Asia-PacificPolicy Updates

Malaysia Eases MM2H Requirements: Flexible Physical Presence, Path to PR, No Minimum Income

Following several months of reviewing the program’s much-maligned October 2021 terms, the Malaysian government last week released revised requirements for its Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) program.

Here’s what’s changed:

Three-tiered program: Silver, Gold, and Platinum

The program will now come in three tiers, which differ from each other principally in their fixed deposit requirements and visa durations.

Fixed depositRM 500,000RM 2 millionRM 5 million
Duration5 years, renewable15 years, renewablePermanent residency

Previously, the program required a MYR 1 million deposit ($214,000) for all applicants, half of which they were permitted to withdraw for the purpose of buying real estate or to pay for medical or tourism expenses within Malaysia.

Applicants will still have the ability to withdraw up to half their deposits for such purposes under the new rules. In the case of Silver and Gold participants, the minimum real estate purchase price in this respect must be MYR 750,000, while the minimum is MYR 1.5 million for Platinum participants.

Perhaps the most notable change in the program is that those willing to deposit MYR 5 million (some US$1.1 million) will have the opportunity to gain permanent residency status in Malaysia, a status no residence by investment program in the country has offered before.

The following terms now apply equally to all three categories:

  • Minimum age: 30 years old (down from 35).
  • Parents and in-laws can now be included as dependents as long as they are over 60 years old.
  • Children of the main applicant: The maximum age is raised from 21 to 34 (as long as the child is unmarried and not working in Malaysia).
  • Annual physical presence (previously 90 days a year for the main applicant):
    • 60 days a year for main applicant or spouse/dependents (if main applicant aged 30-49).
    • 60 days a year for main applicant and spouse (if main applicant aged 50+).

The minimum MYR 40,000 offshore income requirement – a major point of contention in the previous program reform – appears to have been removed altogether.

Changes to the physical presence requirement mean that a main applicant under 50 years of age doesn’t need to spend time in Malaysia as long either the spouse or a dependent remains in Malaysia for at least two months each year.

Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing, who formally announced the new rules on December 15th, expressed ebullience about the new program’s ability to attract a wider pool of applicants. The program, he said, would run as a trial for one year and would remain open for adjustments “based on evolving circumstances.”

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The new rules have received a mixed reception among market stakeholders:

“The new MM 2H program is much simpler, cleaner, and inviting, although it requires a larger bank deposit from those who wish to stay longer,” Kashif Ansari – CEO of Juwai IQI, Asia’s largest overseas real estate platform – told IMI. “We think it has a good chance of increasing Malaysia’s share of golden visa applicants in Southeast Asia in 2024.”

He points out that while the fixed deposit requirements may be less competitive than those of competing Southeast Asian residency programs, Malaysia has an edge in terms of cost of living:

“The cost of living in Manila, Philippines, is 12% higher than in Kuala Lumpur. Living in Bangkok costs 25% more, while Phnom Penh costs 27% more. Only Jakarta has a cost of living on par with Kuala Lumpur’s.”

Southeast Asian Long-Stay Visa Comparison Chart

Philippe May, CEO of EC Holdings, expressed skepticism about Malaysia’s promises to grant PR to platinum-tier participants.

“Malaysia has been extremely restrictive in giving PR to foreigners int he past. It’s hard to believe there is now a change of heart. I will believe it when the first PRs are issued.”

But even if PRs are issued, he says, that doesn’t mean your status in Malaysia is literally permanent.

“What does PR even mean in Malaysia? Does it mean for life? Or does it mean, like in many countries, PR in name only and de facto five-year validity?”

Given that there is still no path to naturalization in Malaysia for foreigners, May adds, this news will not change much in terms of demand for the program.

“I also don’t think Malaysia can expect to take any additional market share from Thailand, the Philippines, or Indonesia,” he says, “because the propositions are still very similar. With citizenship not being an option in any of the countries, wealthy migrants tend to choose their country of residence more based on lifestyle preferences. Investor migrants taking part in Southeast Asian programs do so because they wish to physically live there, not because they want a Plan B. That’s because Southeast Asian countries, which generally don’t offer citizenship, can’t provide a Plan B.”

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