of new residents from developed countries. Every month we get correspondence from people interested in knowing more about the programme. At this point, the government has not allocated funds to market it internationally, but we are assured they are still keen to see the programme succeed. Many government officials have thanked us for the efforts we have made to raise awareness of the programme. During a recent meeting with a senior tourism official in Penang, he advised us that they hoped to attract more Malaysia My Second Homers to their State. As usual we invite your questions and comments. Just write to Andy Davison at 03 2284 9664 or e-mail expatmagazine@expatKL.com As the programme’s rules are different for East Malaysia, we’re including this interview by Nikki Lugun with Donald M. Macleod...
Originally from Scottland but residing in Kota Kinabalu since 1985, Donald M. Macleod has extensive knowledge of living in East Malaysia. He and his wife are now Permanent Residents of Sabah, and are actively advising and promoting this part of Malaysia as a long term (or second home) destination. Together with his wife, Donald (a Chartered Civil Engineer) set up Nevis Park Vacations (a member of the Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MICCI), where he’s been a committee member for the past few years). He’s also the current Director of International Services of the Kota Kinabalu Rotary Club, and is also an advisor to the Sabah Environmental Protection Society (SEPA), as well as a long time member of the Sabah Amateur Radio Society (callsign 9M6AE).
1. You mentioned prospective clients for the MM2H programme should apply to their respective State Governments, and this applies only to East Malaysia i.e. Sabah and Sarawak. You also said that the rules appear to be the same. Is there any difference in the procedure of applying for the programme in West Malaysia as opposed to East Malaysia?
The background for my comments is that a Dutch client, who wanted really to come to Sabah, checked out all the facts on the Immigration website, obtained various application forms, and came to Penang thinking he could do all the paperwork while on holiday. After phoning the Immigration Department in KL, he took time off his holiday to fly from Penang to KL, only to be told if he wanted to stay in Sabah, he could only apply directly to Sabah, and KL could not help him at all. He was, understandably, a bit upset by this red tape, which had not at any time been explained to him in previous discussions. He then flew to Sabah, met with me, and I was able to advise him of the procedures here. Happily, he has now obtained his MM2H visa but is not too impressed with the nuances of Sabah Immigration versus KL Immigration requirements.
Similarly, an English man obtained his original MM2H visas in KL. He then moved to Sabah, bought property here, but when he went to renew, he was told by Sabah Immigration that he had to start again from scratch, i.e. they could not continue with the KL paperwork – he had to have a new file. There appeared to be no difference in the requirements or procedures, but he still had to fill in all the forms again. There is one new requirement by Sabah Immigration, to fill in form RIF 62, which is, I understand, a Police requirement for data on the foreign applicant. This form is - rather unhelpfully - in Bahasa Malaysia, which, by definition, is not the international language of foreign applicants.
2. You feel that the MM2H programme is not really saleable and the scheme is not really working, what are your views on this?
I get very interesting responses when I talk to tourists about this Programme. Virtually everybody likes Malaysia, the friendly people, the environment, the beaches, the fantastic food, the sunshine - even the warm rain! Most see the relatively low prices for local property in newspapers, and some even phone up agents and go for a look. But very few buy, because I think that they do not have a clear picture of the opportunities for purchasing property in Malaysia, and - more importantly - they are put off by the prospect of ‘red tape.’
Some want to know more about prospects, but virtually everybody hiccups when it comes to the question “How long can I stay in Malaysia? Permanently?” When you then explain the 5-year maximum chop in the passport (and that can only be obtained if your passport is still valid for 5 years; many people have less time that than remaining on their passports) then the foreigner seems to draw back and exclaim, “Does Malaysia really want my investment when they only allow me to stay for 5 years?”
Things get worse when you help them to look at the fine print of the MM2H requirements, namely that it is a ‘5 years plus 5 years’ Programme. What will happen to a 50-year old Scotsman who sells in UK, comes here, gets to like the people, the weather, the food, the golf course, etc., and then in his early 60s is told “5 plus 5 is 10 - time to go home now!”? Personally, I cannot believe a foreigner will be told to leave, but that is what the written word says at the moment. I believe we need to get around this restriction and state clearly what is meant.
There is another angle on all of this. Spain and Portugal are popular sites for UK persons to retire to, and despite some problems with Spanish property, there’s a conception it is still “in Europe” with enough Englishspeaking people to make problems solvable. On the contrary, Malaysia is a Muslim country, far from home, and Sabah, in particular, does not have direct flights, so it all adds up to a case of being too far for many people to consider uprooting themselves from home and settling down in a new country.
The remedy, in my opinion, is to try and create a ‘winwin’ situation. Malaysia wants (and needs) investment income from foreign property purchases and the continuing spending power of rich expats, but the foreigner wants security. In other words, he wants to have the assurance of a long-term stay. That would go a long way to making the whole scheme more saleable. Perhaps you should even create a ‘Class A’ applicant, who will be required to bring, say, RM1 million into Malaysia in order to get such a long term commitment.
3. In your work with this programme, did you have any unsuccessful candidates and what were the reasons for the rejection of their applications?
No one has been rejected, because many foreigners are unwilling to proceed to satisfy all the financial requirements (and even to fill in the application forms). Sabah Immigration are quite helpful, and give a preliminary printout of the status of the application, which states what the applicant still needs to fulfil – medical insurance, or bank deposits, etc. It is at this point that some stop. One English couple that filled in the application forms, gave photographs and details of medical insurance, etc., but they are unwilling to tie up RM 150,000 for a period of 5 years just to get a 5-year chop in their passports. They feel that life is too uncertain to have such a long-term deposit in the bank.
4. Who are the people who are genuinely interested in joining this programme? Do you have any statistics on the people who are on the programme and where do they generally come from?
The people who are most interested are those who are already in this region for work reasons! Tourists are not quite so ready to commit to leaving their home country. The figures for Sabah are not much more than 100 persons in total, from a variety of countries, such as UK, Canada, Japan, Hong Kong, China, Australia, etc.
5. What would you like to see the government do to make this scheme really successful?
Clarify. Is it really a long term (i.e. permanent stay) scheme or just “extended holidays”?
Modify. Create a ‘Class A’ type of applicant who brings more money into Malaysia initially, buys property, and then can stay as long as he/she owns Malaysian property.
Publicise. Make general leaflets on this scheme available freely to tourists, so they can study and be aware of the possibilities. They will be our best publicists abroad for this scheme!
Malaysia My Second Home – At a Glance
•Open to people of all ages and most nationalities.
•Requires minimum monthly income and/or cash
•Visa is valid for 5 years and renewable
•Visa holders not permitted to work
•Foreign source income is not taxable in Malaysia
•New visa holders entitled to buy one tax free car
•More information available at the website
This article was written by Nikki Lugun
Source: The Expat May 2005
This article has been edited for Expatgomalaysia.com
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