Proving all good things are worth waiting for, our return to the big city culminated with a full-page color stamp in our passports. Exactly 660 days after the Japanese owned and California based bank “eliminated my position” and then mysteriously hired two less experienced people six months later, Diane and I are officially MM2H visa holders. Bypassing all traditional and secure methods of early retirement, we filed the paperwork from overseas as soon as my 50th birthday arrived. Six short weeks after that we sold our overpriced but very comfortable suburban San Francisco Bay Area house, thereby rendering us homeless. Spending six weeks in Canada and probably overstaying our welcome with friends and relatives, we figured we’d take a chance and get a head start, knowing the visa would take about 10 to 12 weeks until we received our “conditional letter of approval”. Defying conventional wisdom according to dozens of forum posters and even our MM2H agent’s advice, we successfully opened a foreign bank account from overseas, bought a one way plane ticket to Malaysia and headed out the door with two suitcases, an Ipad, an Ipad mini and two old Iphone 4S phones that we’d need to replace and bid farewell to our old life in North America.
Fast forwarding six weeks later, we’d already been settling in to our awesome condo unit in the beachfront town of Batu Ferrenghi when our agent informed us the approval letter came through less than 10 weeks after filing. Allowing applicants six months to complete the rather tedious process of fees, medical check-up, buying medical insurance and placing two fixed deposits (MYR 100,000 and MYR 50,000), we needed to travel to Kuala Lumpur and ultimately to Putrajaya, the Malaysian government centre before our 90 day tourist visa expired or risk having to re-enter so we hit the road last week. Deciding to use the Malaysian train system instead of flying, we packed a week’s worth of light clothes into a newly purchased medium-sized suitcase, ensuring it would fit in the small overhead compartment of the train and contacted our Uber buddy for an early morning pickup. Penang’s airport is rather far from our house and KLIA, in the nation’s capital, is almost an hour away from the downtown core whereas getting to the train only takes a 20 minute drive to the ferry terminal and a 10 minute ride on Southeast Asia’s oldest continuously operating ferry. Conveniently located right at the other side, Butterworth’s train station allows easy access to trains that journey as far south as Singapore and as far north as Bangkok for about the same price or less than Air Asia.
And so all the preparation work is finally over and the last day in North America arrived. Waking to a blazing heat wave that’s almost unprecedented with temperatures already scorching and expected to hit almost 35 on the coast next week, the Great Western Canadian Road trip comes to an end late tonight when we board a flight for Hong Kong bound for a Kuala Lumpur connection. Unfortunately, Cathay Pacific frustrates me to no end with their crappy internet website that doesn’t work and no available customer service anywhere in North America on Sunday. Having bought our tickets online four weeks ago, it let us pick seats on the transcontinental flight but not the three-hour connection to Malaysia. Attempting to check in online last night, it took about 17 tries until it recognized our booking reference number. Prompted to confirm the seats to Hong Kong, it then brings us to the seat selection for the KL flight where there’s a whopping three seats left to choose from, two of which are premium upgrades. After clicking, we get an error message stating “sorry: something has gone wrong; this is probably temporary: check back later”
Knowing technology is not their strong point we checked back two more times last night and again this morning and still the same issue. With nobody to call, it seems we are stuck until we get to the airline counter where I will complain about their website and the inability to choose a seat on a connecting flight. With no seats available according to the website, I guess they’ll have to upgrade us to first class since there’s one non stop flight per day. Fortunately, Cathay is too expensive for anything except transcontinental flights anyway but I could do without the added stress. On the bright side, our property agent emailed us an itinerary of eight different showings over two days once we arrive in Penang and our friends Eric and Marlina are also leaving for Malaysia in two weeks so we hope to meet up with them by the time we meander back to KL to complete our MM2H Visa. Expecting no issues, we hope to have the approval letter by early August and hopefully we’ll be a bit settled in by then.
Wishing to once again thank our friend Nicole for allowing us to use her beautiful house in South Surrey, British Columbia for a double stay squat, I reacquainted myself with the beauty of the Lower Mainland and hope our investments do well enough to possibly return here permanently after we’ve had enough of Asia (although everything is up in the air). For now it’s goodbye to all the things we’ve both gotten used to for a lifetime and on to interesting but different things, new places and uncharted experiences. Thanks to everyone for all the supporting comments and should anyone wish to meet us in Penang, please use the contact page to email us. Taking bets on who will be first, we’ve had dozens of friends, relatives and even strangers tell us they’ll come visit but realistically I don’t expect too many visits with a 7,000 mile change of address. Hoping the IPad works in Asia, we’ll post again once were comfortably enshrined in our temporary three-day hotel home in downtown Kuala Lumpur.
Celebrating the spirit of the holidays, Diane and I are suffering through our last freezing cold Christmas while visiting her family in the arctic cold environment of Edmonton, Alberta. Delivering news of our upcoming move to Malaysiato her parents, it seemed only natural to experience ice and snow, break out heavy parkas and remind ourselves one more time why Canadians move to the tropics and not vice-versa. Separated from technology in a wireless house reminiscent of the old days (the 1990’s), I scheduled this post thinking everybody loves to eat around the holidays. Although Penang has Southeast Asia’s best cuisine, I started thinking about the things we will likely NOT find anywhere in Malaysia.
Woody Allen: New York’s most famous Neurotic Jew
Sadly, most everything on the list is also not available in Northern California, at least not in its palatable form. Realizing that native New Yorkers celebrate their own original version of food, I compiled a list of 12 lip smacking delicious foods found only at a (non-existent) Kosher/Italian New York style hawker stand. Unclear if that would fly with so much incredibly great other stuff and since the MM2H visa prohibits most forms of employment income, pictures and memories are no doubt the closest I’ll get until my next trip back to Brooklyn.
Financially speaking, moving from the USA to Canada in 2001 was a very smart move, assuming the bulk of your assets were in US Dollars. Luckily, Diane and I left California for Calgary soon after we met during the weakest stretch for the Canadian Dollar in over 50 years. Exchanging one dollar meant receiving back almost $1.58, saving us almost $20,000 on the down payment of our first house. Conversely, when we sold the house for double what we paid only six years later and moved back to California, theLoonie(Canada’s currency) strengthened so much that we received about $0.93 US back for every $1.00 Canadian. Had it remained the same, it would barely have made sense to sell.
Recently, I posted about the Malaysian ministry enforcing stricter income verification policies for MM2H applicants that might potentially spell trouble for Americans. Issued as a ten-year social visit pass renewable indefinitely, the MM2H is an attractive long-term visa not requiring any “visa runs” like neighboring Thailand, albeit with more paperwork and much larger financial requirements. Navigating the tedious procedure and emailing Joy-Stay, (our agent) for six months now, I’m thinking we may have finally hit a patch of bad timing through no fault of our own. Almost too coincidentally, an ambiguously written notice from Bank of America arrived last week describing what sounds like a mass consolidation of bank branches that might be a nail in the coffin for the ministry’s “verification letter” from our financial institution.
Having now sold over $1,000 worth of crap using the amazingly effective app called Offer Up, I recently began emptying boxes in the garage. Taking stock of what goes in storage or gets shipped to Malaysia, I reminisced about a three-month period almost erased from memory as I discovered some old trinkets. After my first stint as an American expat in Canada, Diane and I made a failed attempt at living in San Diego. Perpetually famous as one of America’s dream retirement spots, it’s also the largest big city in the world located so close to a free border between two nations.
Diane protecting us from Mexican immigrants
Recently I posted about changes in the Malaysian MM2H visa application process that involve stringent new income verification rules. Potentially affecting American citizens, we’ve been informed by Joy-Stay (our agent) of possible delays or even rejection should our application be “selected” for verification of the verification. Accordingly, we’ve contacted some of our readers living in Thailand asking for information on their current visas if “Plan B” becomes necessary. Reiterating Thailand’s ridiculous revolving door policy of never-ending “enter, exit, enter again”, some of you told us about a “retirement visa” but with an annual renewal requirement requiring our physical presence, that didn’t seem very convenient compared to ten years of unlimited entry.
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.
Reviewing 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. Continue reading →