Guide to Employment Permits in Malaysia for Foreign Workers

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  • There are three types of employment permits foreign workers can apply for in Malaysia. These are the employment pass, temporary employment pass, and the professional visit pass.
  • The type of work permit issued by the government depends on the skill of the foreign applicant, as well as the remaining quota for that sector.
  • It is the duty of the Malaysian company to apply for the work permit on behalf of the foreign applicant.

The Malaysian government generally issues three different types of work permits:

  • Employment pass;
  • Temporary employment pass; and
  • Professional visit pass.

Foreign workers who wish to be employed by a company within Malaysia will have to have their application reviewed by the relevant government agencies, such as the Ministry of Manpower. The employee’s sponsoring company must also work with the government to ensure that the worker is approved for entry.

Employment pass

This work permit enables foreign workers to take up employment under a contract of service with an organization in Malaysia. This pass is issued to employees with specific skills, usually for technical or managerial jobs.

The employment pass is classified into three categories:

Category I

Applicants must receive a monthly base salary of 10,000 ringgit (US$2,410) or more and have an employment contract of up to 60 months.

Applicants may bring eligible dependent(s) and/or foreign domestic helper(s), subject to approval and the employment pass may be renewed.

Category II

Applicants must receive a monthly base salary of above 5,000 ringgit (US$1,200) and under 10,000 ringgit (US$2,410) has an employment contract with a maximum validity period of 23 months. The employment pass may be renewed.

Applicants can bring eligible dependent(s) and/or foreign domestic helper(s), subject to approval.

Category III

Employment pass category III is available to foreign nationals working on contracts of 12 months or less and with monthly salaries ranging from 3,000 ringgit (US$723) and under 5,000 ringgit (US$1,200). The employment pass may be renewed up to two times. Applicants are not allowed to bring dependent(s) and/or foreign domestic helper(s).

Requirements to apply for an employment pass

It is the responsibility of the employer to apply for an employment pass on behalf of the foreign employee.

The employer must first apply for an ‘expatriate post’ at one of the following government agencies:

  • Multimedia Development Corporation – for jobs in the technology sector;
  • Malaysia Industrial Development Authority – for the manufacturing and services sectors;
  • Malaysian Biotechnology Corporation – for jobs in the biotechnology sector;
  • Central Bank of Malaysia – for sectors of finance, banking, and insurance;
  • Securities Commission – for the securities and futures market sectors; and
  • Expatriate Committee – for sectors that are not under the above.

Once the expatriate post has been approved, the employer can then submit the employment pass application to the Immigration Department of Malaysia.

  • The employer will need to submit the following documents to the Immigration Department;
  • The Employment Pass application form;
  • Copy of passport;
  • Letter of approval from the relevant authority body;
  • Employment contract;
  • CV and education certificates; and
  • The employer’s company profile.

Temporary employment pass

Malaysian companies requiring the immediate services of semi-skilled foreign workers in specific sectors can obtain a temporary employment pass, also known as a visitor’s pass. The pass is valid for a period of 12 months and employers can apply for an extension on a yearly basis for up to 10 years.

There are two types of temporary employment passes in Malaysia:

  • For foreign workers in the construction, plantation, agriculture, manufacturing, and services; and
  • Foreign domestic helpers.

Further, this work permit is open only to the citizens from the approved countries:

  • Bangladesh – Only allowed to work in the plantation sector through government to government agreements;
  • Cambodia;
  • India – Citizens are not allowed to work in the manufacturing sector;
  • Indonesia – Male citizens are only allowed to work in the manufacturing sector whereas females can work in all sectors;
  • Kazakhstan;
  • Laos;
  • Myanmar;
  • Nepal;
  • Pakistan;
  • Philippines – female citizens are prohibited from working in any sector;
  • Sri Lanka;
  • Thailand;
  • Turkmenistan;
  • Uzbekistan; and
  • Vietnam

Requirements to apply for a temporary employment pass

As with Employment Passes, it is the duty of the employer to apply for the temporary employment pass on behalf of the foreign applicant.

The employer will also need to apply for a visa approval letter from the Immigration Department of Malaysia.

The employer will need to provide the following documents:

  • VDR application form;
  • An approval letter from the Ministry of Home Affairs regarding the quota approval;
  • 12 and IM.38 visa application forms;
  • Receipt of payment for levy;
  • Security bond – insurance guarantees/bank guarantee;
  • Copy of the foreign applicant’s passport;
  • Passport-sized photo of applicant;
  • Medical certificate issued from a medical center in the applicant’s country of origin (valid for three months);
  • Foreign Worker Compensation Scheme (insurance); and
  • An insurance policy of Health Insurance Protection Scheme Foreign Workers (SPIKPA) (health insurance).

After the visa approval letter is approved, the employee can apply for a visa with reference (VDR) from the Malaysian embassy (certain nationals do not need an entry visa).

In addition to the VDR, the employee will need to obtain an Immigration Security Clearance (ISC) from an ISC center in their source country.

The Temporary Employment Pass will only be issued after the employee has passed the FOMEMA (Foreign Workers Medical Examination Monitoring Agency) medical examination within 30 days of arrival. FOMEMA is the company appointed by the Malaysian government to undertake these examinations.

Professional visit pass

The professional visit pass is granted to foreign workers with the necessary qualifications or skills to work in Malaysia on a temporary basis for up to 12 months.

They can only provide their services to a Malaysian company on behalf of an overseas company and are not allowed to apply for a dependent’s pass.

Requirements to apply for a professional visit pass

The application must be made by the sponsor company in Malaysia to the Immigration Department by submitting the following documents:

  • Copy of passport of the foreign employee;
  • 12 and IM.38 visa application forms;
  • Letter of offer from Malaysian company;
  • Sponsor’s company profile;
  • Academic certificates (for international students);
  • Letter of approval from the Department of Religion and the Islamic Religious Department (for religious missionaries); and
  • Bank guarantee (if you are a Chinese citizen).

Once the professional visit pass has been approved, the employee can then apply for the VDR (certain nationals do not need an entry visa) to enter the country.

After arrival in Malaysia, the employee must visit the Immigration Department of Malaysia to receive the professional visit pass sticker on their passport.

Who is eligible?

  • People under the following categories are eligible to apply for a Professional Visit Pass:
  • Islamic missionaries;
  • Foreign artists – filming and performing;
  • Government officials;
  • Volunteers;
  • International students – under industrial training or mobility program; and
  • Other religious workers – priests, granthi, gurukkal, guru dharma (these must be at least 40 years of age).

Business visas

Malaysia does not issue business visas, and so those travelling for business purposes can do so through a tourist visa.

To apply, the applicant must show proof of having sufficient funds while in Malaysia and must possess a valid return ticket.

This article was originally published on December 5, 2015, and has been republished on ASEAN Briefing on September 8, 2020.


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ASEAN Briefing is produced by Dezan Shira & Associates. The firm assists foreign investors throughout Asia and maintains offices throughout ASEAN, including in SingaporeHanoiHo Chi Minh City and Jakarta. Please contact us at asia@dezshira.com or visit our website at www.dezshira.com

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