Asia-PacificIntel & Data

Govt Plans Further Easing of MM2H Rules as Minister Reveals 56,066 Visas Still Active

In a bid to make its Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) residency program more enticing and competitive, the government is considering a relaxation of several qualification requirements, Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing told Parliament this week.

Background: Between 2002 and 2019, Malaysia’s MM2H program was among the world’s most popular residence by investment schemes, logging thousands of applicants each year. In late 2019, the government suspended the program pending a review. That review took more than two years. Upon reopening in 2021, the program had new, far stricter rules, including a quadrupled income requirement.

These new rules became the subject of fierce criticism and drove an 85% decline in applications as well as the bankruptcies of many MM2H agencies. Those factors prompted the government to review the new terms. In December last year, it finally revealed new, eased terms. Those new rules, while an improvement, have not catalyzed the hoped-for revived interest in the program, prompting the government to review the program’s terms for a third time in three years.

The proposed revisions, initially signaled in Budget 2024 and now under refinement, aim to catalyze further foreign investor and tourist inflows by making the program more accessible. “Among the conditions examined are age eligibility, financial ability, minimum residency period, MM2H pass period, and ease of residential property ownership,” Minister Tiong stated.

The revamp comes as officials consult “stakeholders and industry players,” though any final overhaul requires Cabinet approval before implementation. Tiong affirmed applicant vetting would remain stringent, mandating “Certificate[s] of Good Conduct…issued and verified by the authorities in their country of origin or current…residence” to uphold national security protocols.

With the changes, Putrajaya aims to reposition the MM2H offering within an increasingly competitive global residency-by-investment landscape. Advisors laud the proposals as pragmatic realignments enhancing Malaysia’s relative value proposition, particularly if coupled with expanded tax incentives and complementary enhancements to its overall expat infrastructure and lifestyle appeals.

Malaysia’s program has struggled to compete with similar schemes elsewhere in Southeast Asia, not to mention with a practically identical but much cheaper version of the MM2H in Sarawak state, which exercises autonomy from the federal Malaysian government in immigration matters.

Southeast Asian Long-Stay Visa Comparison Chart

For the first time since 2019, the Malaysian government has issued data on program participation. According to the Minister’s statements in Parliament, as of January 31st, 2024, Malaysia hosted 56,066 active MM2H pass holders; 27,759 principals alongside 28,307 dependents.

Between 2002 and 2019, the last time figures were released, Malaysia had approved a total of 50,108 participants. The total number today is 56,066. Note that the difference between the two totals is not alone enough to indicate how many MM2H participants have been approved in the 2019-2024 period because many of the visas approved in recent decades will have expired in the interim.

Chinese nationals comprise the largest contingent at 24,765, followed by citizens of South Korea (4,940), Japan (4,733), Bangladesh (3,604), the United Kingdom (2,234), Taiwan (1,611), the United States (1,340), Singapore (1,282), India (1,223), and Australia (1,069).

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