A few months ago I wrote about our experience at the JPJ, Malaysia’s equivalent to The Department of Motor Vehicles and Licensing. With the expiration dates of our U.S. driver’s licences fast approaching, Diane and I thought we’d take advantage of a rather generous rule allowing conversion of foreign licences for MM2H holders. (Expats on work visas are often disappointed because they’re usually denied). Unfortunately, bilateral agreements only allow certain passport holders an “automatic” conversion and both Canada and the USA are not on that list. So a few months ago we visited the local JPJ office on Penang Island and discovered that conversions must now be processed at another office on the mainland. Arriving just after 10, the process seemed easy enough but after not hearing anything 45 days later, we searched the website and found a rejection letter printed in Malay that was never mailed.
Enlisting our property agent as a translator, it seems the local officer neglected to verify and attach a photocopy of our MM2H Conditional Approval Letteralong with the application. As vehicular challenged expats, we put off the trudge of two bus rides and a ferry crossing and having successfully renewed both state license by mail, gave up on the idea. But we have some friends that just got their MM2H approved and were going there anyway to convert their licences so we took advantage of their generous offer and tagged along. Many readers ask us why they should or shouldn’t use an agent when applying for an MM2H visa. Always responding that it’s a personal choice, we used Joy-Stay, the country’s best agent by any standards. For us, our agent’s professionalism combined with her expertise and great relationship with the ministry assured a hassle free experience that made up for the few hundred dollars extra. Her fee comes with a money back guarantee that you’ll be approved and she won’t even accept clients unless she’s confident she can get them approved. Besides, If you choose a DIYmethod, you still need to put up a security bond that’s covered in Joy-Stay’s package.
Whoever said living at home with the in-laws is no fun obviously wasn’t married to an Asian whose father cooked for a living. Having now been in Edmonton for a week, Diane and I have reaped the benefits of living with parents that don’t mind house squatters. Enjoying the amenities, we’ve made some great progress towards getting settled and organized in Malaysia next month, albeit with a one month phone contract that provides hotspot access in this very unconnected internet-free home. With summer approaching, every day feels like two days with the light leaking through the window at about 4:45 AM and darkness setting in somewhere near midnight. Adjusting to “sleeping in” (anything past 6 for me) is difficult for someone used to a routine (what Diane calls “being anal”) but I’m trying to change my habits and prepare for a place where life only begins after sundown due to torrid heat and humidity.
Receiving excellent news the other day, we’re happy to report that our MM2H application has officially been bypassed for “selection of banking verification” a tedious process recently implemented by the Ministry that basically amounts to a triple check of information already provided in the application package. According to our agent, we can expect the approval letter to come through sometime around early August (it would normally be late July but that falls during a period of high holidays and we’re still getting used to the very un-American concept of business and industry shutting down for an entire week). Clearing the way for an early arrival to Penang with expectations of an approval letter about a month later, we’ve decided to keep our plane reservations as-is and search for housing on a three-month tourist entry while the visa makes its way through the ministry’s red tape.
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).
Considered 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.
November 30th marks exactly two months since our blog opened for business and one long year since my unexpected layoff that led to my current House Husband Status. Approaching the home stretch, we have 136 days until we file our paperwork for MM2H, the ten-year social visit pass that acts as our residency visa in Penang. Upon approval, we finally both begin early retirement in Malaysia. Simultaneously, our house goes on the market in mid March and hopefully closes escrow by May, rendering us homeless and forcing us out.
As a total newbie that knew nothing at all about blogging, HTML, CSS or anything else technical, I had no idea what kind of response I’d receive. Many of you provided support, complimented my writing style and offered help during our transition to an overseas destination we’ve never visited. Unfamiliar with the blogosphere, I’m unclear if this good or not but I just received my 4,000th page view and have managed to entice90 followers so far. I want to thank everyone for helping me along the way and especially anyone who shared, re-blogged, commented and took part in any of our posts. With a lot more to learn about blogging and entering a very scary but exciting period, your responses, follows, and advice make it a bit easier. Finally, a special thank you to those expats in Asia who have shared their email addresses with us and allowed us to build a small social network before we even arrive.
Coming in December: Parts 3 and 4 of The Galapagos Islands Series, our last Arctic holiday in Canada and an update on potential MM2H trouble that might land us in Thailand
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 →
Regrettably, I must tell everyone that The MM2H Forum is now officially dead. Possibly the greatest source of information for anything and everything related to The Malaysian Social Visit Pass, otherwise known as MM2H, a simple message stating its demise is all that remains. With only 183 days left until Diane and I file for the big move to Penang, I was both disappointed and a but angry upon learning the news.
Rodi in Borneo, the closest we’ve ever been to Penang, our chosen destination
From accounting to zoölogy, the MM2H Forum was perhaps the most complete source of knowledge and information for expats anywhere in the world. Boasting a readership of over 20,000 and created eight years ago by a British expat known to me only as Scott, the forum was a primary reason Diane and I feel comfortable enough to risk everything and move somewhere we’ve never been to. Featuring information about the visa, banking, lifestyle, food, daily life and everything else, the loss will be felt throughout the expat community.
One of our most important considerations when researching expat retirement destinations was the host country’s policies on residency. Some places , like Thailand, offer ease of convenience, with relatively few requirements. However, it’s only valid for one year and its liberal policies mean you share the country with almost anybody short of escaped criminals (and there’s probably some of those).
Other countries, like Panama and Ecuador, offer slightly more stringent rules but there are many barriers which include language, shysters looking to scam expats, and most recently the ridiculous new U.S. government tax act known as the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) which makes it exponentially harder for honest middle class Americans to open foreign bank accounts. Continue reading →