Malaysia Issues Digital Nomad Visa: What are the Requirements?

Posted by Written by Ayman Falak Medina Reading Time: 3 minutes

Malaysia has issued a special work permit specifically for digital nomads called De Rantau. The program aims to attract foreign and local digital professionals to work in the country for between three and 12 months. Applications are open from October 1, 2022.

Malaysia has rolled out ASEAN’s first digital nomad visa under the De Rantau program, which will be open to applicants from October 1, 2022. The program welcomes digital marketers, IT professionals, and content creators for up to 12 months’ stay. The government hopes the program can transform Malaysia into a hub for digital nomads in the region while boosting digital adoption across the country.

The special work permit is supported by the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), a government agency tasked with promoting the country’s digital economy.

What is the process of obtaining a digital nomad visa in Malaysia?

De Rantau is open to foreign and local digital professionals. For foreigners, they will receive a Professional Visit Pass, which will allow them to stay in Malaysia for between three and 12 months, after which it can be renewed for an additional 12 months.

Types of digital nomads

De Rantau aims to attract two types of digital nomads:

  • Digital freelancer, independent contractor; and
  • Remoter workers (full and part-time).

As such, the profession of the digital nomad must be IT-related, such as software development, cloud, UX, UI, cybersecurity, AI, digital marketing, and digital creative content, among others.

Proof of work

Digital freelancers or independent contractors must show an active project contract with a duration of more than three months. These can be in the form of multiple contracts, and the clientele can be foreign or Malaysian companies.

Remote workers, need to show an active employment contract, where the contracted period is longer than three months. The employer can be foreign or Malaysian-based.

Annual income

The annual income of a foreign digital nomad must be more than US$24,000, while it should be more than 36,000 ringgit (US$7,863) for local digital nomads.

Application fee

The application process is online and there is a fee of 1,000 ringgit (US$218) for the main applicant and an additional 500 ringgit (US$109) for each dependent they might bring.

De Rantau will also certify accommodation providers that are equipped to accommodate digital nomads, such as providing fiber internet. These ‘digital nomad hubs’, will also include co-working spaces.

Competition from Indonesia

Malaysia’s main competition in attracting foreign digital nomads is Indonesia, especially the island of Bali, which saw floods of foreign remote workers during the pandemic.

Indonesia is still mulling the prospect of its own digital nomad visa, which would offer holders up to five years of tax-free stay if they can prove their income is derived from outside of Indonesia. If approved, the nomad visa will be one of the longest in the world, with most countries only offering up to 90 days for digital nomads. Further, the cost of living in Indonesia is much lower than that of Malaysia.

Thailand seeking to attract wealthy tourists

Thailand, on the other hand, is looking to attract only the wealthiest people for emigration, with a resolution passed in late September 2021 that introduces incentives for foreign retirees and skilled professionals to relocate to Thailand.  

The incentives come in three categories: immigration, tax, and real estate.

Under immigration, qualified applicants can receive a 10-year resident visa — including for their spouses and children — as well as an automatic work permit. This is a new type of visa that did not previously exist in Thailand.

The tax incentive involves qualified applicants enjoying the same tax rates as locals and can also enjoy tax exemptions on income derived from abroad.

For real estate, qualified applicants can enjoy relaxed restrictions on the ownership and rental of land and property.

Who qualifies?

People with at least US$80,000 in income over the last two years and at least US$1 million in assets can qualify for the incentives. Further, they must have medical insurance covering at least US$100,000 and invest at least US$500,000 in Thai government bonds or real estate.

Retired pensioners can qualify if they have a stable pension of at least US$40,000 per year and aged 50 or older can apply. They too must have medical insurance covering at least US$100,000 and invest at least US$250,000 in Thai government bonds or real estate.

Foreign professionals who work remotely from Thailand (often referred to as digital nomads), can qualify if they have at least US$80,000 in income over the last two years and at least five years of work experience will be eligible.

Lastly, highly-skilled professionals with at least US$80,000 in income over the last two years or US$40,000 per year who work in targeted industries, including building infrastructure, logistical systems, and digital systems, or experts and researchers who work with state agencies or as university lecturers.

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