Why Malaysia is a good option for expats in Asia

More people are starting to look towards Malaysia as a place to live and do business from in Asia.

Malaysia ticks many boxes for expats; relatively low cost of living, first world level infrastructure, excellent English proficiency, and close proximity to the rest of Asia.

For business owners or expats who are investing in the region, Malaysia also provides a strategically located, low-cost entry point for doing business and investing in Singapore.

The Malaysian Premium Visa Programme (PVIP)

The Malaysian PVIP visa is aimed at wealthy investors. It provides a residence by investment option for expats wanting to establish themselves in one of the up-and-coming business centers of Southeast Asia.

The PVIP visa gives you access to Malaysia for 20 years, and it can be extended for a further 20 years.

You will have multiple entry privileges to come and go as you please.

The Malaysia PVIP Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for the premium visa programme you will need to demonstrate that you have a monthly income of RM 40,000 (Approximately USD 8,600), or an annual income of RM 480,000.

The applicant will need to deposit RM 1,000,000 (USD 214,000) into a licensed Malaysian bank account.

The money cannot be touched for the first year. After this time, 50% of the deposit amount can be withdrawn to fund a property purchase, medical or education expenses.

There is an application fee of RM 200,000 for the main application and a further RM 100,000 for dependents.

Each year you will have to pay an annual fee of RM 2,000.

You will also need to provide a certificate of good conduct from your home country.

How does the Malaysia PVIP compare to the MM2H?

We know that the Malaysia My Second Home rules are currently being reviewed and are expected to be lowered in the latter half of 2023. But here is a comparison between the PVIP and the MM2H under the current set of rules.

The PVIP has a high application fee (RM 200k), but you get more for your money on this visa. In comparison there is a bond fee of just RM 5k on the MM2H.

The MM2H has a minimum age for the main applicant of 35 years. The PVIP has no age restrictions.

The foreign monthly income requirement is the same for both visas, at RM 40k. This is one of the items that is expected to change under the MM2H review currently taking place.

The PVIP has no proof of liquid asset requirement, unlike the MM2H where applicants must prove that they have at least RM 1.5 million in liquid assets at the time of applying.

The investment deposit amount is the same for both visas, set at RM 1 million.

Both programs allow you to invest in Malaysian property using a portion of your deposit. 50% (RM 500k) can be withdrawn after the first year for this purpose.

The PVIP has no minimum stay requirement. Whereas the MM2H requires you to stay in Malaysia for at least 90 days each year.

The PVIP is a 20 year renewable visa where the MM2H is a 5 year renewable visa.

You are allowed to do business, engage in employment and undertake education on the PVIP visa.

The MM2H only allows you to work if you are aged over 50 years. You can register a Malaysian SDN BHD company but you will require a work permit if you want to work while in the country. You are not allowed to study on the MM2H visa.

Who is the PVIP visa good for?

The Malaysia Premium Visa Programme is good for wealthy expats who are looking for a good long term visa option in Southeast Asia. If you have the money to invest in this program, you can secure your future, your place in Asia for 40 years.

The PVIP gives expats the opportunity to come to Malaysia and build a life here. You have more rights for working and doing business in the country. It gets you closer to the entitlements that you would have with permanent residency.

The fact that there is no minimum stay requirement and quite good rights lends itself to being an excellent back pocket offshore option for expats looking to diversify or internationalize their lives. If you like to move around and be mobile then this could suit you.

Are there any other options for moving to Malaysia?

If the application fee is undesirable to you, you may consider the MM2H.

If the MM2H is still too costly for you, the Sarawak S-MM2H can be a good option. You only need RM 7k of monthly income on this one.

Malaysia has a 2 year digital nomad visa that allows you to legally work in the country. For this you need to show an annual income of just USD 24k.

For more established businesses that want to lower their taxes, you might consider a Labuan Directors visa.

Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia also have options.

Do foreigners pay tax in Malaysia?

PVIP visa holders will be taxed under the regular Malaysian Income Tax Act.

If you are present in the country for at least 182 days in a tax year, you may be considered a resident for tax purposes.

For tax residents, money earned inside Malaysia is taxed at the regular marginal rates ranging from 0-30%.

Foreign sourced income that is remitted into Malaysia is not taxed under certain conditions until the end of 2026.

Non-residents will pay a flat rate of 30% on locally sourced income. There are exemptions available if you are in Malaysia for no more than 60 days in a tax year.

Next steps

Malaysia is one of the most popular Asian countries for expats to base themselves in. It is a place you might consider if you are looking for an Asian experience that is more in line with what you may be used to back home. The infrastructure is modern and it is a great place to work from.

If you would like some assistance with setting yourself up in Malaysia with one of its many visa options, we can help.

Thanks for reading.