New Rules for MM2H applicants could spell trouble for Americans

Update: June 28th, 2017

I’ve noticed a lot of folks still reading this post. While I understand there’s not as much information as there should be on MM2H, please note this post is almost three years old now and the rules have no doubt changed tenfold if you’re reading this today. Many folks tell me it’s now six months or longer for conditional approvals (ours took 10 weeks). And given a presidency run by an unqualified anti-Muslim man child, it sounds reasonable to me that Malaysia can’t be rushing to open its doors to citizens from a nation whose Supreme Court just overruled four Federal Courts by condoning Trump’s Muslim ban.

While I won’t take the article down, I strongly suggest considering the contents as at least partially obsolete and written at a time when a sane human being presided over a once great nation.  

Communicating to us in response to a general question about our MM2H application, our agent just informed us of new rules effective November 1st, 2014 involving documentation. Affecting mostly American citizens due to the nature of very strict privacy guidelines that all U.S. banks must follow, Diane and I are moderately concerned but still plan on selling the house in March and settling somewhere in Southeast Asia, even if it’s Thailand (our Plan “B). Deciding to choose “selected” applicants and subject them to an extra verification letter that U.S. banks normally wouldn’t issue, the Ministry has made our overseas experiment a bit more intriguing.

rulesReviewing  the basics, The Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) is a government program that allows foreigners unrestricted multiple entries into Malaysia for a ten-year period, renewable indefinitely. Differing slightly from a residency visa, the MM2H is a social visit pass and comes with certain benefits including exemptions of import duties and sales tax for car purchases and the right to own property. Designed mostly for middle class retirees and prohibiting most work, financial requirements are high. Unlike Thailand, however, the ease and convenience of a long-term stay with no “border runs” every few months coupled with a highly developed infrastructure makes the program highly desirable.

Allowing applicants to file while overseas in “do it yourself” fashion or through the services of a licensed agent,  debate rages on and on about what option is the better choice. From personal experience I can say that while it’s not impossibly difficult, overseas applicants are probably better utilizing the services of an agent to avoid ambiguous issues not covered on the government website such as certain definitions. Formerly a British colony, the rules and guidelines are very geared towards Europeans, Australians, New Zealanders and other commonwealth nations whose banking rules are much more lenient than the United States.

Utilizing what we believe to be the best professional and certainly the most knowledgeable agent available, we’ve contracted with Joy-Stay. Their website is here and a quick summary of requirements is found by clicking here.

Summarizing the issue, most Americans are aware that the United States has the tightest bankingand strictest privacy banking rules of any nation, mostly due to partially justifiable safeguards designed to prevent money laundering and terrorist funding. Requiring verification of income, MM2H applicants present three months of financial statements as verification of adequate “cash-in-hand” (Currently about $110,000 USD for those over age 50). Current income guidelines also apply but go away forever once approved.

Drawing the fine line between what is an original” statement and a “certified true copy” is a hard enough battle as the Malaysian government is very fond of physical pieces of paper with colors and graphs, mostly now non-existent in America, In addition, they ask for an “original letter with company stamp and valid signature” to verify the legitimacy. Harkening back to the golden age of pre-9/11 innocence, most Americans can’t remember the last time they walked into a brick and mortar bank, never mind trying to set up a relationship with a branch manager.

Who visits a branch except perhaps the very elderly?

Who visits a branch except perhaps the very elderly?

After much discussion with Bank of America’s clerical staff, I learned that the only way to get verification of my accounts is through a centralized customer service center via a template that’s mailed directly to a branch. Overly protective rules apparently make it hard for an American banking client to obtain written information on their own assets except for special purposes. Eventually, I was given a axed copy of a letter with my accounts and their balances but no official signature, stamp or pretty colors.

Moderately more cooperative, TD Ameritrade was able to email a PDF attachment with the required information because brokerage firms don’t fall under such tight regulation as banks. Explaining that America simply doesn’t do business by personal letters, stamps or even by physical paper proved difficult and we exchanged many emails until agreeing on a template that the Ministry would find acceptable. Knowing now that the application would never be acceptable had I wasted money sending something incomplete, I highly recommend the use of an agent for any American thinking of starting the application process.

Please issue me this

Please issue me this

Probably the most ridiculous rule involves the “verification of the verification”. After sending all the above plus all the other various documentation, applicants are then asked to give a name and address of someone at the financial institution along with the application. Expectations are that the Ministry then mails (not even by courier) a form letter to the address provided and expects your financial institution to present a formal letter verifying the information already provided to them in the first step. Could it be any harder?

Although the rule has always technically been in place, the ministry apparently understands the stringent bank rules and has never rejected an American applicant on the basis of not receiving a response. Realistically, this means they bypass this step as a courtesy to American government regulations. Understanding it’s simply not fair to ask documentation prohibited by statute, they have made other exceptions. (For example, California law prohibits “certified true copies” except by subpoena or court order so they allow something called a “jurat” in place of a notarized copy).

Thinking everything was now just a waiting period for the three months before my 50th birthday, Diane and I wrote a routine email on an issue unrelated to the application and got this response from Joy-Stay:

The MM2H Centre announced the following new rules effective from November 2014 (Please read to see if they are applicable to you) :      

Bank Verifications – The Ministry only accepts financial documents which applicants confirm that they can be verified by our Ministry directly with the relevant parties who issued the financial documents.

If your banks or financial institutes do not reply to the Ministry, your application will not be processed and will be declined after the Ministry has sent the letters two times to the relevant banks/financial institute.

Obviously concerned, I asked for clarification. Visibly upset by the change, our agent expressed frustration with the Ministry’s process but nonetheless explained they have begun “randomly” selecting applicants last week and one of her current applicants that’s field already will be her guinea pig (my words, not hers). Further clarifying, we’re told they’ve even involved the Malaysian Embassy and Consulates, probably in a misguided effort and under the assumption that their foreign based representative can somehow influence US banking and privacy rules.

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Informed that the processing time remains three months assuming our application is not “chosen for selection”, she asked us to be patient while they learn exactly what the new regulations will mean from their point of view. Knowing this is the best agent in Malaysia with obvious good contacts at the relevant agencies, I can only speculate why they’d choose to jeopardize American applicants after successfully allowing thousands to emigrate with little or no hassle. Refusing to get political or negative, I’m reserving comment and instead focusing on our next move should we be “randomly selected”.

Hopefully, not us

Hopefully, not us

Given one full year of House Husband duties and almost no responses to anything I’d left on internet job sites after my unexpected layoff, there’s no turning back now. Detailing the start of a fall cleanup project our real estate agent deems necessary in my last post, our commitment to get Diane retired from work and go somewhere remains intact. Hopefully the Malaysian government will understand the ramifications of a program that excludes Americans from inclusion due to government privacy rules designed to keep the USA safe from harm. Realizing the power of the internet, blogging and even foreign investment into a country that’s a whisker away from “fully developed status” will be necessary if the current government expects continued economic success

Meanwhile, Diane and I have re-examined flying to Thailand as an option once we close escrow while we wait for our application. Ah, how I long for the days of Richie Cunningham. Or at least Richard Nixon.

If you live in Thailand, we want to hear from you !!!
Please share your story especially as it relates to your current visa and housing search; or contact us via email; Thanks !!!!

Updates to follow; please follow our journey.

6 thoughts on “New Rules for MM2H applicants could spell trouble for Americans

  1. Raj

    Hi Rob and Diane
    I have been following your blog (And struggles with the MM2H) with a lot of interest. Governments the world over formulate programs based on their understanding of regulations within their countries with little thought to how things are done elsewhere and MM2H is no different. I turned 50 in early 2014 and promptly applied for the MM2H. I did it on my own (With lots of help from friendly posters on various boards) and my application was approved after a four and a half month wait (Thanks in no small measure to the bank verification requirement). BTW I am travelling on an Indian passport and live in AbuDhabi. I had to contend with verification from my bank in India as well as here in AbuDhabi and it was not easy.
    I am off to KL next week to finsih things off and stamp my visa
    Anyway, the reason I write is to suggest that you also look at Philippines as an option till you decide on where you want to settle down. They have a good retirement Visa option (check out http://www.pra.gov.ph/) and I feel it is great country to live in . I may be biased as I am fond of scuba diving and go there at least twice a year for said purpose. The financial requirements for the visa are much more relaxed and it a relatively painless (As far as these things can be !) process that can be done without an agent.
    It s a beuatiful country, friendly people and probably one of the cheapest in Asia. The downside is higher crime (I feel mainly in Manila, the other cities/islands are fine), grubbier infrastructure in major cities and the local food sucks
    Good luck to both of you

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    1. rodi (Rob and Diane) Post author

      Hi Raj
      Thanks for the post and congratulations on the MM2H approval. Sorry it took so long. The issue with Americans is different. No other country on earth has banking secrecy rules that even come close to the USA. It’s all politically motivated, designed to keep citizens in a permanent state of fear so that support for world military dominance never wanes. It’s the topic of a different blog altogether and not worth discussing here because I have strong feelings about the USA bullshit which is why we choose to leave.

      Leaving is hard enough as it is. New rules effective 7/1/14 this year give the IRS some totally illegal world jurisdiction over every bank on earth to force them into tax reporting for US citizens if they (god forbid) want to leave the US so many banks just stop taking deposits. Fortunately Diane is Canadian but most of our retirement income will be US sourced so that means tax returns and following their rules until the grave.

      Anyway, the Philippines is not on our radar screen although they do have some nice islands. Typhoons are a major issue every year and there are currently one million people under evacuation orders as a super typhoon approaches as we speak. Infrastructure is not high enough for us and it wouldn’t be much different from here (Bay Area has the largest Filipino population outside Manila). But thanks for the suggestion and again, congrats on getting approved !!

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  2. Life in SE ASIA a Daily Magazine

    I dont see an email so will comment here. I live in Thailand and have a retirement visa. I did not go thru the steps my self but hired a company I have used and my friends have used for several years Its actual easy for an American. Get a letter from the US Embassy stating income. Here is the company I used ( they dont pay me) I just like them. TSL http://www.tslthailand.com/ Virgina Ly is an american that I consider a friend that has helped me email virginia@tslthailand.com I live in Phuket which is the most expensive place to live in Thailand. I love the water so I stay here. Chiang Mai is beautiful and cheap Also the NE part called Issan is very Cheap to get an idea of house rents and cost in Phuket Wellta web site http://www.houseinphuket.com/ great site and she is very honest and speaks good english again just a friend. good luck jackie my email is jackielittletaylorphotos@gmail.com

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    1. rodi (Rob and Diane) Post author

      Hi Jackie
      Thanks so much for the long detailed reply. We’ve been following your blog (which I love) and love a lot of the reblogged posts also.
      Well, now I feel like we have a great solid friend in Thailand should the MM2H not work and I appreciate the contacts. Honestly, we’re hoping not to have to start over since I’ve invested so many hours emailing our agent; The MM2H is an incredibly tedious pain in the ass but of course it’s good for ten years which is a huge advantage over the visa runs. But I understand the retirement visa Thailand can be renewed from within the country.

      If we did go to Thailand we’d probably go to Chaing Mai; we have some other blogger friends that live there and have offered to help us get started but they are too young for retirement visas so we’d be very interested in meeting you and becoming friends. Thanks very much for sharing your contacts; I understand you need to first have either a 90 day or one year visa in Thailand before applying for a retirement visa. We think the one year makes more sense because we’d want unlimited entry even if we have to do four visa runs.

      I will email you directly and send you our contact information. Thanks again for all the information

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  3. Lani

    If one of you is at least 50 (sorry I forgot, I know you told me, I think), then you should be able to get a retirement visa and then the other can be on a spousal visa. They are “cracking down” here (the bank thingy among others), too, but I think you could both swing it as it looks like you both have some funds in the bank which they want to see. I’d recommend thaivisa.com for questions and answers. It’s a bit of a forum to go through, but they usually go out of their way to find the answers, if they don’t have them already. Good luck with Malaysia. I’m sure it will be fine!

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    1. rodi (Rob and Diane) Post author

      I will be 50 in April and we’ll file the paperwork that week. That’s what I’ve been waiting for. The boss (Diane) convinced me it makes more sense to get another year’s worth of pay, pension and investments. I’ve heard about the Thai retirement visa nut understand you still have to already have another one before applying anyway so even that is kind of a pain. Thanks for the link; I’ll check it out. Money is not really the issue and when Americans are denied something but have ample funds we get very uptight !!

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