Interested in how to apply for a digital nomad visa in Malaysia? Read from our guide about the application, requirements and applicable taxes.
If you’re considering a move to Malaysia for your job or to further your career, you’ll need to know about how to get a work permit for Malaysia, so you can legally take up a role there.
This guide will focus on how to apply for a working permit in Malaysia as an expatriate.
As a bonus we’ll also introduce Wise as a great way to send payments home and around the world if you’re headed to Malaysia for work.
Working in Malaysia for foreigners means getting the proper paperwork and visa sorted in advance.
In general you’ll need to have a job offer confirmed before you move to Malaysia, as your prospective employer will need to initiate the Malaysia employment visa application process on your behalf. This will require the employer to get approval to employ an expatriate before you and your employer submit supporting documentation regarding your specific case. Applications are processed through ESD (Expatriate Services Division), which handles visas across the following types¹:
- Employment visa category I, II and III
- Professional visit pass
- Temporary employment pass
- Dependent and visit passes for expat family members
Passes once approved can be issued for up to 60 months. You can only work for the named employer using your Malaysia work pass - if you change jobs you’ll need to apply for a new pass entirely, and provide all the required documentation once more.
It’s helpful to note that the Malaysia employment pass options available broadly break down into 2 different types - passes for foreign workers and domestic helpers; and passes aimed at expatriates. Generally foreign worker passes are issued for workers in sectors like construction, plantation, agriculture and manufacturing, or for domestic helpers and maids. Expatriate passes tend to require high levels of qualifications or experience in professional sectors, and come with high minimum earning requirements.
The process and paperwork needed to get these different types of Malaysia work pass vary greatly. We’ll look at the process and documents usually needed for different types of expatriate employment pass later. You can also learn more about how to renew a work permit for a foreign worker or domestic helper here.
As we’ve seen, you’ll need a job offer to initiate the Malaysia work visa application process. The other normal requirement is based on experience and qualification level. You’ll typically have to show you have the following qualifications and experience, relevant to the specific job²:
- Degree with 3 years experience - OR
- Diploma with 5 years experience - OR
- Technical certification or similar with 7 years experience
Contract length and salary requirements are also in place, based on visa categories. For an Employment Pass Category I for example, the expat must have a contract for at least 24 months and earn at least 5,000 MYR per month.
Other requirements apply based on the specific sector and job, including provision of extensive supporting documentation.
The outline process for applying for a Malaysia working visa is laid out in the ESD guide book³, which covers the requirements for both employers and employees.
The general steps required include:
- The company must first register with ESD online and complete the steps required to employ expatriates (exact requirements vary by sector and company type)
- The company can then apply for approval for a specific expatriate employment pass through MYXpats Center online
- Employer and employee must provide supporting documentation which varies by visa category
- An approval letter will be issued - the expat can then take this with their passport to a MYXpats Center to get their passport endorsed
- Expat will need to pay a processing fee, and the passport with valid visa can be collected in around 3 days
The exact documents you need to provide to support your Malaysia work visa application will vary based on the visa category and your specific employment. In most cases you’ll need to provide:
- Comprehensive resume
- Educational certificates
- Job description
- Contract copy
- Copy of passport
- Passport photos
Additional documents may be needed from both the employer and the employee, depending on the type of work and the specific visa you need. The Malaysian authorities will advise on what’s needed at the point of application.
Malaysian work visas for expatriates can be issued for up to 60 months. There are also some options for temporary visas of a shorter duration - if you’re being transferred for a short term contract for example.
Once you’ve submitted all the required paperwork, your visa can be processed in as little as 5 days. However bear in mind the process requires several steps to be completed by the employer prior to submitting a formal application - and providing incomplete or incorrect documentation will also delay your visa application significantly.
Generally you’ll be able to renew your Malaysia work visa if you still fulfill the relevant requirements when your visa expires. You’ll be asked for similar supporting documents as for a first application, plus some extra paperwork such as salary slips and proof you’ve fully paid your taxes. If you’re renewing a visa and changing employer you’ll also need a release letter from your initial employer confirming your move.
Working in Malaysia and paying bills back home? Save on currency conversion with Wise
If you’re moving to Malaysia for work you’ll likely need to send payments overseas - to pay bills in your home country, and to move money from home while you arrange your new life in Malaysia for example.
You can cut the costs of overseas transfers with Wise.
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Malaysia work visas are issued across several different categories based on the type of employment, salary requirements and other factors such as skills, education and experience. Generally in all cases the employer will have to initiate the work pass application - which means you have to find a job before you can even start to consider a move to Malaysia for work.
Your prospective employer will need to register and apply to employ expats, submitting a selection of supporting documents for review. Once your application is approved you can then take your passport to the MYXpats Center to have it endorsed with your work pass.
Use this guide to get you started - and check out Wise to start saving the next time you need to send a payment overseas!
- Malaysia Expatriate Services Division - Employment Pass
- ESD Guide book
- Speed: Transaction speed claimed depends on funds availability, approval by Wise’s proprietary verification system and systems availability of our partners’ banking system, and may not be available for all transactions
Sources checked on 04/08/2023
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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