Visas and Work Permits 9 min

Work permits and visas in Malaysia: an employer’s guide

Written by Sally Flaxman
January 31, 2024
Sally Flaxman


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The number of foreigners working in Malaysia has increased lately due to the country's strong economy and growing demand for workers. Companies hiring workers in Malaysia or those relocating their team members to the country must familiarize themselves with Malaysia's work visa requirements and work procedures to ensure they operate with the law. 

Whether the employee is a remote worker just passing through or a long-term professional, it's crucial to follow the regulations stipulated by the Malaysian government. Understanding local labor and tax laws is also necessary to ensure you operate in Malaysia without legal infractions. The best way to deal with the hassles of global hiring is to work with a reliable employer of record (EOR) who can help companies hire with confidence.

This guide serves as a resource for working in Malaysia legally. We'll also discuss how employers can:

  • Employ a candidate in Malaysia without an owned entity

  • Hire a noncitizen of Malaysia 

  • Relocate an existing employee to Malaysia 

  • Allow a digital nomad to compliantly work in Malaysia 

The importance of immigration compliance in Malaysia

In recent times, many companies have adopted remote working policies that empower their employees to work from anywhere.

Individuals entering the country as tourists on a short-term visa may not be aware that they require additional documentation to work legally in Malaysia. If a person works without a proper work visa, they risk receiving financial penalties or being expelled from the country.

The digital nomad visa in Malaysia makes it easier for remote workers to stay in the country for an extended period and work remotely.

Living in Malaysia without a valid work visa is a criminal offense that can lead to imprisonment or deportation. Companies can incur penalties if the authorities find any of their foreign employees working without the correct documentation. 

The government of Malaysia is continuously tightening immigration rules and regulations to minimize illegal immigration. If authorities identify an employee who is working illegally, they may subject the company to fines of up to RM 10,000 (around USD 2,200) and/or a maximum of five years imprisonment.

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Which workers need a right-to-work check in Malaysia?

Any noncitizen who intends to work in Malaysia must obtain the correct right-to-work entitlements regardless of the length of their stay. Permanent residents, temporary residents, and work permit holders can legally work in Malaysia. Those who do not have these documents or the correct paperwork, such as those visiting the country on a tourist visa, cannot work in any capacity, even remotely. This means right-to-work checks are essential for any foreign workers.

When employers are ready to hire a foreign worker in Malaysia, they must submit all the documents and information to the Immigration Department of Malaysia on behalf of the employee. The documents required by the employee are determined based on their nationality and the type of visa. It includes:

  • Application form

  • Employment contract

  • Valid passport

  • Photographs

  • Confirmation letter from employer

After completing the paperwork and submitting it to the Immigration Department, the foreign employee will get a work visa or employment pass. Only after they receive the pass can they legally start working in Malaysia.

If you want to skip the hassle of managing the paperwork for foreign employees, partner with an employer of record like Remote. 

Do noncitizens need a work visa or work permit in Malaysia?

Malaysia requires all foreign nationals to obtain a work visa or permit for employment — even when working remotely as a digital nomad. The penalty for working in Malaysia without a permit is severe, so make sure to abide by the law before starting the job.

What are the eligibility requirements for a work visa in Malaysia?

As Malaysia tightens its immigration rules and regulations, the government has put in place some eligibility requirements for foreign nationals to get a work visa, depending on the type of visa.

Employment Pass

To qualify for an Employment Pass, the employee must meet the following requirements:

  • Educational qualifications (diploma, degree, or equivalent)

  • Suitable work experience

  • A salary of no less than RM 3,000 (about USD 681) per month

Temporary Employment Pass

The requirements for a Temporary Employment Pass, or TEP, depend on the employee's nationality and age. There is no specific qualification or experience requirement, but applicants must be between 18 and 45 years of age and from one of the following eligible countries:

  • Bangladesh (only allowed to work in the plantation sector)

  • Cambodia

  • India (not allowed to work in the manufacturing sector)

  • Indonesia (male workers are not allowed to work in the manufacturing sector)

  • Kazakhstan

  • Laos

  • Myanmar

  • Nepal

  • Pakistan

  • Philippines (female workers cannot apply for any sector)

  • Sri Lanka

  • Thailand

  • Turkmenistan

  • Uzbekistan

  • Vietnam

Professional Visit Pass

People under the following categories are eligible for this one-time entry visa:

  • Employed by a foreign company

  • Have a sponsor

  • Islamic religious teachers

  • Volunteers

  • International artists

  • Government employees

  • Film crews

Create a successful global recruitment process by obtaining the proper legal counsel and paperwork to ensure employees receive their required visas. 

What are the long-stay visa types in Malaysia?

Those from abroad looking to remain in Malaysia for an extended period may apply for the Employment Pass which offers three categories of long-stay work visas for foreign nationals based on the employee’s salary.

Employment Pass

An employment pass is a work visa issued to foreign nationals employed or contracted in Malaysia by a company. Individuals acquiring highly skilled jobs, such as engineers, entrepreneurs, and scientists, may also qualify for an employment pass.

The employer needs approval from the Expatriate Committee or a relevant regulatory body to get an employment pass. The employer determines the pass duration, which ranges from one to five years.

Category I

This type of visa is for highly skilled foreigners with a basic salary of at least RM 10,000. It is valid for up to five years.

Category II

This type of visa is for skilled foreign employees with a basic salary of above RM 5,000 with a contract of up to two years.

Category III

This type of visa is for foreign workers with a basic monthly salary between RM 2,500 and RM 5,000 and a work contract of one year or less.

How do you get a work visa for Malaysia?

To get a work visa for Malaysia, an employee must submit the following documents at the nearest Malaysian Embassy or Consulate:

  • A completed application form

  • A passport that has been valid for at least six months

  • Passport-sized colored photographs

  • Original employment contract

  • Confirmation letter from the employer

After approval, employees will receive a visa stamp on their passports. Upon arriving in Malaysia, they must register with the Immigration Department within seven days and obtain a work permit. Once they have the work permit, they can begin working in Malaysia legally.

What is the process for employee work visa sponsorship in Malaysia?

Work visa sponsorship in Malaysia involves a few steps. Here's the process:

  • The employer has to apply for foreign work quota approval from the Expatriate Committee to employ foreign workers.

  • After applying, the employer is interviewed by a representative from the Ministry for the company's particular sector.

  • After the quota approval, the employer has to submit employment pass applications for each employee to the Immigration Department.

  • The employer will then need to obtain a letter of approval from the Expatriate Committee.

  • The employee can then apply for a visa at a Malaysian Embassy or Consulate, depending on their position and field of work.

  • After submitting the required documents, you can pay the visa fees and wait for approval. Each country has a different visa processing fee, so check with the local consulate.

  • After visa approval, the employee can legally travel to Malaysia and work in the country.

What are the visa requirements for digital nomads in Malaysia?

Malaysia has launched a digital nomad visa, known as DE Rantau Digital Nomad Pass (DNP), to attract digital nomads from around the world. The DNP is a 12-month renewable visa that allows digital nomads to live and work in the country. The applicant can also bring their spouse and children with them under this visa.

The most common requirements include:

  • A valid passport

  • Remote employment with an overseas employer

  • A monthly salary of at least USD 24,000 per year

  • Employment in the digital sector

  • No criminal record

  • Proof of health insurance

How to apply for digital nomad visas in Malaysia

Employees can follow these steps to apply for digital nomad visas in Malaysia.

Collect documents

Before applying for a digital nomad visa, employees will need the following documents:

  • A copy of their passport

  • Passport photos

  • Proof of income

  • Current resume

  • Proof of work

  • Criminal record

  • Health insurance

  • Proof of relationship to dependents

Make sure to submit these documents in English. Processing the application can take up to four weeks. After approval, employees will receive an email notification with a PDF file and the visa authorization letter.

How Remote makes compliance in Malaysia so much easier

We understand that relocation can be a stressful experience for both employees and employers. Dealing with visas, immigration, digital nomad requirements, and taxes can become overwhelming and time-consuming. Even well-established companies struggle to maintain compliance with complex rules and regulations covering employment, taxes, and immigration.

This is why many companies choose to partner with an EOR that has localized knowledge and expertise in hiring abroad. Remote can handle all the hassles of international hiring, from onboarding, benefits, and payroll to managing international taxes, and compliance with immigration and labor laws.

To learn more about the processes involved in employee relocation, download Remote’s Relocation Guide, which is packed with tips on how you can ensure a hassle-free move. Contact us today if you have queries about relocating employees or to learn more about our visa sponsorship services.

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