Immigration Categories

The appropriate immigration category or status for your employees will depend on their specific details and on your company. In Malaysia, visa categories are determined by sponsoring entity set-up, payroll location, job activities and assignment duration. The sponsoring entity also has to fulfill certain basic criteria, such as having a minimum of paid-up capital, prior to being able to sponsor a foreigner for work authorization. Work authorization for Malaysia is broadly classified into short-term and long-term Work Permit categories, as outlined below. While the processing timeline and document checklist are standardized for the short-term Work Authorization of the Professional Visit Pass (PVP), for the long-term work authorization category (i.e. Employment Pass), the processing timeline and document checklist varies and is determined by the local sponsoring entity’s corporate set up in Malaysia.

A brief description of corporate immigration categories by assignment type follows. The most common category for corporate transfers in our experience is the standard Employment Pass. For details on non-typical categories not listed below (investors, special programs), please contact your Emigra Worldwide representative.

  • Professional Visit Pass (PVP): The PVP is applicable for assignments with a maximum duration of up to twelve (12) months OR as per assignment duration listed in the supporting letters to assignees where the assignee’s monthly salary during the assignment in Malaysia will be paid by their home country employer (i.e. the payroll location remains overseas). A PVP of twelve (12) months’ duration cannot be renewed for a further period. The family members of foreigners in Malaysia on PVP status are not eligible for concurrent Dependent visas.
  • Employment Pass (EP): The EP is applicable for assignments of greater than one (1) year where the assignee’s salary will be paid by the local sponsoring entity in Malaysia. The minimum salary requirement is RM 5000.00 per month. The family members of foreigners in Malaysia with Employment Passes are eligible for concurrent Dependent Passes.

Typical Process Overview

The processing timeline for the Employment Pass application, however, varies based on the local sponsoring entity set-up and the “core business” of the company. There are six (6) different authorized agencies that approve expatriates’ applications based on the core activities of the company. The EP processing timeline and requirements will vary based on the authorized approval body for the company. Additionally, for all new EP applications filed with Immigration Putrajaya, the sponsoring entity first needs to complete an online registration process with the Expatriate Services Division [ESD] online portal. Typically for EP applications processed via the ESD online portal, the processing timeline from filing date is around six (6) weeks for visa-waiver nationals and six (6) to eight (8) weeks for visa-restricted nationals arriving in Malaysia via the Reference Visa route.

Regardless of the type of sponsoring entity in Malaysia, all PVP applications must be submitted via the ESD online portal effective from October 2014 The approximate overall processing time for short-term work authorization (i.e. a Professional Visit Pass) in Malaysia is around fifteen (15) to twenty (20)  business days

The applicant’s passport must be endorsed with the Employment Pass (EP) and Professional Visit Pass (PVP) as applicable before they can legally commence work in Malaysia.

Typical Documents Obtained

Typical validity is noted next to each document name. For details on the renewal process, please see the next section, “Renewal.”

  • Employment Pass: Usually valid for a maximum period of two (2) years.
  • Professional Visit Pass: Validity for up to a maximum of one (1) year or in line with assignment duration listed on the company support letters.
  • I-Kad: This is a card that has been issued to foreigners since June 2015, replacing the previous i-Pass. It can only be obtained after the long-term Employment or Dependent Pass has been obtained. It will be in line with the Employment or Dependent Pass. The i-Kad allows domestic travel within West Malaysia without showing their passport as an identity document.


It is possible to renew Employment Passes, but not Professional Visit passes. Renewal processes mirror the initial application processes. Hence, the processing timeline and documents required vary based on the corporate sponsoring entity’s set-up.

Permanent Residence is an option for qualified applicants who have worked legally in Malaysia for at least five (5) years; however, it is difficult to obtain permanent residence without employment conditions.


To ensure that assignees leave Malaysia after the expiration of their permission to stay and to keep tabs on the number of foreign workers in the country, the government of Malaysia requires all assignees to cancel both the Employment Pass and Professional Visit Pass prior to the assignee’s departure from Malaysia. Since an original passport is required for this step, the assignee’s physical presence is a mandatory requirement for the visa cancellation step. The assignees must depart Malaysia as per the date listed in the supporting letter. Additionally this date should also be in line with the applicant’s travel itinerary. Essentially, for Malaysia, there is no buffer available between the last working date and the departure date.


Dependent immigration status approval depends on the immigration status of the principal applicant. Where the principal applicant is in Malaysia with an Employment Pass, the following rules apply for dependents:

  • Minimum age (spouses): Eighteen (18) years
  • Maximum age (children): Eighteen (18) years
  • Unmarried partners: No, but a Long Stay Visit Pass may be possible
  • Same sex partners: No
  • Non-traditional dependents (e.g. parents): No, but a Long Stay Visit Pass may be possible
  • Work authorization granted? No

Note that school age children may need to apply for a “Permission to Study stamp” after securing their Dependent Pass, if required by the school/college authorities. This is not a mandatory requirement.

Application Materials

Application materials vary depending on the immigration category being applied for and on the specifics of the case. We will advise you in detail regarding your specific case; however, general application materials for an Employment Pass are noted below.

  • General application materials include: copy of qualifications for highest educational level achieved, current resume (C.V.), birth and marriage certificates, corporate tax documents, and corporate registration certificates.
  • Certificates not in English must be translated and certified by the Malaysian Embassy in the country of origin or by the respective consulate in Malaysia.
  • Note that the above mentioned documents are examples of what will be required and that additional documentation will certainly be necessary.

Business Visitors

There is no stand-alone Business Visa category for Malaysia. Visa waiver nationals are eligible to receive a landing visa (duration of stay varies based on nationality) upon arrival in Malaysia provided that their passport is valid for a period of six (6) months and they have a copy of a return/onward bound ticket. Visa restricted nationals will need to obtain a “Single/Multiple entry Visa” prior to arrival in Malaysia. Upon arrival, the Immigration authorities will stamp the passport with endorsement as a “Visit Pass”. Visit Passes are valid for both Business and Social/Visit purposes.

  • Name of visa granted: Visit Pass
  • Duration of stay: Varies from seven (7) to ninety (90) days, depending upon nationality
  • General activities permitted: Orientation, home-finding, business meetings and other preparation for employment

Change of Status

It is possible for some nationalities to convert from visitor to employment status without leaving Malaysia.

Salary and Payroll

Salary and payroll requirements vary depending on the immigration category and on the specifics of the case. In Malaysia, there are minimum salary requirements in place. Additionally, payroll location will affect the immigration process. Please your representative for more details for your specific situation.


Qualification requirements will vary from case to case and will depend on the immigration category under which the application is made. However, in general, the immigration authorities do expect to see an undergraduate level university degree. In some situations, a strong case may be made for applicants without a degree provided their level of experience and industry specific qualification is high. Please contact your representative for more details.

Red Flags

In our experience, the following points are important to note at the start of the process. If any of the below situations apply to you, contact your representative immediately for further detailed advice.

  • Absence of degree.
  • Insufficient compensation.
  • Corporate set up, minimum requirements for paid up capital, etc.
  • Unmarried partners cannot receive Dependent Passes.
  • When the immigration authorities approve standard employment passes, they will attach a condition for an Understudy to be appointed. An Understudy is a Malaysian executive to be trained under the expatriate to eventually take over the expatriate’s role and duties.
  • The immigration authorities will look at the employer’s investment levels, history of past commitments to transfer technology, and ratio of foreign to local workers.

Penalties for Non-Compliance

The government of Malaysia takes immigration non-compliance very seriously. Penalties for non-compliance may include fines, deportation, and imprisonment.

Employee Penalties:

Employees who remain in Malaysia beyond the permitted stay period indicated on their permit/pass will incur a fine not exceeding RM10,000.00, imprisonment for a term not exceeding five (5) years, or both, and a whipping of not more than six (6) strokes.

Employee can also be arrested and detained before being deported

Employer Penalties:

An employer who employs a person who is not in possession of a valid EP may be subject to a fine of not less than RM10,000 but not more than RM50,000, or imprisonment not exceeding twelve (12) months, or both, for each employee. An employer who employs more than five (5) noncompliant employees will be liable to imprisonment of not less than six (6) months but not more than five (5) years and whipping of not more than six (6) strokes.

Where the employer is a company, the board of directors, manager, secretary or a person holding an office or position similar to that of a manager or secretary of the company shall be guilty and will be liable to the same punishment faced by the company. The employer may also be required to pay for all costs and expenses incurred in deporting the foreign employee and government costs incurred in detaining the employee pending deportation. The employer may also be blacklisted and will not be able to make EP applications.

For more details, please contact your representative.

Bilateral Agreements

Malaysia is not a member of any bilateral agreements pertinent to immigration other than the issuance of Work and Holiday visas to nationals of Australia, while Malaysians may acquire Work and Holiday visas for Australia or New Zealand. This applies to people aged eighteen (18) to thirty (30) who are unaccompanied by dependent children. A holder of this visa is restricted in that they may not work for more than six (6) months for any one employer. However, Australians joining this scheme may not work in any occupation requiring professional qualifications, in the entertainment industry, in front office service counter jobs or as volunteers.