Filing our MM2H Application (Finally)

After endless months of correspondence, emails and sample documents, the time for Diane and I to file our MM2H Application is finally arriving next week. Technically known as “Malaysia My Second Home”, the program is a government sponsored plan that allows applicants unlimited entry in and out of Malaysia for ten years, renewable indefinitely. Although not the same as residency, the program is mostly designed for middle class folks that want to live or retire time in the country but not work. Limited opportunities are available for those wishing to engage in certain business activities but that requires special permission and extra paperwork . With an application requiring almost 100 pages of backup documentation, Diane and I don’t see ourselves starting an online enterprise anytime soon anyway. (For those interested, there is a 20 hour per week work permit for main applicants age 50 and over but only in certain sectors subject to government approval).

mm2h appConsidered one of the better programs for expats searching for a warm climate, stable government, low crime and high standard of living, the MM2H Program has been mentioned many times in notable financial publications along with other countries like Ecuador, Costa Rica and Panama. Offering benefits such as exemptions on import duty for vehicles, unlimited opportunities to buy property, education for children in public or private schools and even a foreign live-in maid, there are other countries that offer even more (Panama is probably the world’s best) but Malaysia makes a perfect base for exploring Southeast Asia at a fraction of the cost when compared with other expat destinations.

Unfortunately, the MM2H doesn’t come cheaply. Applicants not enrolled in a qualified government pension must agree to submit a fixed deposit held in a Malaysian bank of RM $150,000 (about $42,000 USD) and keep it there for as long as they stay in the program. Earning interest at prevailing local rates, dividends are deposited or reinvested to an applicant’s local bank account. Only accessible for medical emergencies or investing in property, this probably keeps the program’s members low relative to others expat havens but we think i’s worth it. The fixed deposit amount doubles for applicants under age 50. Other requirements are proof of liquid assets over RM 300,000 (about $85,000 USD) and RM 10,000 per month in “continuous income”. (about $2,700 USD)

do-it-yourself-1With two possible options for applicants, you can either choose a DIY (do it yourself) application or appoint a government licensed agent that will submit on your behalf. Having heard all arguments for and against using an agent, now that the time has come for filing, I can only offer our reasons for using an agent. While not inherently complicated, the main problem I see is the ambiguous nature of some requirements. Americans have the strictest privacy rules for release of personal financial information and using an agent will help make sure you don’t waste time sending something across the ocean only to find you didn’t submit something exactly the way the ministry requests.

We recommend and highly endorse the agency known as Joy-Stay, Enjoying an amazingly great email relationship with Yvonne, the owner of the agency, they are generally accepted as the best among the hundreds of licensed agents. Always acting professional and friendly, one of our contacts on an old forum recommended we start as far as one year ahead of the intended filing date given our timing with close of escrow. Seeming a bit far ahead, it turned out to be very helpful given that we close escrow ten days after our filing, As homeless early retirees, it’s comforting to know we have about a 99.9% chance of receiving our conditional approval letter about 90 days after we file thanks to all our advance preparation and Yvonne’s willingness to answer all questions and give suggestions, advice and guidelines along the way.

documentsSummarizing the process, applicants will need to submit to the ministry three months worth of financial documents proving cash in hand and bank statements proving minimum continuous income of RM 10,000 per month. Luckily for us, a co-applicant’s income is admissible to satisfy the income rule which helps if you get laid off unexpectedly as I did. Be ready to go through a rigorous procedure of verifying what makes up an “original” document or a “certified true copy”.

Citing an example of why an agent works best for overseas applicants, especially Americans, take the case of California. “Certified true copies are not permitted by state statute except for trial documents and it took many email conversations and sample letters to find out that we can use “jurats” as a substitute. Similar to a notary stamp, we basically showed an authorized clerk a color copy of certain documents, paid $10 per page, swore we’re not lying (about what? No idea) and they placed an official stamp that MUST BE STAPLED to the document to be valid.

cheapUsing another example, the ministry prefers applicants have all their cash in hand in “cash and equivalents”. Anyone not living under a rock since 2008 knows that it’s ludicrous for most middle class folks to keep over $100,000 USD in Fixed deposits like CD’s or GIC’s and checking accounts. Especially true for Americans, our interest rates are the lowest in the world, Diane and I would never be at this point had we kept all our cash tied up in fixed investments earning a few pennies a year. Securities are technically allowed but highly discouraged especially if you hold mutual funds where balances are subject to underlying securities that fluctuate with the market.

Knowing your way around the rules goes a long way, however, and that’s where Joy-Stay helped us immensely. Posing each question to the ministry individually, she eventually got them to accept sample our brokerage statements, verification letters (another nightmare for Americans) and other essential documentation in an acceptable format. Designed to almost guarantee acceptance, Joy-Stay will agree to check every item required ahead of filing to make sure it’s in proper form and will not file any application until every document meets their satisfaction. With little time to waste, I’ve compiled all the documents over the last year to save time. Since Diane and I are leaving our house soon after escrow closes and well before the visa’s approval, it would have made little sense to chance a DIY filing.

visa approvedOnce my third consecutive bank statement becomes available later this month, we’ll send all our documents via DHL and wait for confirmation of submission by Joy-Stay. Only at that time will they even invoice us for the submission. Financially speaking, market conditions play a role. DIY filers must post a bond of about $800 USD anyway and Joy-Stay includes the fee in their basic service package (RM 3,800). Given the unprecedented strength of the USD recently, this means our fee is only about $1,043 or $243 more than a DIY application but with the knowledge that everything in the application package is exactly as the ministry wants. Practically a no-brainer for “anal” people like myself that hate having no control over their situation, going the “agent” route makes obvious sense for us.

Addressing the specifics all applicants need to complete, below I’ve listed all the items on our MM2H Application checklist. Each time we obtained a new piece of documentation, we emailed Yvonne for review. Commenting along the way when certain information was incomplete, she updated each item once she approved it as a ” good copy” and we began keeping the documents to be submitted in a presentation folder that’s grown to the size of a thesis. I’ve briefly summarized all 14 items.

1) Agent appointment agreement – summarizes the program requirements and agent fees

2) MM2H Application forms – not very complicated

3) Resume/CV – requested by the ministry even for laid off schleps like myself; Protects against deadbeat applicants (?)

4) Cover Letter – Joy-Stay can help with this

5) Five 3.5cm X 5cm color passport photos taken within the last 6 months on a white background.

6) Passports – Notarized COLOR copies of Diane’s and mine AND the ridiculous part: Copies of EVERY PAGE of all passports including blank pages; mostly to make sure you have no stamps from Israel which equates to instant disqualification. (Enter your own political opinion please. Diane says I can’t have one on this blog).

7) Letter of good conduct police clearance certificate – Fingerprints NOT required; simply ask your local police force to run a standard criminal background check

8) Bank Authorization Letters – often VERY difficult for Americans owing to increase of electronic forms, lack of human contact and physical branches and strict privacy rules about dissemination of information. Ask for a visa emigrant letter showing verification of accounts and be ready to return several times to the bank

9)  Cash-in-hand statements – We used our brokerage assets to qualify. Check ahead of time to make sure they consider whatever assets you have as “liquid”. Easier to send “originals” and not certified true copies (not allowed by law in many states anyway). Use heavy paper on your best printer setting and hope there’s one small item in color. They like color, seals, signatures and various other features now very obsolete in the USA

10) Net Income statements –  same as above; If using salary to show income, include pay slips and make sure they match your statement and include a written description of the income.

11) Self-health declaration – declares you are free on major communicable diseases.

12) Notarized copy of marriage certificate –

13) Original Letter of Employment – states your position, salary and duration of employment. We used Diane’s employer

14) Notarized copy of Tax Returns – Since the income to be considered is from my co-applicant, somehow our joint tax return serves as a substitute for the primary applicant’s lack of income. Unclear if this would apply in every situation.

Accepting that even after all this, the process is not finished, we’ll ship off the documents and once properly submitted, the next step is waiting. Meeting only twice per month, a special committee considers all pending applications and when they decide to approve it, they issue a “conditional approval letter”. Generously allowing an applicant six months from the issue of said letter, applicants must then travel to Putrajaya, the Malaysian government center and complete three final steps. Placing the fixed deposit at a local bank, applicants then submit to a simple medical exam and buy a medical insurance policy for a one year period of one year minimum. Yvonne told us she can set up the medical and insurance parts. We already have a multi-national banking relationship.

The application booklet is huge

The application booklet is huge

Finally, the applicant’s passports receive a stamp and the incredibly tedious process ends. Usually spending some time in Kuala Lumpur, most applicants not planning on living in the capital plan a little sightseeing excursion as Diane and I plan on doing. Unfortunately, the rules mean we’ll have to enter Malaysia on a standard 90 day tourist visa and hope there are no complications so we don’t have to re-enter a second time. Planning on leaving North America in mid to late June, this should allow enough lead time. Meanwhile, we’ll probably stay at The Copthorne Orchid Hotel upon arrival whole we search for an apartment in Penang.

immigrationapprovedSeemingly complicated when written as a post like this, ultimately it will probably be the first new experience in what we hope is a new adventure as Experimental Expats. Nothing is set in stone and adapting to our new lifestyle will no doubt be difficult albeit it entertaining. Contributing to the blogosphere helped make the adventure a bit easier and we’re hoping for more engagement once we’re actually in Asia. Appreciative of your support, we just passed 12,000 page views and we haven’t even arrived in Asia yet so thanks for following along and here’s to happy Trails Ahead.

If you have any questions about the MM2H filing procedure, please comment  !!

Coming Next: Holy Crap; I’m Turning Fifty

34 thoughts on “Filing our MM2H Application (Finally)

  1. Colin

    Hi Rodi,
    Thanks for sharing all your insights into the MM2H program.
    My family and I are currently going through the process right now, however the one question I have is, do you get your passport stamped each and every time you enter and exit Malaysia?
    Thanks
    Colin

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    1. rodi (Rob and Diane) Post author

      Hi Colin
      Funny you should ask. In Penang we ask the friendly Muslim women at the counter to please not stamp our passports out and coming back in and they’re fine with it. In KL, the last two times they refused and gave us two different names of some form or pass we’re supposed to be able to apply for from the ministry that allows your passport not to be stamped. I recently asked our agent at Joy Stay about that and gave her the name of the form the customs counters guys told us. She never heard of any such card and told us the rule is that your passport does need to be stamped on and out every time. But I persisted so she checked with her contacts and still came up empty.

      So the answer is like everything in Malaysia. There’s no definitive answer. I would say if you travel through KLIA the answer is yes and if you travel internationally through Penang (which has very limited international flights) the answer is no. Welcome to the developing world and all it’s quirks. Hope this helps.

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      1. Colin

        Thanks for the reply, I figured as much. We currently live in Brunei so we are used to lots of government forms for no reason, and varying opinions on what is required and when.

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  2. Bless

    Hi!
    We are still in the process of applying for MM2H directly. I would like to inquire on the following:
    1. There’s a portion on the IM.12 form section C that requires details (Name, NIRC, Address) of Sponsor in Malaysia. Since we will be processing it directly, can we leave this blank?

    2. Please also elaborate on “certified true copies of original documents by embassy/ high commission/ notary public… from origin country”.

    3. Do we need to send the soft copy of all the documents through email first? Or do we just send the hard copies directly to them thru mail?

    Thanks for your help,
    Bless

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    1. rodi (Rob and Diane) Post author

      Hi

      Thanks for writing. As you may have read in my posts, I am not an agent or an expert on filing MM2H which is why I recommended using an agent. Having said that I will try to answer some of your questions
      1) No clue. Talk to an agent. We had no sponsor of any sort
      2) Again, if you’re attempting this yourself expect to have difficulty without allowing an agent to spot check everything you submit. Certified true copies means they expect every page of bank statements, bank letters, brokerage statements and anything else you submit to be notarized. We applied from California where they only notarize mortgage documents so we convinced our agent to let us use printed PDF color copies for most doucments. We used a substitute legal document called a jurat for the few items they insist had to be notarized like copies of our passports and marriage certificates. Again I suggest contacting an agent.
      3) Same advice. I’m unclear if you chose to use an agent. If not, you’re on your own and there’s no way I’m aware of to email the ministry copies of anything. You’d send all your original documents to the address on their website and hope for the best

      It’s unlikely you’ll get everything perfect but others have succeeded so I guess it’s possible. If there’s even one minor issue wrong you will delay processing and eventually get something written in Malay back in the mail. My advice is use an agent if you’re overseas unless you are very confident and have time to waste. We didn’t so that’s why I paid the agent

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  3. Lorri Clark

    Just a quick comment that your post is so well written and informative! After having been through a process in Panama, MM2H sounds actually very efficient. We are from Canada and looking at options for getting away from the snow. As young retirees, we are having many of the same issues that you were/are in proving income, even though we are “asset-rich”. Now trying to decide whether I have the stomach to DIY this…hubby and I are both former government workers so we are used to bureaucracy lol!

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    1. rodi (Rob and Diane) Post author

      Hi Lorri
      Thanks for writing. As Canadians, I,d be willing to spend lots of extra time advising or helping you guys. Canada is my second home and where we will return to after Asia. The securities markets are quite flat since the day we left (sadly) and we’ve only earned about one percent since May of last year. While I’m confident in long term returns, I’m cautiously watching and trying to ensure we don’t sound more than about 45k USD including travel per year for the first five or six years. Anyway, it’s well worth it to leave the snow at least for awhile and you can always go back because I totallynundretand how hated it is to leave Canada. Where are you guys from? Anyway, feel, free to email me directly. I’ve written five page replies to some others walking them through the processses of MM2H so I’d be glad to help. My experience is in financial services so although I’m not licensed to give you professional advice I’m happy to share my insights on investing and budgeting. Cheers

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      1. Lorri Clark

        Rodi….what a wonderful reply! I am from Calgary (your old stomping grounds) and my husband is from Edmonton (never Calgary, as he reminds me lol).Thank you for all your offers of help, and we will gladly take you up on it. My email is lorri.tax@gmail.com. Glad to meet you!

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  4. Joshua

    Hi Rob, Diane,

    Would you know the number to call to check on the status of my application? I’ve tried every number on the staff directory but haven’t had anybody pick up. Thank you very much!

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  5. Indo Tom

    Was the MM2H condition of having RM 10,000 per month of income an issue for you? Below is the MM2H requirements as posted on the government website for people 50 or older. While I would satisfy the assets requirement easily, my 401k or social security do not kick-in for a long, long time and when they do they probabaly won’t add up to RM 10,000 ($2500 USD) a month.

    “Applicants aged 50 and above may comply with the financial proof of RM350,000 in liquid assets and off shore income of RM10,000 per month. For certified copy(s) of Current Account submitted as financial proof, applicants must provide the latest 3 months’ statement with each month’s credit balance of RM 350,000. For those who have retired, they are required to show proof of receiving pension from government RM 10,000 per month.”

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    1. rodi (Rob and Diane) Post author

      Hi Tom
      We filed our MM2H application while Diane was still working so they used her last full three months of salary as income. The ministry accepts the income requirement from a co-applicant. Frankly, the income requirement is kind of dumb because you’re applying for a visa that doesn’t allow working in Malaysia so basically once they approve you, the income requirement goes away. I don’t know anyone who generates over $2,500 in non salary income. You’d need to have literally millions invested in high yield foxed income securities or thousands of dividend paying stocks. I’ve heard about some possible ways around this requirement such as transferring cash from a brokerage account to your checking account but they are very picky about that. For us, it was a tricky timing thing because we were also selling our house simultaneously but we stayed with relatives in Canada for about 6 weeks after filing and once the house was sold to allow some time before entering Malaysia on a three month visitor visa.

      The catch 22 is basically that we had a perfect situation; one applicant was still generating W2 income. Once you stop working it gets tricky to meet that one time requirement. If you’re still interested I would strongly advise using our contact at Joy-Stay. She knows every possible way to work this requirement and has never had one of her applicants rejected because she’ll only accept your case if she’s sure she can get it to work for you. Feel free to write directly to our email via the contact page if you need some more help or have more questions

      Good Luck

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      1. Indo Tom

        I wonder what happens when trying to renew the MM2H when there is no income from work? Do you thing they disapprove the renewal and give you the BOOT?

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      2. rodi (Rob and Diane) Post author

        The income requirement is a one time requirement only when filing the application so they will never ask about it once you have the MM2H. And again, you can’t work in Malaysia on this visa except in limited circumstances with government approval

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      3. rodi (Rob and Diane) Post author

        That is incorrect or misleading information. Many people have been renewed according to our agent with no problems. We won’t be here in ten years anyway so it’s not relevant for us but if I can ask my agent again by email if you want me to. She’s always happy to get referrals if you’re interested

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      4. Indo Tom

        That would be nice to clarify the issue. It would be a terrible joke on a retiree to discover they couldn’t renew after settling down and establishing roots.

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      5. rodi (Rob and Diane) Post author

        You need to keep in mind everything is subject to change so I wouldn’t plan on spending out all your days in a Muslim country given the state of the world today. The US Justice department is trying to seize Malaysian assets based on a financial scandal with the nation’s 1MDB Wealth Fund. And in the event of a Trump presidency it’s possible the political relationship may deteriorate quickly. The ministry has already tightened up some rules so just bear in mind there’s a strong possibility of change in the future. Hopefully this wouldn’t happen but all Americans should keep in mind the consequences of this presidential election because I suspect many world leaders will not take kindly to his stand on issues like cancelling trade agreements and screening Muslims

        I will double check your question with our agent however

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  6. Nicky Panton

    Thank you for this detailed post. We are in the throw’s of making the big decision to move to Malaysia. Probably not on MM2H (as we are still working and need to finish our children’s education at University in KL) But we have been there many times, have a great network there. Wishing you much luck in your new adventure.

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  7. Jeffkl

    Hi Rodi- once you both have settled in Malaysia, you will find the country amazing- having been to the US in 1884 ( 3 months) and recently 2014, Malaysians and Americans share the same trait- generally friendly and warm people.

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  8. Mari

    Hi Experimental Expats

    Just thought you might like to know it’s relatively easy to rent a condo as a short term let. They’re known as serviced apartments or residences. Might be an alternative to a long stay in a hotel.

    We got our visa last year. We didn’t use an agent, I’d wanted to but my husband didn’t and it turned out he was right. There were plenty of forms but they’re all in English and MM2H answered any queries promptly.

    We tried out both Penang and Kl before deciding to live in the capital.

    Good luck with your application – Malaysia is a great place to live.

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. rodi (Rob and Diane) Post author

      Hi Mari
      Thanks so much for the comment and encouragement. Hopefully we only stay about a week in a hotel since we kind of know the areas we want to live and have a dew places in mind. Hopefully someone at the hotel can recommend and agent to help us find a place. Or maybe someone from the blog knows an agent. I’m sure we’ll figure it out
      Cheers

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      1. Mari

        The way we did it was to spend time on the Malaysian property sites for homes we liked. There are plenty but we used iproperty, propwall and propsocial. The postings linked to agents. Then we went through the agents and found ones who had a selection of our potentials. It worked well for us and we were sorted in 3 days. It takes about 10 days (?) thereafter to get the lease prepared though. You’ll need to deposit 2 months rent and a utilities deposit.

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  9. Adrienne & Dave

    We too used Yvonne from Joy-Stay. She was such a lot of help and saved us a lot of time and stress. We had our MM2H visa stamped in our passports nearly exactly a year ago today.
    Good luck with yours (though I’m sure you won’t need it 🙂 )

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    1. rodi (Rob and Diane) Post author

      Hi Dave and Adrienne
      Thanks so much for the good wishes; glad to hear you it. Can you email us via the contact page and tell us where you live ? We are compiling fellow MM2Hers wherever possible for potential meetings even though most do not live in Penang that we’ve come across. We’d love to hear a bit about how you like it, what activities you partake in, your social life etc !!
      Thanks so much !!

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  10. steve

    Pleased to hear that you are at the submission stage and I hope that the rest of the procedure goes smoothly.
    We got our MM2H visas in January. The process took just over 90 days and we are now very happily residing in the centre of KL with over 500 restaurants and bars, 5 shopping malls, 3 cinemas, the Dewas Philharmonic and the city centre park all within strolling distance.
    We didn’t use an agent but found the procedure fairly straightforward. We had worked in Malaysia for three years then retired in July 14. Went to Europe for a couple of months and returned on a tourist visa which we extended by dint of a holiday in ChiangMai.
    I hope the following points are helpful to others who are applying:
    All the forms and information needed are on the official portal: http://www.mm2h.gov.my/index.php/en/
    On the home page there is also a link to all of the licensed agents (233 of them at the last count).
    The main delay was waiting for UK banks to respond to the verification letter from MM2H, this took another two months from the date of the committee meeting that gave conditional approval (conditional upon bank verification of earnings and assets).
    Our costs for doing it ourselves whilst in Malaysia were less than 100 US dollars – notaries are cheap here.
    If you do turn up at MM2H with a copy missing they might copy it for you or direct you to a copier in the foyer.
    We had 6 months to run on our health insurance policy, they were happy with that.
    The Malaysian government may change the level of fixed deposit – see this extract from an article by the Minister for Tourism: http://migratemalaysia.com/latest-changes-in-mm2h-fd-requirements/
    Minimum purchase price for property has already been doubled to RM 1 000 000 (double this in some states). If I were applying I wouldn’t hang around too long, it seems that Malaysia aspires ti richer retirees.
    Whilst on money, the comparison tool at http://www.numbeo.com/ is pretty accurate for KL. Most things have just gone up by 6% due to the introduction of a Goods and Services Tax,
    Incidentally, whilst in immigration at MM2H waiting for the final stamp we met a couple of British 80+ year olds who had self applied from Spain, flown in that morning, opened their fixed deposit, obtained their RM10 stamp and were just about to get their visa. Can’t be that hard!

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  11. ersatzexpat

    Ugh, just the thought of paperwork brings me out in a cold sweat. Good luck and look forward to catching up in Ipoh (I will message you my email)

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