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3 work visa options for foreign entrepreneurs in Malaysia

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After incorporating a company in Malaysia, you as a foreign entrepreneur have several work visa options under MDEC or ESD in order work legally in this country.

After incorporating a private limited or foreign company, the next important step in order to be physically based in Malaysia as a foreign entrepreneur is to obtain a valid work visa. Even though there are several types of passes that allow foreigners to enter Malaysia, you may need one that allows you to either run a business or to get employed by the company that you have incorporated. While the work visas are issued by the Immigration Department of Malaysia, applications should be made online towards either Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) or Expatriate Services Divisio (ESD) of the Immigration Department of Malaysia.

1. Malaysia Tech Entrepreneur Program (MTEP)

MTEP website

In 2017, MDEC has introduced MTEP together with Malaysia Digital Hub (MDH) with the mission to facilitate the country's tech startup ecosystem by providing passes for tech entrepreneurs who want to establish businesses in the ASEAN market from Malaysia. There are two types of passes under this program - Professional Visit Pass (PVP-MTE) which is valid for 1 year and Residence Pass (RP-MTE) which is valid for up to 5 years for new entrepreneurs and established entrepreneurs respectively.

Eligibility

New Entrepreneur

  • Non-Malaysian with no criminal record in their residing country.
  • Self-employed with an innovative digital business idea and a strong digital proposition.
  • Have a minimum amount of RM50,000 in personal bank account for at least 3 months before application.
  • Have a recognized sponsoring organization registered under MDH or MaGIC who is able to vouch for your presence in Malaysia and also be responsible for your stay, maintenance, and repatriation while you reside in Malaysia. MDEC shall be your sponsoring organization if you are not able to find one. More information on the FAQ page of MTEP.
  • Signed up with one of the MDHs (It is wise to check with the MDHs if they can refund the tenancy payment in case the visa application is rejected).

Established Entrepreneur

  • Non-Malaysian with no criminal record in their residing country.
  • Self-employed with a strong digital proposition and a proven track record (more than 3 years established with the latest 2-year financial records).
  • Have a minimum amount of RM50,000 in personal bank account.
  • Have proof of business performance.
  • Have a Malaysian individual above the age of 21 years old as your sponsor who is able to vouch for your presence in Malaysia and also be responsible for your stay, maintenance, and repatriation while you reside in Malaysia.
  • (for venture capital) Founder, co-founder, or the Malaysian Venture Partner with minimum funds of RM10mil and registered as Venture Capital Management Corporations (VCMC) with Securities Commission Malaysia.

Validity

  • 1 year under Professional Visit Pass (PVP-MTE) for new entrepreneurs (Renewable)
  • 5 years under Residence Pass (RP-MTE) for established entrepreneurs

Fees

New entrepreneurs

  • Application fee upon application submission - RM530.00
  • Processing fee for issuance of PVP-MTE sticker - RM2,120.00
  • Immigration fee - RM360.00
  • Multiple entry visa charges (if applicable)

Established entrepreneurs

  • Application fee upon application submission - RM530.00
  • Processing fee for issuance of RP-MTE sticker - RM4,770.00
  • Immigration fee - RM500.00
  • Multiple entry visa charges (if applicable)

Application process

1. Submit an application on the MTEP website with the following documents:

  • Business pitch deck
  • Certificate of good conduct issued from the embassy or enforcement agency
  • Financial track record of 3 months personal bank statement
  • (for new entrepreneurs) Letter of Offer or Tenancy Agreement from any MDHs
  • (for new entrepreneurs) Personal bond document with sponsor
  • (for established entrepreneur) Declaration form and photocopy of the identification card of sponsor
  • (for established entrepreneur) Proof of business performance
  • (for established entrepreneur) Declaration form from a Malaysian sponsor

2. Wait for the visa approval by MDEC in 4 weeks.

3. Submit passport to the MYXpats Centre of Immigration Department of Malaysia within 6 months of visa approval.

4. Wait for the issuance of pass by the Immigration Department of Malaysia in 2 weeks.

5. Pick up your passport at the MYXpats Centre.

2. Employment Pass (DP10)

ESD portal

If you have incorporated a company in Malaysia and are holding a top managerial or professional position in the company, the company as an employer can apply for an employment pass under categories I and II for you. It can be done through the ESD portal under the Immigration Department Malaysia by registering an ESD account as an employer first before submitting the expatriate application. More information can be found on the latest version of ESD guideline (last updated in December 2019).

*This is not applicable for companies under distributive trade services and the Information, Technology & Communications (ICT) sector.

Eligibility

For the company

  • Registered with the Companies Commission of Malaysia (SSM).
  • Meet the minimum paid-up capital requirement:
  • RM350,000 for a joint venture with minimum foreign equity of 30%.
  • RM500,000 for a 100% foreign-owned company.
  • RM1,000,000 for a foreign-owned company (foreign equity at 51% and above) operating in the Wholesale and Retail Trade (WRT) sector or involved in the subsectors on non-regulated services.
    *not applicable to public limited companies, companies limited by guarantee, associations & organizations incorporated under specific acts.

For the applicant

  • With a basic monthly salary between RM5,000 and RM9,999 for Employment Pass (Category II) or more than RM10,000 for Employment Pass (Category I).
  • Employment contract up to 2 years for Employment Pass (Category II) or up to 5 years for Employment Pass (Category I).
  • Have minimum equity of 30% in the company.
  • Must be a company director or hold a key position in the company.

Validity

  • 2 year under Employment Pass (Category II) Expatriate
  • 5 years under Employment Pass (Category I) Expatriate

Fees

ESD portal

  • Application fee for Employment Pass - RM318

Immigration fee

Application process

1. Register an ESD account as an employer.

2. Submit the company projection of the expatriates required for the year together with the following documents online:

  • Copy of all company directors’ identification card or passport
  • Comprehensive company profile
  • Copy of the company’s phone bill
  • Tenancy agreement / sales & purchase agreement
  • Certified true copy of SSM Form 9 (any related documents)
  • Certified true copy of SSM Form 24 (any related documents)
  • Certified true copy of SSM Form 49 (any related documents)
  • Latest audited financial report
  • Copy of local authorities license (if applicable)
  • Other business licenses or supporting documents according to industry (refer to Annex A of ESD guideline)
  • Other documents specified upon request

3. Wait for the company account approval in 14 working days.

4. Schedule an appointment and print a copy of the Letter of Undertaking (LoU) from the ESD online system on the company's official letterhead and fill in the information required.

5. One of the company's directors attends the appointment at the ESD, Immigration Department of Malaysia to present the identification card or passport for identification purposes and sign the official LoU.

6. Get further access to the ESD portal.

7. Fill in and submit the required information for either the Employment Pass (Category II) or Employment Pass (Category I), referring to Annex D of ESD guideline:

  • Recent passport photo
  • Copy of passport
  • Copy of highest educational certificates
  • Copy of professional certificate (if applicable)
  • Latest comprehensive resume
  • Copy of employment contract (duly stamped by Inland Revenue Board of Malaysia)
  • Supporting document from approving agency / regulatory body (if applicable, refer to Annex C of ESD guideline)
  • Detailed job description printed on the company’s letterhead
  • Other documents specified upon request

8. Wait for application approval in 5 working days

9. Print the approval letter from the ESD portal.

10. Enter the country with the approval letter and walk-in to the MYXpats Centre to make payment for the immigration fee.

11. Submit relevant documents for endorsement at the MYXpats Centre:

  • Original passport
  • Copy of approval letter
  • Payment receipt
  • DP11 form with the original company stamp and details of the appointed endorser as stated in the LoU

12. Collect the endorsed passport within 3 working days.

3. Foreign Knowledge Worker (FKW)

eXpats Service Centre website

Foreign Knowledge Worker (FKW) is an initiative by the eXpats Service Centre department under MDEC to process Employment Pass only for companies in the ICT sector since according to the ESD guideline, companies in the ICT sector can only get Professional Visit Passes which have to be renewed yearly. If you have incorporated an ICT company in Malaysia, the company as an employer can apply for an employment pass under categories I and II for you.

Eligibility

For the company

  • The nature of business is ICT-related, but not a computer retail business or cybercafe.
  • Meet the minimum paid-up capital requirement:
  • RM350,000 for a joint venture with minimum foreign equity of 30%.
  • RM500,000 for a 100% foreign-owned company.
  • Have a valid email domain registered under the company’s name (not free email account).
  • Have own individual office premises, not shared office.

For the applicant

  • With a basic monthly salary between RM5,000 and RM9,999 for Employment Pass (Category II) or more than RM10,000 for Employment Pass (Category I).
  • Employment contract up to 2 years for Employment Pass (Category II) or up to 5 years for Employment Pass (Category I).
  • Have minimum equity of 30% in the company.
  • Must be a company director or hold a key position in the company.

Validity

  • 2 year under Employment Pass (Category II) Expatriate
  • 5 years under Employment Pass (Category I) Expatriate

Fees

MDEC's charge

  • Employment Pass - RM2,968 (non-MSC company) or RM2,120 (MSC company) *For rejected application, MDEC shall refund 75% of Expatriate Services Fees.

Immigration fee

Application process

1. Register a company account as a non-MSC company. MSC company has a slightly different application process.

2. Wait for application assessment for 1 month where eXpats Service Centre team will:

  • Validate the company’s profile.
  • Site visit to the office premises.
  • Interview with the company’s senior management (if applicable).

3. Receive a registration email to:

  • Nominate an authorized person on behalf of the company
  • Generate, print and upload a signed copy of the Expatriate Service Agreement
  • Generate, print and upload a signed copy of an Authorized Person Letter (APL)

4. Submit the company projection for FKW required for the year.

5. Wait for the review and approval by MDEC for 14 working days.

6. Submit FKW application together with payment online for MDEC with the following documents:

  • Recent passport photo
  • Copy of passport
  • Copy of highest educational certificates
  • Copy of professional certificate (if applicable)
  • Latest comprehensive resume
  • Copy of employment contract (duly stamped by Inland Revenue Board of Malaysia)

7. Wait for approval from MDEC and the Immigration Department of Malaysia for 7 working days.

8. Enter Malaysia and make payments to the Immigration Department of Malaysia.

9. Submit the original passport to the eXpats Service Centre:

10. Collect the endorsed passport within 3 working days.

As the Malaysian government strives to facilitate the digital transformation of the local businesses, MTEP, unlike Employment Pass (DP10) and FKW, was launched specifically to process work visas of tech entrepreneurs. Our founder, Dylan Damsma obtained his work visa through MTEP in 2019 when he started Kaunto, a cryptoaccounting software based in Malaysia, which was then pivoted to the company secretary industry as Foundingbird. Feel free to contact us if you have questions regarding MTEP.

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Disclaimer: Information provided in this article is for general reference only. It may not be applicable for East Malaysia. Please seek advice from company secretary, lawyer or other professionals according to your business's needs.