Getting a Malaysian work visa

Gabriela Peratello

Malaysia’s growing population includes a large number of immigrants, drawn by the opportunities to live and work in this exciting and vibrant environment. There are a number of big cities with high concentrations of expat workers, including the capital Kuala Lumpur, which has a rapidly developing startup scene.

Malaysia’s economy is forecasted to continue growing steadily, fuelling a need for skills and knowledge from around the globe. If you’re thinking of moving to Malaysia for a job, you might need a work visa to do so.

To help see how you can go about obtaining one, follow this guide to getting your Malaysian work visa.

📑 Table of Contents

What are the requirements to work in Malaysia?

Work permits and visas for Malaysia are split according to the type and level of work involved. If you’re a professional worker from the US, the chances are you’ll be looking for an Employment Pass issued by the Expatriate Talent Center¹. There are also work visas for foreign workers from other countries in the Southeast Asia region, who come to Malaysia to work in manufacturing, construction, plantation, agriculture and services, predominantly in manual roles. This visa type is not available to US citizens.

To get an Expat Talent Employment Pass you’ll need a job lined up in advance, as your employer will have to register and apply for your permit on your behalf. You may also be able to apply for your dependents to enter the country at the same time as your employer gets your paperwork arranged — or apply later once you’re all ready to go².

What types of Malaysian work permits and visas are there?

For US citizens looking to work in Malaysia in professional roles, there are 3 different types of Employment Pass available³:

Employment pass category I (Expatriate)Employment pass category II (Expatriate)Employment pass category III (Knowledge/Skilled Worker)
Monthly salary minimum 10,000 MYR (around 2,400 USD)Monthly salary 5,000 MYR — 9,999 MYR (around 1,200 USD — 2,400 USD)Monthly salary 3,000 MYR — 4,999 MYR (around 700 USD — 1,200 USD)
Contract can be up to 5 yearsContract can be up to 2 yearsContract can not exceed 12 months
Dependents allowedDependents allowedDependents not allowed

Depending on the role type you’re offered in Malaysia, your employer will need to apply for your Employment pass which is typically assessed very quickly. The Expatriate Talent Centre aims to process applications within 5 working days where possible.

Malaysia currently has very limited opportunities for people looking to take a working holiday⁴. Although this situation might change, the visas offered at present are kept to extremely low numbers and reserved for Australian citizens. Because of the low quotas, these tend to go early in the year.


How do I get a Malaysian work visa as an entrepreneur?

The Malaysian Tech Entrepreneur Program⁵ is a key way to enter Malaysia to work as an entrepreneur. Under this program, there are 3 different visa types:

  • 1 year professional visit pass for a new entrepreneur
  • 5 year residence pass for an established entrepreneur
  • 5 year residence pass for an established entrepreneur/investor

If you’re looking to start a business which is not in the tech industry you may be able to get a pass through the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA)⁶. Options and permit types do change from time to time so check out all the most up to date details on the MIDA website.

Although Malaysia is open to foreign workers and investment, there’s also a priority placed on local employment. Therefore, there are strict requirements around advertising positions locally prior to applying for expats to enter the country to work for your business. Check out all the details before you start to recruit.

Can you get a business visa in Malaysia?

If you need to enter Malaysia for business — for a meeting or to look for new opportunities for example, rather than to work on a long term basis in Malaysia — you might be able to get a Malaysia business visa.

Typically multiple entry visas are offered which last from 3 to 12 months. You’ll need to pay a fee and show you can support yourself while in the country — you’ll also need a confirmed return flight to your home country⁷.

How to get a work permit in Malaysia: application process

Here’s the basic outline of the steps to get your Malaysian Employment Pass:

  • Employer registers with the Expatriate Services Division
  • Employer applies for an Employment Pass, demonstrating that no local can fill the role in question
  • Employee provides set of documents to support the application — more on that in a moment
  • Employee/employer apply for any dependents to relocate to Malaysia at the same time
  • The Expatriate Services Division aim to assess all applications within 5 working days

Most of the application process for a Malaysian Employment Pass will actually be handled by your employer. Depending on the role you’re going to do, your employer might first need to get approval from the Expatriate Services Division to bring a foreigner into the business. They’ll have to prove that the role they’re filling is vital to their business and can’t easily be filled locally.

After your employer has done this, you’ll need to present your documents to the authorities for their approval, and apply for your dependents to join you if relevant. Once your application gets the final approval, you’re then issued your Employment Pass.

It’s good to know that there are also fees attached to all visas. These vary widely depending on the visa type, the location of the job, and the role you’re going to do. In addition to the main fees, there are further administrative costs that are payable by the applicant or the employer. These are detailed on the Malaysian Government website.

Plenty of visa agencies offer to help you arrange your visa for a fee. However, if you're going to work for a legitimate employer, they’re likely to guide you through the process themselves. If you do choose to use an agent, make sure you know exactly what you're paying for before you hand over any cash.

How do you check your Malaysia work permit status?

Check your visa application status⁸ on the Expatriate Services Division website by entering your passport number, and your company’s registration ID number.

Move your money to Malaysia the easy way: try Wise

Once you’ve got your visa ready for working in Malaysia, the only thing you’ll be missing is a fast, low cost and secure way of sending money to Malaysia.

That’s where Wise comes in to help you out.

Make international money transfers with the mid-market exchange rate — the one you see on Google — and know upfront how much each transaction will cost you.

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Working visa in Malaysia: required documents

For an expatriate visa, you’ll need to provide certain documents, including the following³:

  • Completed application form, which must be attached to the original Employment Contract
  • Recent passport photos
  • Copies of your valid passport
  • Academic qualifications
  • Resume and detailed job description
  • Letter from the sponsoring company confirming they will pay salaries and tax revenues for the employee
  • Proof that the sponsoring company complies with regulatory conditions for the industry
  • For extension applications, you must also provide income tax receipts proving payment, previous payslips and previous pass details

Can your family members go with you to Malaysia if you have a work permit?

If you have an Employment Pass Category I or II⁹, you’re able to apply for your spouse, parents and children under the age of 18 to join you in Malaysia. You’ll need to apply for a dependent pass for each family member coming to Malaysia.

Passes are issued for the same length as the employment pass of the main applicant unless the passport validity of your family members is shorter than this.

Can you transfer your Malaysian work permit to another employer in Malaysia?

You may be able to transfer your Employment Pass to another employer in Malaysia without needing to leave the country.

The process is handled through the Expatriate services Division, and requires a slightly different set of documents compared to making an initial application for your pass. Your employer should guide you through this process.

Regardless of when you start your new job abroad, it should be fairly straightforward to get yourself a visa if you follow the right steps. The most important part is just to make sure to enjoy your new adventure.

And don’t forget, if you need to send money to Malaysia, or convert before you go, get a Wise account and do it in just a few clicks.


  1. ESD - About
  2. ESD - FAQ: expats
  3. ESD - Quick guide (pdf)
  4. IMI - Special programme
  5. MDEC
  6. MIDA
  7. IMI - Types of visa
  8. ESD - Application status
  9. ESD - Employment pass, dependant pass

Sources checked on 02.24.2022

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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