Guide to Employment Permits in Malaysia for Foreign Workers

Posted by Reading Time: 5 minutes

By: Dezan Shira & Associates
Editor: Anais Robin, Dustin Daugherty

malaysia momForeign 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.

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

  • The employment pass
  • The temporary employment pass
  • The professional visit pass

The Employment Pass

An employment pass is: a type of work permit that enables a foreign knowledge worker 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.

In Malaysia the entry of foreign nationals is governed by the Immigration Act 1963 which also determines the types of employment passes that can be applied for by those who aspire to work in this country.

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The Employment pass is classified into three categories.

Category I

Applicants must receive a monthly base salary of above MYR 5,000 and have an employment contract with a minimum validity period of 24 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 MYR 5,000 and have 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

Malaysia introduced a new employment pass category as of July 2, 2015:

Employment Pass Category III is available to foreign nationals working on contracts of 12 months or less and with monthly salaries ranging from MYR 2,500 to 4,999. The employment pass may be renewed up to two times. Applicants are not allowed to bring dependent(s) and/or foreign domestic helper(s).


  • It is mandatory for successful applicants to obtain a Visa with Reference prior to entry into Malaysia;
  • Employers who wish to employ expatriates under employment pass (Category III) are required to obtain exemption from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MOHA) prior to submission of the employment pass (Category III) application. MOHA approval is granted on an annual basis.
The Temporary Employment Pass

In the case of a Malaysian company requires the immediate services of the foreigner for whom an application for an expatriate post has been made, the company can apply for a temporary employment pass in the interim, usually valid for a period of three months.

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It may be possible to extend the temporary employment pass prior to its expiry but this is subject to the eventual decision on the principal application.

The procedure and the requisite forms for application for this temporary pass are similar to that for the Employment Pass.

The Professional Visit Pass

A Professional Visit Pass is issued to skilled foreign workers who provide services to a Malaysian company on behalf of an overseas company on a temporary basis, usually up to 12 months. It is possible to extend this visa for another 12-month period, but only after a break of three months after the first 12-month period has expired. A new application must be submitted for all extensions requests.

Under this scheme, the foreign worker is still technically employed by their company in their home country.

The Documentation Required

The paperwork required to obtain a work permit includes the following:

  • Copy of applicant’s passport;
  • One passport photo;
  • A letter of work permit application from employer;
  • Visa application;
  • Letter of approval from the Ministry of Home Affairs;
  • Original receipt of fees paid;
  • Visa with Reference application form;
  • Medical report from the country of origin approved by the Ministry of Health Malaysia.
Further Support from Dezan Shira & Associates

To learn more about employment permits in Malaysia, or residency and employment requirements throughout ASEAN as a whole, please do not hesitate to get in touch with the regional employment law specialists at


Asia Briefing Ltd. is a subsidiary of Dezan Shira & Associates. Dezan Shira is a specialist foreign direct investment practice, providing corporate establishment, business advisory, tax advisory and compliance, accounting, payroll, due diligence and financial review services to multinationals investing in China, Hong Kong, India, Vietnam, Singapore and the rest of ASEAN. For further information, please email or visit

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