Introducing the Sarawak MM2H Program: A cheaper alternative to the Malaysia MM2H Program

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by Andre Bothma

As a place to spend your golden years, Malaysia has a lot going for it: warm weather, sumptuous cuisine, world-class beaches and a relaxed, low-cost lifestyle has made the country extremely popular as a destination for expat retirees.

Affordable medical care, high levels of personal safety, the ability to own freehold property and their accessible long-term visa program completed the picture.

But in 2020, the latter aspect changed…

Malaysia MM2H: What’s changed in 2021?

Malaysia’s MM2H Program is back, but with MUCH stricter requirements.

Traditionally, Asia has been a tough place to obtain legal residency (and practically an impossible place to become a citizen through naturalization).

But Malaysia for many years offered what some experts called the world’s most successful Golden Visa — the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) program.

Let’s be frank — Malaysia never really had a “Golden Visa” similar to what we see in Portugal or Spain. The MM2H never led to any kind of permanent status in the country. It was always more of a glorified tourist visa that required renewal every ten years. (You also needed to demonstrate that you continued to meet the program’s requirements upon renewal).

Still, it was a transparent program that allowed individuals with even moderate means to live in Malaysia full-time.

But in July of 2020, the government suspended the program citing the pandemic as a reason, and promised to reopen it at a later date with revised requirements.

After more than a year of silence, the government recently announced that the amended MM2H program would be restarting in earnest in October of 2021.

And that the program requirements would become much stricter.

The below table summarizes the key changes:

Main Requirements Before Program Suspension After October 31, 2021
Qualifying Income RM10,000 (~$2,400) per month (for applicants younger and older than 50). RM40,000 (~$9,500) per month
Deposit in a Malaysian bank RM300,000 (~$72,000) if you were younger than 50* ;RM150,000 (~$36,000) if you were older than 50. RM1 million (~$240,000)*
Demonstrate Liquid Assets RM500,000 (~$120,000) if you were below 50;RM350,000 (~$85,000) if you were over 50. RM1.5 million (~$355,000)
Minimum Stays None 90 days per year
Applicant Age Any age, but the financial requirements became less demanding for applicants of 50 years or older. Over 35s only
Visa Validity Issued for 10 years Issued for 5 years
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*During your stay, you can withdraw up to 50% of your deposit amount for qualified expenses such as real estate purchases, kids’ education, and medical expenses with the federal MM2H Program.

Additionally, the number of MM2H permit holders will be capped at 1% of Malaysia’s population (we doubt they will have to worry about this becoming a problem any time soon).

We view these changes as very restrictive. The program will now become much more exclusive, and accessible to far fewer applicants.

We can only hope the Malaysian government rethinks their decision in the near future.

And in the meantime, the new conditions will also apply to the current MM2H residents who have been living in Malaysia for years under the old conditions. A very large percentage of them are retirees living on their pensions and social security.

The majority of them will not be able to meet the new conditions upon renewal, and may hence have to leave Malaysia altogether.

Fortunately, there is a solution…

Introducing the Sarawak Residency Program

One of Malaysia’s autonomous states — Sarawak — has its own MM2H program. Its visa holders can live anywhere in Malaysia, and not only in Sarawak.

We’ve known about this program for some time, and argued that Sarawak’s program was a better choice even before the Federal program had changed. Now, it is truly a no-brainer.

Here is a quick round-up of its requirements:

Requirements Sarawak MM2H Federal MM2H (new conditions)
Financial Requirements Two ways to qualify:a) Demonstrate monthly income:

RM 7,000 (~$1,700) per month per single applicant;

RM10,000 (~$2,400) per month per married couple

OR…

b) Deposit in a Sarawak bank: 

RM150,000 (~$37,000*) per single applicant;

RM300,000 (~$74,000*) per married couple

Need to do both:a) Demonstrate monthly Income: RM40,000 (~$9,500)

AND 

b) Deposit in a Malaysian bank: RM1 million (~$240,000)*

Demonstrate Liquid Assets N/A RM1.5 million (~$355,000)
Minimum Stays 15 days per year in Sarawak. 90 days per year anywhere in Malaysia.
Applicant Age Over 50s only; 

Possible exceptions:

40 – 50 years if you buy property worth RM600,000 (~$148.000+);

 

30 – 50 years if your kids are in school in Sarawak, or if you’re undergoing approved long-term medical treatment there.

Over 35s only
Visa Validity Issued for 5 years, and renewable for additional 5 Issued for 5 years, and renewable for additional 5
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*During your stay, you can withdraw up to 40% (in Sarawak) and up to 50% (in Federal MM2H)  of your deposit amount for qualified expenses such as real estate purchases, kids’ education, and medical expenses with the Sarawak program. 

Also note: You must submit your application personally in Sarawak, and travel there to pick up the visa within three months of approval. (In comparison, the federal MM2H program application is done 100% online).

However, entering Sarawak is not easy during the pandemic. Only vaccinated travelers are generally allowed in, and a mandatory quarantine will be required. See the latest entry requirements here.

The bottom line

Sarawak’s program has been in the shadows for years. By May of 2021, only 1,306 people had applied for it, compared to over 50,000 applicants for the federal program.

But it will likely see a surge of well-deserved interest now.

Yours in Freedom, 

Team Sovereign Man

 

 

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