The DE Rantau Nomad Pass

The race to attract digital nomads to Southeast Asia is on. And that’s a great thing for remote workers and online entrepreneurs who want to live in this beautiful part of the world.

Malaysia has now come to table with their version of the digital nomad visa, officially called the DE Rantau Nomad Pass.

In this article we’ll cover everything you need to know about Malaysia’s DE Rantau programme and how you can live and work in beautiful Malaysia.

Why Malaysia is great for Digital Nomads

Like many countries, Malaysia is trying to position itself as a digital nomad hub in Southeast Asia.

It’s a beautiful country with lovely beaches and lush rainforests. There is no shortage of things to do and see in your time off.

With Kuala Lumpur being the hub of the low cost airline carrier Air Asia, there are always cheap flights from KL to anywhere in Asia, and beyond.

The country is well developed, especially Kuala Lumpur. You could view KL as an up and coming version of Singapore.

But the cost of living in Kuala Lumpur is much less than what you would find in comparable places such as Singapore. Expats can live here for around $1,500 a month.

Malaysia has a fascinating culture and demographic make-up. The population is primarily made up of three groups – Indian, Chinese, and of course Malays. And this also means that there is always great food options.

Although not it’s official language, English is widely spoken in Malaysia. This makes the transition into everyday life much easier for many westerners. It also makes it easier to integrate and relate to the local people when you can have meaningful conversations in a common language.

digital nomad malaysia

The Malaysian Digital Nomad Visa

Successful applicants will receive a Professional Visit Pass (Pas Lawatan Ikhtisas PLIK).

The duration is from 3 to 12 months.

There is an option to renew the visa for an additional 12 months.

You can bring your spouse and children with you.

Cost for the main applicant: MYR 1,000 (approx. $230 USD).

Cost for dependents: MYR 500.

Eligibility requirements

To be eligible for the Malaysian digital nomad visa you will need to demonstrate the following:

  • Work as a digital freelancer, independent contractor or remote worker
  • Proof of income $24,000 per year
  • Work in the field of IT, digital marketing, content creation, or other work in the digital domain

Although the above field of work criteria is limited, in practice the visa is open to any profession as long as you are able to work online and remotely.

  • Freelancers/contractors
    • Must have an active contract in place of longer than 3 months in duration
    • Clientele can be local or foreign
  • Remote workers
    • Must have an active employment contract of longer than 3 months
    • Employer must be based outside of Malaysia
  • Clean criminal record

How to apply for the Malaysian DE Rantau Nomad Pass

Provided you meet all of the eligibility criteria, you will also need to provide the following:

  • Resume/CV
  • Bank statements
  • Health insurance
  • Documentation to support the eligibility criteria

The DE Rantau programme is administered by the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC).

kuala lumpur busy street

Do foreigners have to pay tax in Malaysia?

There are some changes that are currently in transition regarding how foreign sourced income is taxed in Malaysia.

Currently there is a tax exemption in place until 2026 for individuals who earn foreign source income, and meet certain conditions.

Once the exemption expires, you still won’t have to pay tax on income earned from foreign sources, provided that you don’t bring the money into Malaysia.

If you don’t qualify for the exemption, there may still be some relief available under a double taxation agreement.

At the time of writing, the tax rates ranged from 1% for income below 20,000 MYR to 30% for income above 2,000,000 MYR.

International taxation is a complex field. Any information in this article is made on a general basis only and is not tax advice. If you need taxation advice specific to your situation, you can get that here.

How does Malaysia compare to other digital nomad visas in Asia?

The Malaysian DE Rantau Nomad Pass is a genuine digital nomad visa. It is much more accessible to digital nomads than some of the other offerings in Southeast Asia.

Thailand’s LTR visa was initially touted as a digital nomad visa but the income and wealth requirements are quite high.

Bali’s digital nomad visa has also received a lot of attention. Although more accessible than the Thai LTR, there is still a decent sized cash savings requirement.

Who is the Malaysian Digital Nomad Visa good for?

Malaysia’s DE Rantau Nomad Pass will be welcomed by many digital nomads. Especially younger people with less savings behind them.

It is great for people early on in their careers who are earning a modest income, who want to be based in Southeast Asia, but don’t meet the wealth requirements for other digital nomad visas.

It’s a good option for expats of any age who aren’t making big money by western standards, but earn enough remote income to live a good life in Asia.

The fact that there is no wealth requirement and rather a pretty reasonable income requirement will attract a lot of online entrepreneurs and remote workers to Malaysia.

It’s not so much about attracting wealthy expats, but more about building the digital economy. And letting nomads in as long as they can prove that they have the means to support themselves during their stay in Malaysia.

The combination of a low cost of living and modern infrastructure make Malaysia a great place to get your business off the ground.

If you would like help working through your options for moving out to Malaysia or anywhere in Southeast Asia, you can do that here.

Thanks for reading.