Malaysia M2H Applications Down by 90% Since New Rules Imposed, Says Industry Association

President of the Malaysia My Second Home Consultants Association (MM2HCA), Anthony Liew, this week told the Malaysian press he believes the market for the MM2H program (for many years, Asia’s most popular such program) has cratered by 90% since the imposition of more onerous qualification requirements in late 2021.

From 2017 to 2019, Liew told Free Malaysia Today, the average annual number of applications was around 5,200. “Right now, I believe it’s just about 10’% of that,” he said. “The main issue is the strict conditions.”

The tightened terms to which he refers are those instated by the central government in late 2021, which included

  • a quadrupling of minimum monthly (offshore) income requirements to nearly US$10,000;
  • a tripling in the physical presence requirement to 90 days a year;
  • a raising of the minimum bank deposit requirement from approximately US$34,000 to US$227,000; and
  • an increase in the liquid assets requirement from about US$68,000 to US$340,000.

The re-launch with higher minimums in 2021 followed a nearly two-year-long, on-again-off-again period of suspension that saw the program become the subject of a political turf war.

Liew pointed out that similar long-stay-visa programs elsewhere in Southeast Asia did not set such high income and savings requirements, terms he indicated were among the chief reasons for the decimation of application volume. While most clients typically have sufficient liquid assets, he remarked, they may not have the monthly offshore income now needed to qualify, reflecting that most applicants are retirees living off savings and pensions.

Southeast Asian Long-Stay Visa Comparison Chart

“We propose changing [the offshore income requirement] to MYR 600,000 [US$13,600] or below,” commented Liew. “We need to encourage the successful applicants to stay in Malaysia and spend on buying property and cars, private education, medication, leisure, and other sectors that have spillover effects on the economy.”

Qualifying individuals “have better options” elsewhere

Partly as a consequence of the program’s two-year hibernation period, partly of the less attractive terms of the re-launched program, hundreds of MM2H consultancies have had to close. Among those that have survived, many have only be able to keep the lights on by working other jobs on the side, said Liew.

One agent with whom FMT spoke said he had submitted 277 applications in 2019 but that applications had entirely failed to materialize when the program reopened in October 2021. In 2022, he said, he had submitted eight applications. So far this year, only three.

Characterizing the MM2H program’s high demands on applicants’ capital and time as “too high”, the agent noted that “if the applicants can meet them, they will not choose Malaysia as they have better options [elsewhere].”

Business Development Director of Zeon Properties Group, Ronaldo Lim, told The Star most of his clients had pulled out of the application process once the new rules took effect.

“We’ve got 50 cases on hold due to concerns they may not be able to fulfil the conditions,” he lamented. “A client from Hong Kong since 2012, whose permit expired last year, has expressed disappointment in not continuing.”

MM2H applicants and agents, and even the Sultan of Johor State have tried in vain the get the central government to change its mind about the new program terms. Sabah, one of the two Malaysian Federal Territories, which exercises independent control of immigration policies, have introduced its own Sabah-specific MM2H program at conditions much closer to the original federal program.

Many program participants say they are not yet sure whether they will be subject to the new rules, although the federal government in Putrajaya has indicated it would exempt pre-rule-change MM2Hers from most of the new rules.

IMI Professionals for Southeast Asian Programs