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Living and Working in Malaysia – All You Need To Know

Malaysia is a very popular destination for people to migrate to as it is not only an experience far away; it is also a wonderful place with many natural treasures. There are many job opportunities, and the cost of living is relatively low. Malaysia provides excellent health care facilities, and there are many international schools to choose from if you are settling with children.

Many people in Malaysia have not come to work there. They come to enjoy life in this beautiful country. Most of them participate in the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) program, where they have the right to buy a second home in Malaysia. Some live in Malaysia for a few months every year for the winter, as the climate is pleasantly tropical and, therefore, more pleasant than the often cold European climate.

Find a job in Malaysia

A perfect way of finding a job is to be sent to Malaysia by an international employer as an expat. This is the best way because an expat package usually means you can live a luxurious life here in Malaysia. Conditions are generally best when people are sent to Malaysia as opposed to people who try their luck after arriving in Malaysia. A word of warning: it can be quite challenging, almost impossible, to just fly to Malaysia with a tourist visa and look for work, unless you are highly educated with years of experience in a sought after field. The chance is minimal, as Malaysian employers benefit more from employing local staff than from international staff. Local conditions regarding income and benefits are usually not as good compared to an expat package.

The best option is to find out which international companies are operating in Malaysia and whether these companies are also operating in your home country. Then send your application and your CV together with a clear motive. Usually, you cannot go directly to Malaysia, but these companies offer an excellent start. If you have higher education, you can try to stand out from some of the international headhunters. Another place to start your search is through LinkedIn or your own personal network.

Work permit

Businesses in Malaysia would only hire foreigners if they can prove that Malaysians are unable or unwilling to do that job. Exceptions are made in the case of strategic jobs such as management, finance, etc. This is because Malaysians are well trained these days, so you have to show good qualifications; at least a bachelor’s, preferably a master with several years of work experience.

When you find a job, make sure that your employer submits a permit application to the local government in Malaysia. There are several conditions that you must meet to be eligible for a work permit. You must be at least 27 and earn at least RM5000 per month. The company that you want to contract should have sufficient paid-in capital, which is the actual amount of money paid into the company. This is RM200,000 for a local business, RM350,000 for part foreign ownership, and RM500.00 for full foreign ownership.

Offers and Licences for Work Permit

If you are offered a contract over RM8000 per month, your work permit application will be immediately approved, and immigration guarantees that you will have your work permit within a week. Highly educated expats can apply for an exclusive 10-year visa linked to the actual person rather than the company hiring the expat. With this new type of residence card, the government of Malaysia aims to attract and retain top talent in the country.

Usually, a license is requested for 1 or 2 years, in some cases, for 3 or even 5 years. After that period, your employer must request a permit extension. With a work permit, you can work in Malaysia. Also, it is possible to open a bank account in Malaysia; it is even possible to get a mortgage. Expatriates pay tax in their home country or in Malaysia during their employment.

Malaysia features an agreement with countries to avert double taxation. The highest tax rate is 26 percent in Malaysia. If you live and work in Malaysia, ensure to keep your receipts for your tax return.

Malaysia has a pension plan (EPF), in which a small part of the monthly wages is reserved for retirement. Employers should save this money for their local employees, but it does not apply to expats abroad. This amount is often built upon the monthly salary. If not, you can claim it yourself.

See This Post:   Five Things You Need To Know When Seeking a Job Abroad

Finding a home in Malaysia

The main places for expats to settle are Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru, and Georgetown. Upcoming popular places are Kuching, Kota Kinabalu, and to a lesser extent, the city of Ipoh. In recent years, property prices (sales or rentals) have skyrocketed, with the result that not every expat can afford to live in Kuala Lumpur city center, for example, without paying at least RM6000 per month for rent. On the positive side, foreigners are allowed to own real estate in Malaysia (own land), and property prices always seem to be rising.

You can take out a mortgage to buy a home based on your work permit, through the MM2H program or through a Labuan company. Anyone can own a house in Malaysia if you have sufficient financial means. This is checked in advance, and the bank will also make an appraisal to determine the value of a house you intend to buy. Banks are usually willing to mortgage expats based on this rating but do know that they will often not lend you the total purchase price of the house (usually somewhere withing 75% and 90% of the entire house value). This means that you have to make up the remaining part of the price yourself.

Prices of houses in popular areas such as Kuala Lumpur, Penang, and Johor Bahru range from RM300,000 to over RM2,000,000. For around RM600,000, you can already buy a beautiful apartment just outside the center of Kuala Lumpur. A two-story bungalow outside of KL city center usually costs approximately 1 million ringgit. Outside of these popular places to settle down, prices are noticeably lower.


If you do not have sufficient financial means, the best solution is to rent a flat, apartment, condo, or service apartment (listed based on luxury). A flat is most popular among expats. Usually, this is a large apartment with many extra amenities. These facilities are usually a swimming pool, a garden, a barbecue area, fitness, a nice lobby, and many other extras.

Most apartment buildings start with a size of about 600 square meters (often called a studio apartment). There are also apartments of more than 2000 m2 with a jacuzzi, a sauna, and a very large communal pool. You probably would not be able to find an average apartment in Kuala Lumpur for less than RM 2000. A more luxurious apartment costs RM5000 per month or even more. Luxury apartments near the PETRONAS Twin Towers quickly cost more than RM15,000 per month. In Malaysia, it is quite normal to pay at least a rent of two months in advance and, in some cases, also half a month to cover the energy bill. Contracts usually start at least one year, but often for two years. It’s not easy to find something for short-term rental in Malaysia, and if you find something, be prepared to pay a significantly higher monthly rent.

Final Thoughts:

Kuala Lumpur has several neighborhoods that are popular with expats. The most popular expat neighborhood is Mont Kiara, where you will also find many international schools and companies. Another very Famous area is Bukit Bintang in the center of the city. In Mont Kiara, you will find huge condos that are often quite affordable. A possible drawback is the location (sometimes the apartment is on a remote part of Mount Kiara) and the distance to the city center. Without your own car, Mont Kiara is not the best place to stay. Other very popular areas for expats in Kuala Lumpur include Kenny Heights, Ampang, Bangsar, and Damansara.

A lot of foreigners do not want to live in Kuala Lumpur or similar densely populated areas. They come to live in Malaysia on an island like Langkawi or Penang. Here you can rent a house for a very small amount. If you want a nice house (without air conditioning), it is possible to rent a house for RM500 per month. If you want something more luxurious, for example, a beach bungalow, you can rent something for about RM 3000.

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