Remembering the old saying “Don’t get caught in the system“, Diane and I recently went back to theJPJ, Malaysia’s version of the Motor Vehicle Department. Making our second attempt at converting our foreign driver’s license into a Malaysian one, our first trip resulted in two rejection letters. Back in the early spring I posted about how Malaysia allows an automatic conversion of foreign drivers licences for certain countries with bilateral agreements. Unfortunately, the United States and Canada aren’t on that list and citizens of “Appendix B” countries not living in the immediate Kuala Lumpur Area have to file some paperwork at a local JPJ office. After meeting with an agent and chatting about whatever they feel like talking about, the staff then forwards the application to Putrajaya, where the nation’s government offices are. Assuming everything’s in order, they’ll mail you an approval letter and then it’s back to the local JP office again for more paperwork, some fees and a shiny new Malaysian driver’s license. At least that’s what’s supposed to happen.
Part of the process involves an interview with a JPJ officer that’s supposed to “certify” all the paperwork including your passport, current valid foreign driver’s license and Conditional Letter of Approval for the MM2H Visa. Sadly, the head office forgot to train the rest of the nation on the procedure and the JPJwebsite for converting licences makes no mention of two very important requirements. Luckily, we knew about the first one thanks to our very competent MM2H agent. For anyone thinking of living outside of Kuala Lumpur, be aware that recently updated rules state that local JPJ field offices can’t certify a drivers’ license issued in the United States. For that, you’ll need an appointment at the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur to get a special letter that “certifies“ your valid foreign driver’s license.
Welcoming our first long Memorial Day Weekend in a nation where it’s just Monday. Diane and I wish everyone in the USA a happy unofficial start to summer. Since we have no bar-b-q grill and even if we did it would probably blow off our balcony due to fierce winds, I improvised our celebration dinner last night and made Tom Yum Prawns. Immensely popular in Penang, Malaysia’s version of the ubiquitous Thai dish is known as Tom Yam and is usually spicier but lacking all the intense flavor of real Thai food. Easily obtainable as a variety of sauces and pastes, Tom Yum sauce is found in every store, wet market and supermarket so making the sauce from scratch seemed silly. But we did take advantage of our local wet market and use all locally sourced ingredients including pineapple, peppers, onions, tomatoes and of course, prawns. Still getting used to buying prawns with the head on, I’ve experimented with ways to remove the unsightly parts but decided it’s probably easier to give in and just cook them with the shell. Yes, this is fine but of course they teach North Americans that the rest of earth is primitive and inferior so you’d never find shells, heads or claws in Costco.
Switching topics, one of the most common questions I receive by email is whether or not to use an agent for those thinking of filing an MM2H application. Asia’s best visa program, the Malaysia My Second Home Program has over 20,000 successful applicants and allows unlimited entry into Malaysia for ten years, renewable indefinitely. Although it’s not permanent residency, it’s a lot easier than visa runs every three to twelve months in Thailand and it’s more comprehensive than other less developed Southeast Asian nations and cheaper than places like Singapore. The answer depends on each applicant’s circumstances including nationality, ease of meeting financial requirements and whether applying in Malaysia or from overseas. Generally speaking, unless you’re very familiar with Malay customs and language, I recommend using an agent for overseas applicants simply for peace of mind. Spending moths piecing together paperwork and spending cash on an overnight courier service only to find out you missed something seems pointless to me.