Moving To Malaysia

Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H)

Author: Jon Page 2 of 3

Overview of the MM2H process

There are broadly 10 steps to applying for and obtaining the Malaysia My Second Home visa:

  1. Collate your supporting documents. There’s quite a lot of evidence and documentation you’ll need to pull together – it’s not hugely complicated, but can take some time and planning.
  2. Complete the application form. This is done online. Despite the blank form being readily downloadable, you should not fill it in by hand.
  3. Print and submit your application to the MM2H Centre in Putrajaya. This can be done in person or by post, but if you have the opportunity to be in Malaysia, I would recommend doing it in person – if, like me, you get something wrong first time, they will be able to advise you and hopefully you can more quickly fix the problem and re-submit.
  4. Wait…
  5. Receive your letter of conditional approval. This is not your actual visa, but will allow you to open bank accounts and such like in order to complete the MM2H process.
  6. Set up bank accounts in Malaysia and deposit a minimum amount of money (the exact amount will vary according to your age). You will need to leave at least half of this in place for as long as you intend to stay in Malaysia under an MM2H visa – so be prepared to lock it away.
  7. Submit to a medical examination (fairly basic and straightforward) and obtain a doctor’s declaration that you are healthy (just a simple form they need to complete and sign).
  8. Obtain a “medical card” (essentially medical insurance, but arguably a much better deal than standard expat or worldwide health insurance).
  9. Complete the security bond form and go to the Inland Revenue Board to have it stamped.
  10. Go to the Immigration Department at Putrajaya to present your various documents from the above steps, deposit your security bond and pay the visa fee, and have your passport endorsed with your MM2H social visit pass. 

The first half of that lot can be done remotely, from your home country, but at some point before or after step 5 you’ll need to come to Malaysia. Step 6 can either be done in Malaysia, or depending on your existing banking relationships at home, may be possible remotely (eg HSBC can set up local accounts prior to arrival).

Note that you will most likely be coming to Malaysia on a tourist visa initially, which for most countries allows you to stay for 90 days. So even though you get 6 months from your conditional approval being granted to complete the process, you cannot stay in Malaysia for 6 months – so either plan to get everything done within 90 days, or arrange to leave the country for a few days halfway through. 

A useful tip there would be to book your flights to KL as a multi-trip to somewhere else in the region, with stopovers in Kuala Lumpur in each direction – that way you can schedule the second sector a few months after arrival in KL, the third a few days after that, then the final one for whenever you want to make a visit back home. Flights on Malaysia Airlines are almost always cheaper from (wherever) to Kuala Lumpur to (somewhere else) than just flying to KL (the same is true for most airlines – a direct flight to their home base will usually cost more than transiting it).

Once you have your visa, you are free to come and go as you please, with no time constraint on how long you can stay (within your visa validity, which is the maximum of ten years or the remaining validity of your passport – but it can be renewed thereafter). Your passport will however be stamped on every exit and re-entry. If you want to avoid that, you should register for the automated electronic immigration gates (e-gates) on your next entry to Malaysia.

Next up: Collate your supporting documents.

Example Letter of Application

You need to include a cover letter with your MM2H application. This should explain why you want to join the Malaysia My Second Home programme, and how you will support yourself in Malaysia. Here’s what I wrote for mine – I’ve redacted some personally-identifying details, but it should give you the gist:

To: 
MALAYSIA MY SECOND HOME CENTRE (MM2H)
Ministry of Tourism and Culture Malaysia,
Level 1, No. 2, Tower 1, Jalan P5/6,
Presint 5, 62200 W.P. Putrajaya,
MALAYSIA


4th July 2018


Dear Sir or Madam,

Please accept this as my cover letter for the enclosed MM2H application. I would like to join the MM2H programme as a single individual.


Personal background

I have worked in [my industry/profession] since [year], after completing my [highest level of education, e.g. BA, MA, PhD etc] at [name of university]. I have [brief summary of key positions held, e.g. been a director/chief executive/senior manager of x companies / spent my career as a teacher / doctor / author etc]. My full CV is enclosed.

I visit Malaysia frequently for holidays, and now have many friends here. In due course, I would very much like to retire here and make Kuala Lumpur my home.


Financial capabilities

I intend to support my stay in Malaysia through a mixture of income sources:

1. I own my own company, from which I draw income as a mix of salary and dividends – equivalent to approximately [amount in MYR] per month. I attach bank statements – please see explanation below. 

The company also contributes [amount in MYR] equivalent to my pension each year, from which I will begin drawing income in [x] years' from now.

2. I have a house in England that I intend to rent out from early next year, which I expect will provide a net income of around [amount in MYR] per month. 

3. I have savings of approximately [amount in MYR] equivalent in an investment account (mostly invested in funds, which can quickly be liquidated if necessary).

I enclose the most recent Investment Report covering the above savings and pension, plus the last three months’ bank statements to show my income. These may need some explanation, as my affairs are slightly complicated; therefore please find enclosed statements from:

[List of statements enclosed, with brief explanatory notes.]


I hope this is all in order, and I look forward to hearing from you in due course. Thank you for considering my application.

Kind regards,

[Name]

That may even have been too much detail, but it was happily accepted. If you don’t own your own company or have complicated financial affairs, you can probably get away with a much shorter letter! My impression is that they just want you to confirm that you’re financially solvent, and see that you’re ‘the right sort’ of person (solvent, educated, literate, sane… 😉 ).

(Return to Collate your supporting documents.)

Collate your supporting documents

The Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) application form should be completed online. But before doing so, you’ll need to collate various items of evidence and documentation. Details can be found at:

http://www.mm2h.gov.my/index.php/en/apply-now/where-to-apply/apply-direct-with-us

I’ll comment on these as, from my experience, it may get slightly confusing…

  1. Letter of Application: This is a straightforward letter from you to the Malaysia My Second Home Centre at the Ministry of Tourism, explaining why you want to join the MM2H programme, and how you will support yourself in Malaysia. To give you an idea, here’s what I wrote for mine.
  2. Your resume: again, straightforward. Present your curriculum vitae as you would when applying for any job.
  3. One copy of the MM2H application form: given that there is a link to this form directly opposite in the right-hand column of the page linked above, and an instruction in the text to “please refer to ‘downloads’”, you might assume that you need to download this, print it and fill it in by hand. Don’t. You MUST fill it in on-line, which you can do here (select New Application to get started).
  4. Three copies of the Social Visit Pass application form: again, this can be downloaded from the list of documents linked on that page, but again, don’t. It forms part of the main application form that you’ll complete online – you’ll just need to print three additional copies of that page once you’ve downloaded your completed application (from point 3 above).
  5. Four coloured passport size photographs: straightforward and (in the UK at least) easily available from photo booths at pretty much any train station etc. If you’re applying while in Malaysia, as I was, you may find them trickier to obtain – photo booths don’t seem to be so common. A decent camera shop should be able to sort you out, and also provide you with a digital copy as well as the hard copies you’ll need for your application. I used the Canon place on the top floor of Pavilion shopping mall.
  6. Copy of passport/travel documents (all pages) with certification on the pages with personal particulars: all pages means literally that, including blank / unstamped passport pages. One key thing to note here is that, as I discovered when I went to Putrajaya to submit my application, contrary to what the web site said at the time (looks like they have since updated it), a Commissioner for Oaths is not sufficient to certify a true copy – I ended up having to get it re-done by a Notary Public. You will be charged a fee per page – from memory it was about 13 RM each.
  7. Letter of Good Conduct: this, it turns out, is (for UK citizens anyway) a standard Police Certificate (criminal record check), which you can obtain online from the Criminal Records Office – for a fee, of course 😉 I was actually very impressed with the service. As it turned out, I needed mine in a hurry as I made a last-minute decision while in Malaysia to get on with my application, with only a week or so to go before flying home; I paid the extra to have it couriered to me and it arrived very quickly, within a few days.
  8. Self declaration on your/your dependants’ health conditions: again, this is part of the application form you’ll complete on-line, so no need to download it separately.
  9. Certified copy of Marriage Certificate (if accompanied by spouse): this wasn’t relevant to me, but I would assume it would, as above, need to be certified true by a Notary Public or similar, but not by a Commissioner for Oaths.
  10. Certified copy of Birth Certificate/legal documents: again not relevant to me, but I would assume as per Marriage Certificate if relevant to you.
  11. Certified copy of latest 3 months’ bank statements, to indicate financial capacity to support stay in Malaysia, and:
  12. Latest 3 months certified copies of pay slip / income statement / pension slip: this is where it got complicated for me, and perhaps may be for you also.
  13. I run my own business, which pays me a combination of salary and dividends. It also contributes to my personal pension. As a result, I don’t have a simple ‘income’ where I can show a bank statement to prove I earn £x per month. Nor do I have payslips as such. My end of year P60 returns would show a very low income as they only reflect the salary part of my remuneration, not the total package.

    On top of that, for historical reasons dating from the days before bank transfers were instant, I have various different current accounts that my remuneration, and any reimbursed expenses, go through before reaching my main day-to-day account (which, just to make matters even more complicated, I had recently switched to a different bank…)

    There’s also the minor issue that your salary now is ultimately irrelevant as, once you are living in Malaysia on an MM2H visa, you are not allowed to take employment here – so your income is likely to change (perhaps you’ll start drawing your pension, or you’ll live on savings, or rental income, or whatever).

    My solution, on the basis that what they want to see is that you have some wealth behind you, was to submit copies of:

    • Three months’ worth of bank statements for three current accounts;
    • Three months’ worth of bank statements for my savings account;
    • Three months’ worth of bank statements from my company current account;
    • Three years’ worth of P60 End of Year Tax Certificates;
    • My latest valuation reports for my investment accounts.


    For all of those, I downloaded and printed out PDFs from my online banking etc (I don’t have paper bank statements). On the bank statements I added annotations to show my salary, dividends, reimbursed expenses and pension contributions going out of my company account, and arriving at my various current accounts (or in the case of the pension contributions, highlighting them on the valuation report).

    I then had all of the printouts certified (notwithstanding that this is a little strange as the person doing the certifying of course doesn’t have any original copies to compare against…).

    I also included a brief explanation in my cover letter.

    All this was happily accepted when I came to submit my application.

  14. Authorisation letter, to verify the financial documents, job and salary with the relevant parties: this (yet again) is part of the main application form you’ll fill in online, as above.

On top of that lot, if like me you run your own business, you should additionally prepare a letter, on your company headed paper, confirming your employment and remuneration details. This isn’t mentioned on the web site, but I was advised on my first visit to Putrajaya that it would be needed. 

So basically I wrote a letter ‘to whom it may concern’, confirming that I work for the company that bears my name, signed be me, on headed paper with my name on it… But that is apparently exactly what they wanted.

I don’t actually have pre-printed stationery (I don’t think I’ve sent a physical paper letter or invoice for years!). I just have a Word template set up with my logotype etc on it, so I wrote the letter using that and printed it off in colour on regular inkjet printer paper.

 In terms of the actual wording, I just wrote two paragraphs:

To whom it may concern, 

I confirm that [my full name], passport number xxxxxxxxx, issued by the government of the United Kingdom, is an employee and Director of this company, [company name], having been appointed on [date]. 

This being a one-man company, he is the Principal Consultant and only employee. He receives monthly remuneration of [amount] paid as part salary and part dividends. The company additionally makes contributions to his pension of [amount] each year.

Regards, 

[My full name] 

Director

That lot will probably take you some time, but once you’ve got it all together, you’re ready to complete the application form online.

Complete the application form

As previously mentioned, you must complete the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) application form online. Do not download the blank form from the web site and fill it in by hand.

You do not need to complete the form in one sitting – you can save it and come back to it later, as many times as you need to until you are ready to submit it.

To start, go to http://mm2honline.motac.gov.my  and select New Application. This will take you to a preliminary form which you should hopefully find fairly straightforward to complete. For submission method, select “Individual (Direct Application)” – unless you have decided to use an agent, in which case you should probably stop now and let them deal with the whole thing 😉

When you are ready, click ‘Generate Application Forms’ and you’ll be taken through to the main MM2H application form. Again this should be fairly straightforward for you to complete. Some – but not all – of the information you initially entered will be carried across, so try not to get too frustrated at having to re-enter or re-select the same information again…

To complete the form you will need to have handy:

  • Details of your current (or if you are retired, last) employment: your role / job title, annual income or pension, organisation name, plus organisation address, email and phone number. It’s not entirely clear whether those last two should be your own work email and phone number, or those of someone at the organisation who can vouch for you, or the general contact details for the organisation… I used my own details because as a one-man company, they are all the same. If in doubt, I would probably use your own contact details on the basis that you can always pass them on to someone else if need be, but someone else being contacted may not know anything about your application.
  • Details of your working experience: role / job title, organisation and year for each period of employment. I took ‘year’ to mean year started, rather than year finished. There are five inputs initially, but I only had four positions to complete, so I left the last one blank, which did not cause any problem. The first one was the same as my ‘current employment’ already entered in the preceding question.
  • Your financial details: account number, institution name and branch address for each of your relevant accounts. I did not list here literally every single bank account I hold, but rather just the ones I had referred to in my cover letter and for which I was providing bank statements or valuation reports. In my case that was a couple of personal current accounts, my company current account, and my investment accounts provider. I did not specifically list my savings account as this was linked to one of my current accounts, so the branch details were the same. If in doubt, I think you should list any/all accounts you feel would be relevant to proving your financial position (i.e. your ability to support yourself in Malaysia).

One other thing to note, which initially confused me, so hopefully I might be able to save you some trouble: in the ‘Visit Pass Details’ section, you are applying for a ‘Social’ type of pass, and unless you specifically know otherwise, you should answer ‘Yes’ for ‘Is Visa Required’, and select ‘Multiple Entry’ type. 

This confused me originally, because your MM2H social visit pass surely is a multiple-entry visa, so surely no further response is needed, and certainly not ‘No visa required’ or ‘Single entry visa required’. 

My guess is that this form is also used for applications for various other visa types and they didn’t have the time or resource to create different versions for each use-case – i.e. make it easier for their customers 😉

Another thing to mention, which should not be an issue as you are completing the form online, but just in case of any confusion if you chose to first download the blank form from the main web site to have as look through before starting… You do not need a sponsor in Malaysia, so you can ignore any questions relating to that.

Anyway, once you have completed the form online and are happy with everything you’ve entered, click “Save & Submit”, then on the page you arrive at, download your application forms.

The next step is to print and submit your application form, along with the required supporting documents.

Print and submit your application

Once you’ve completed the application form online and downloaded it, print it out. For a single applicant, this should take 15 A4 sheets – presumably a few more if you are applying with a spouse or other dependants, or have provided very lengthy financial details. 

If you print it in colour, you’ll see your entries in blue, while the rest of the form is in black.

There are a few things you now need to do by hand:

  • There are five places within the main application form where you need to sign.
  • One of those needs to be witnessed; as I was in Malaysia at the time, I had a Malaysian friend witness me signing, but it is not necessary for the witness to be Malaysian (although being slightly cynical, I imagine it wouldn’t hurt, especially if you are concerned your application may be slightly borderline in terms of meeting the requirements).
  • Use the checklist on the very first page, and tick off the boxes on the left-hand side, to ensure you have collated all of the required documents. You need to do this as they will do the same on the right-hand side when you submit your paperwork.

The final two pages of the document are the security bond form and associated fee scales. You can ignore both of these for now (they don’t need to be included in your submission at this stage) as you’ll only be filling out that form once you’ve received your conditional approval letter.

The next step is to take your printed and signed form, and supporting documentation, to the Malaysia My Second Home Centre in Putrajaya. This is on the first floor of the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (MOTAC) office building. This is about 45-60 minutes from Kuala Lumpur by car, or take the KLIA Transit train from KL Sentral to Putrajaya station, from where it is about a 10-15 minute taxi or Grab ride.

The MM2H Centre is a standard “take a ticket and wait to be called” affair. From memory, I think I waited about half an hour, having arrived around 10am, but I have heard stories that the wait time can be much longer. You should probably aim to arrive as early as possible (it opens at 7:30am) and don’t plan on having any other commitments the same day, just in case. They close for lunch between 1-2pm Monday to Thursday, and 12:15 to 2:45pm on Fridays. Closed at weekends.

It took me two trips to Putrajaya to successfully submit my application, so in the hope that my experience might save you some trouble, here’s what happened to me:

  • Initially, on completing the application form online, I had made a few inadvertent mistakes that I only spotted when I printed the form out (there was a typo on one of my employment dates and for some reason my passport expiry date was showing as the submission date – not sure whether that was my mistake or a system error). However, having submitted my application online, I couldn’t see any way to re-open it and make changes. So I made the corrections by hand. Big no-no – instant rejection. As I recall, the staff at the MM2H centre were able to do something at their end to return my application to draft so I could re-edit it and re-submit, but the lesson learned is do not click the ’submit’ button until you are absolutely sure you are ready. Download the draft as many times as you need to, and check it thoroughly, before submitting. Ironically, I did do that several times, but still got it wrong! By the same token, and just to re-iterate yet again, absolutely do not fill in the form by hand – other than your signature and the corresponding witness details, everything should be typewritten.
  • I’d had all my paperwork certified by a Commissioner for Oaths (because at the time, the web site said this was acceptable). Turns out they’d changed the rules, but hadn’t actually told anyone or updated the web site… This is standard operating procedure in Malaysia, and something you will eventually get used to 😉 To be fair to the staff on the desk, they were very helpful and recommended a nearby Notary Public a short taxi ride away – no need to re-print my paperwork etc, he just stamped his certification alongside the original Commissioner for Oaths’ and all was well.
  • I had not included a letter confirming my employment (because there’s nothing that says you need to submit one). I was advised by the staff there that, because I work for my own company, I would need one: essentially a letter from me (in my capacity as company director) to me (in my capacity as company employee) confirming that I do actually work for my company, and stating my remuneration, all on company letterhead. Had I had my laptop with me, and access to a printer, I could have prepared the letter there-and then, but I didn’t, so I couldn’t…

The staff at the MM2H Centre were actually really helpful, and told me exactly what I needed to do to ensure my second submission attempt would be successful. I duly went back to KL, spent the evening getting everything sorted out, then returned to Putrajaya the next morning and successfully submitted my application – just in time to fly home to the UK the next morning…

You can phone the MM2H Centre if you have any questions, but in my experience they rarely answer. Similarly, you can try emailing, but you may or may not get a reply. My suggestion would be that, if you are in any way unsure about how to fill in the form, or what information you need to provide, or your affairs are complicated and difficult to explain, plan on making a trip to Putrajaya before you do the online submission. You may have to wait a while, but if my experience was typical, once you get to speak to someone, they are incredibly supportive and will do their utmost to explain everything and ensure you complete the application correctly.

If you have a laptop, take it with you. And ditto if you have a portable printer. There’s no access to printing/copying services within the MM2H Center, although you can get photocopying done in the shop behind the cafe on the ground floor. You might save yourself a trip if you can complete or revise your online submission, and prepare any documents you need etc, while sitting in the waiting room.

If you do need more than basic photocopying services, keep in mind that Putrajaya is pretty spread out, and there’s almost nothing within walking distance of MOTAC.

You may find it worthwhile hiring a car for the day. I wish I had – my main recollection of my visits is a lot of running around.

Anyway, once you’ve successfully submitted, the next step is to wait… In theory, the process should take three months. I was warned at submission that it might take up to five, as they were behind schedule. As it turned out, it took nine…

Wait…

Once you’ve successfully submitted your MM2H application, you will receive an automated email confirming receipt and providing an email address for any queries. There’s not much you can do now aside from wait.

In theory, you should get your conditional approval letter after about three months, but in my experience it can take a lot longer. In my case, it was nine months. The whole process, from application to obtaining my Malaysia My Second Home visa, took almost exactly one year.

Probably best not to make any plans that are dependent on getting your visa by a given date 😉

I was warned when I applied that it may take longer than three months, as there was a backlog. They anticipated about five months. However, the then-new government decided to change the process, and required the involvement of an additional department – the Ministry of Home Affairs – in vetting applicants. This led to a severe backlog, and very little information forthcoming as to the likely length of delay. Agents and direct applicants alike found themselves in the dark. 

Having applied in early July 2018, come early 2019 I began to worry that perhaps my application had been lost. There is an online tracker here, which I had been keeping a regular eye on. My application had progressed to ‘Pending Committee Approval’ fairly early on, then not moved for many months. 

As it turns out, you shouldn’t rely on the online tracker, as it is never updated. My application is still showing as ‘Pending Committee Approval’ even at the time of writing, despite the fact that I now have my visa!

In February 2019, I emailed the MM2H Centre for an update, mainly to check that my application was still in progress and hadn’t gone astray. They replied within minutes (which was quite impressive!), advising that it had been brought to their Committee Meeting but that they were waiting for approval from the Ministry of Home Affairs. However, the waiting period was ’uncertain’.

In April, I emailed again, and was advised that a task force had been set up to work through the backlog, with applications being ‘processed more quickly than before’ – but no other update as to when mine might be addressed.

Now, by this point my plans for moving to Malaysia were well advanced. During the first few months of the year, I made several trips from the UK to Kuala Lumpur, during which I made arrangements to rent an apartment, and in mid-April I made my official ‘emigration’ flight, bringing all my stuff with me*, and moved in.

At this point I did not have my MM2H visa (nor could I be certain I would be granted it, although I felt fairly confident, as I knew I was able to meet all the requirements). So I knew I would have to leave Malaysia temporarily in mid-July at the latest, as my stay was on a tourist visa, allowing a maximum 90-day visit.

Potentially I might also have to do the same in mid-October, and mid-January – by which point I suspect the Immigration Department might have started taking issue with repeated regular ‘visa runs’. I reckoned two or three such trips would probably be fine, especially with an MM2H application in progress, but basically living in Malaysia on a tourist visa, with quarterly trips away, would probably not be tolerated for long. So it was a risk, but one I felt confident in taking, and really only a fairly small one – worst case, I’d have to return to the UK after a year.

So having waited nine months for my conditional approval letter, I could wait no longer, and went ahead with my move to Malaysia. Of course, when the letter was finally issued, it was sent to my old address back in the UK – but that’s another story, which you can read about in my next article: Receive your letter of conditional approval.

*As an aside…

Having made frequent trips to Malaysia over several years, I hold Enrich Platinum status with Malaysia Airlines. This is useful, because it gives you 100% extra checked baggage allowance, which means you get a total of 40kg in Economy, 80kg in Business, and 100kg in First (now renamed ‘Business Suite’…). 

Over the course of three or four preceding trips, I had each time taken a guitar and a suitcase full of clothes and other bits and pieces, which were duly left in the care of long-suffering friends – while I then took the empty suitcase back to England ready for the next trip… Having spent most of 2018 variously eBaying off as many possessions as I could, and sending what I couldn’t sell to charity or recycling, I’d still managed to fill the loft of my soon-to-be-rented-out house in England with stuff I wanted to keep but didn’t need to take with me to Malaysia. And yet this still left me with around 100kg of stuff I did want to take… I know, I know, I could have travelled light – but I wanted to take a guitar amp and various other bits of music and computer gear with me…

I looked into the cost of shipping it: several thousand pounds, and several months. It actually worked out more cost-effective to buy a First Class return ticket! Albeit this was made slightly cheaper by purchasing Hong Kong-to-London via Kuala Lumpur as the outbound (on Malaysia Airlines), and then London-KL-Hong Kong (with a loooong stopover) as the return. (It’s almost always cheaper to buy your plane ticket to start from somewhere other than where you actually are and end somewhere other than where you want to be, going via your intended destination as a stopover… 😉 And Hong Kong is a good option as – until recently, at least – there were no taxes on flights departing from there.)

I needed to be in Hong Kong in February 2019 for a conference anyway, so I used Virgin Flying Club miles to fly London-to-Hong Kong one way direct with Virgin Atlantic, then flew back from there with Malaysia Airlines as the outbound part of my First Class ticket, so that the return leg from London to KL in April allowed me to make full use of my baggage allowance. I’ll use the final KL-HK leg later in 2019.

The good thing about Malaysia Airlines is that they don’t limit the number of pieces of checked baggage you can take, so long as the total weight is within limit. Mine came to three large suitcases and a cardboard box (containing my computer monitor, in its original packaging – always worth keeping in case you need to emigrate! – additionally padded out with towels and bed linen stuffed into every available space inside the box). Total weight: 97kg. Damn! I could have brought more! 😉 But I think that makes up for all the times I’ve travelled hand-baggage only and not made any use at all of my checked baggage allowance…

So I emigrated in style! Took all my stuff with me, didn’t have to wait months for it to arrive, and even had Malaysia Airlines’ fantastic ‘Meet & Greet’ service on arrival to help me collect my luggage and get it into a taxi!

One final thing to note – I took the precaution of booking a hotel room for the first couple of nights (well actually a serviced apartment across the road from the building that would shortly become home). With an early-evening arrival into KLIA this meant I didn’t have to stress about moving into my apartment immediately and could spend the whole of the next day dealing with that and getting everything ready, before moving across the following morning. All of which worked out incredibly well.

Receive your letter of conditional approval

Having successfully submitted your Malaysia My Second Home application, and managed to contain your excitement (or anxiety) for several months of waiting, if all goes to plan you should hopefully receive your Letter of Conditional Approval.

Here’s how it actually went for me:

I knew the process was subject to delays. It should take three months, but I had been warned by the staff at the MM2H Centre that it would be more like five. No problem.

After seven months, I began to get slightly concerned that perhaps my application had been lost. Especially as the online tracking had fairly quickly updated from ‘Application Received’ to ‘Pending Committee Approval’ and then stayed put (the upshot of which is, as I mentioned in the previous article, don’t rely on the online tracking).

So during the first few months of 2019, I had sent several emails to check on my application, and each time been assured that it was in progress. In mid-April I had made my move to Malaysia. Yes, I probably should have waited until I definitely had my visa, but moving to another country is no small task – it takes a lot of planning and if, like me, you are doing things like renting out your place back home, never mind booking your flights, and perhaps removals and so on, you eventually need to commit to some deadlines. So I moved while my MM2H application was still in progress.

Once I’d arrived, I decided to get on with arranging the medical insurance and health check that I would need in order to complete the MM2H process. Unlike opening bank accounts, these did not (in theory) require me to first have my conditional approval letter. And in any case, I felt that having medical insurance would be prudent regardless. My thinking was that my travel insurance would cover me for anything that cropped up in the first month of my stay, but beyond that would be unlikely – most policies have a thirty- or sixty- day maximum trip duration requirement. Many also require that your trip start and end (as evidenced by your plane ticket, presumably) in your home country (or wherever the policy was purchased).

I’ll talk more about medical insurance in a separate article, as there’s some detail you may find useful. But for now, the key point is that, as it turned out, getting a Malaysian “medical card” (which is similar to but not quite the same as “expat medical/health insurance”, and in my experience a much better deal) required proof of right to remain – i.e. either my actual MM2H visa (which cannot be obtained without first having medical insurance…) or the conditional approval letter, or a letter from MOTAC confirming that my application was in progress.

Which was a bit of a problem, as at that time I had none of these, and so was about to risk potentially being uninsured. 

So I emailed the MM2H Centre and explained the situation, and asked whether they could issue a letter to formally confirm that I had an application in progress. They gave me a phone number at the Immigration Department, which I duly called.

They answered pretty quickly as I recall – I think it took me perhaps two attempts (bearing in mind my expectation was that I’d have to call ten times a day for at least a week before getting through… 😉

I explained that my to-be medical insurer needed an official letter confirming my application was in progress. They took some details, and went away for about ten minutes, then came back with:

“Oh, your application was approved in January.”

What?! (But yay!)

Bearing in mind this was now early May. So all those times I had emailed and been told my application was still in progress – it had actually already been approved. Shame they couldn’t have told me then, because it might have avoided the next issue: 

It turned out that my conditional approval letter was sent out a couple of weeks prior, they said, pretty much at the exact same time that I was arriving in Malaysia. Of course, it was sent to my UK address – which was now temporarily unoccupied for a few weeks pending the arrival of my tenants.

So the question arose: would it be returned to sender, or delivered to a neighbour, or pushed through the letterbox at my place, to be left unattended until the tenants arrived, or…

I was told that it was sent via regular post, with no tracking, so there was no way to follow it or rearrange delivery etc. I was also told that, if it were not delivered it would be returned to sender, and would arrive at the Immigration Department’s post room – and no, I would not be advised of this, and no, there would not be any way to retrieve it.

Bearing in mind that this is a seriously important document – you cannot get your MM2H visa without the original letter (not a copy), and you must then keep the letter safe for the duration (up to ten years) as you will need it again when you come to renew.

So – just a minor flaw in the system here, I think – you don’t get notified when your application is approved or when your conditional approval letter is sent, so you don’t know when to expect it. If you’re not then available to take delivery, or it goes astray, you’d be completely unaware. If it gets returned to sender, you won’t be told, and in any case you won’t be able to do anything about it. Great. Don’t hold your breath waiting.

Having now discovered that the letter was on its way, apparently my only option, if it ended up going astray (or being returned to the post room) would be to report it to the police as lost, obtain a police report, and take that to the Immigration Department, which *might* then be able to reissue it. Perhaps.

Which is quite ironic given that the interim solution to the immediate problem was a quick trip to said Immigration Department at Putrajaya, where they were able to print me out a copy of the very same letter, and certify it as a true copy, thus enabling me to proceed with my medical insurance. So you would think that printing a replacement copy on headed stationery might be a possibility – but apparently not.

So, much stress ensued for a week or so as I tried to work out how best to track down the original letter. Numerous emails, messages and calls to neighbours and my managing agents, to see if anything had turned up and ask them to keep an eye out…

It then turns out that, actually, no it hadn’t been sent out when they said, and no it hadn’t been sent via regular post with no tracking. I discovered this because I received an email from a courier company telling me that a package would be delivered a few days later, and providing tracking details.

Now, I didn’t immediately know for certain that this was my conditional approval letter. But I could see from the tracking that it had been sent from Malaysia, and I wasn’t expecting anything else to be sent from here back to my old address in the UK. It had also been sent on the very same day I had gone to Putrajaya to get a copy of the letter (make of that what you will – I couldn’t possibly comment).

The scheduled arrival date would be just after my tenants moved in, so with any luck they would take it in, then hand it over to my managing agents, from where we could make arrangements to send it back to me.

However, knowing that they would be busy moving in, and as the tracking offered redelivery options, I felt it prudent to have the parcel re-routed to a neighbour across the road. 

Big mistake. The letter subsequently got lost when the courier company (I won’t name them, but their name is a three letter acronym in which the first and last letters are D) ignored the redirection request and delivered it ‘somewhere else’, but couldn’t say exactly where. Nor did the tracking help, since whoever had signed for it had signed with my name rather than their own…

The courier insisted it had been delivered to my neighbours. My neighbours (who I’m far more inclined to believe) insisted it had not been. My subsequent conversation with the courier company’s customer ‘service’ department went something like this:

“Can you speak to the driver to ask where he actually left it?”

“No.”

“Ok, how do we proceed?”

“We need to open an investigation.”

“Please do that. What does it involve?”

“We’ll speak to the driver.”

[…!%@?!?#!!…]

“Will you let me know once you’ve found out where it was delivered to?”

“No, we can only notify the sender.“

[…. J***s F***ing H C****t!!!]

I left them to their investigation and conducted one of my own. After lots of messaging back and forward with neighbours and my agents, it turned out the courier had delivered it to my address, as originally intended, but ignoring my re-routing request. If only the courier company could have said that in the first place, rather than insisting it had gone to my neighbours… My tenants had indeed taken it in and immediately passed it on to my agents.

So to cut a long story short, I eventually got the letter… And luckily, bearing in mind you get six months from conditional approval to Do All The Things and complete the MM2H process (which cannot be extended and you cannot re-apply), the letter was dated from when it was sent, and not when it had been actually approved three months earlier. 

Moral of the story:

  • Don’t rely on the online application tracking to tell you what stage your application is at.
  • Do email and/or call the Immigration Department to check on progress if more than five or six months has passed. They probably won’t like you for hassling them, but maybe that will encourage them to improve the process and keep applicants better informed.
  • Do immediately notify the Immigration Department of any change of correspondence address. I didn’t because with my application apparently still being in progress, and having moved only a few weeks earlier, I hadn’t thought it necessary until it reached something like ‘Conditional Approval Granted’ stage – of course, I didn’t know then that the online tracking was, how can I put it politely, inaccurate. And I had rather foolishly assumed that, especially given all the delays, someone might actually get in touch to check whether my address was still correct before sending the letter out. Silly me.
  • So, assume nothing and don’t rely on anything anyone tells you…
  • Do ask for the tracking details (it may be that the Immigration Department doesn’t have them, but someone presumably does – no harm in asking).
  • Do keep a close eye on your email for a shipment notification from the courier.
  • Don’t be in a different country when your letter arrives 😉 

Once you have your conditional approval letter, you can get on with all the other things you need to do in order to complete the process. In no particular order:

 

Update, December 2019

It appears the process has changed, and the conditional approval letters are no longer sent out in the post (was it something I said?! 😉

Apparently you now have to collect the letter in person from the Immigration department at Putrajaya. They should (hopefully) email you to advise when it is ready. Of course, that’s not much help if you were planning to use the letter to get your bank accounts opened before you set off for Malaysia… They may be willing to email you a scanned certified copy if you ask them, though I don’t know whether that’s standard policy – but it can’t hurt to ask.

Set up bank accounts in Malaysia

In order to get your Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) social visit pass, you will need to deposit a certain amount of money in Malaysia. The exact amount will depend on your circumstances (primarily your age) but at the time of writing is typically 300,000 RM (Ringgit Malaysia). For this you will need to open a Fixed Deposit account with more or less any bank in Malaysia. Of course, you will probably also want a current account, and perhaps a credit card too.

You’ll need your MM2H conditional approval letter before you can open any bank accounts here. Although in theory there are – so I’ve heard – some edge cases where it may be possible to proceed without your conditional approval; but it will almost certainly be a lot simpler if you have the letter. Certainly in my experience of trying, I was told by several banks that nothing could be done without it.

If you don’t already have a relationship with a specific bank, or a preference for one, it may be worth a quick look around to see who offers the best interest rates for your fixed deposit. But probably not worth agonising over it. You’ll most likely find that the absolute top-end deals are not available to MM2Hers (e.g. they’ll only be available to Bumiputera). Obviously you’ll want to avoid the low-end rates, but I found that most of the major banks were offering the same rates – at the time of writing these are typically around 2.9% for a one-year fixed deposit and 3.9% for five years. You may get a bit more if you can find a ten-year option, but the banks I spoke to were only able to offer me five years maximum.

You’ll probably find your bank recommends splitting your fixed deposit into two accounts – one at one-year and one at five-years. This is because the Malaysia My Second Home programme allows you to withdraw up to half of your fixed deposit after one year (I say half, but that could change – at the time of writing, 150,000 RM can be withdrawn after one year, and the other 150,000 must remain in place for the duration of your participation in the MM2H programme; I believe it used to be 240,000 and 60,000 RM respectively). Note however that you can only withdrawn funds needed for ‘authorised’ expenditure (e.g. house or car purchase, or medical or education costs), and then only on a reimbursement basis – i.e. you can’t just withdraw 150,000 RM and then go spend it; apparently you’ll need to show receipts or invoices etc. So I’m told – I haven’t got to that point myself yet.

I don’t know whether you can open a fixed deposit account and then separately (later) deposit funds into it. I believe not (and logically it would make sense that the two things must happen simultaneously). So unless you’re planning on bringing a suitcase full of cash with you to Malaysia (bad idea – aside from anything else, you’ll need to declare anything over 10,000 USD equivalent to Customs) you’ll need a current account to deposit funds into, before then opening the fixed deposit account(s).

Some international banks can arrange your Malaysian accounts while you are still in your home country. For example, I have accounts with HSBC in the UK and so could have asked them to handle the account opening in Malaysia for me. But as I was already in Malaysia by the time I got my conditional approval letter, I did it myself at my local HSBC Malaysia branch, in Bukit Bintang.

Opening bank accounts in person, in Malaysia, is fairly easy once you have your conditional approval letter, although it’s not necessarily quick. Given the amount you’ll be depositing, avoid the queues by going straight to their Premier banking (or equivalent) section. You’ll need to take your passport and letter along to a branch of your chosen bank, and there’ll likely be a lot of form-filling to be done – mostly by them at least, but it will take time. 

For me, the process was to initially open a local current account, and Malaysia-based but GBP-denominated savings account. The theory behind this was that I could move GBP into Malaysia and then convert to MYR as and when the exchange rate looked good. Plus my (Malaysian) bank could offer me a preferential exchange rate once the money was in Malaysia. Another consideration was that, so I had read, there could potentially be problems moving large amounts of currency across borders, so my thinking was that I could move GBP across as and when, in modest amounts, and then once it was in Malaysia, convert it to MYR.

As it turned out, I needn’t have worried. In the event, the best exchange rate came from TransferWise. Having moved about two-thirds of the money I would need for my MM2H fixed deposit over to Malaysia, I ended up moving it back to the UK again and sending it in several tranches to TransferWise, for conversion to MYR and transfer to my Malaysian current account.

One good thing about banking with a truly international bank (HSBC in my case, but I assume others would be much the same) is their ability to make instant transfers between countries, at no cost if you’re not converting currency. So moving GBP from the UK to Malaysia and back again cost me nothing and happened instantly. In theory, TransferWise would have accepted GBP directly from my Malaysian GBP account – except that I couldn’t find any way to send it to them from there.

The actual TransferWise currency conversion and deposit in my Malaysian current account was very quick, albeit not instant. Once you’ve set up your transfer the app typically tells you your money will arrive in around 3-5 days; in fact my first transfer arrived same-day, and the other two arrived next-day.

One thing to note, in case you encounter the same with your bank: I found my UK bank had a £25,000 limit on transfers out of my current account (via online banking – even less via their mobile app), hence I split my TransferWise transactions into three. In theory I could have sent the whole lot across in a single transfer, but as TransferWise tells you to send the exact amount of GBP for each transaction, I didn’t want to risk splitting that and having something go wrong.

Once I had sufficient MYR in my Malaysian current account, I returned to my local branch and opened the fixed deposit accounts. This took about 30 or 40 minutes of mostly sitting around, but they did all the hard work, with me just having to sign about five or six pieces of paper (if, like me, you’re coming from the UK, you may be surprised by the sheer volume of printed paperwork involved in even the seemingly-simplest of transactions… we were there once; they’ll catch up eventually 😉

With the fixed deposits opened and the money moved across, I was given a deposit certificate for each account and a cover letter for the Immigration Department confirming that the deposits are under lien and can only be withdrawn with permission from the Ministry of Tourism. Hopefully whichever bank you go with should be familiar with this – pretty sure all of the big ones will be, but if you’ve found a particularly good deal with a smaller bank, you should check first that they understand the MM2H programme requirements, before committing. Your conditional approval letter will come with a sample letter in case your bank isn’t sure what to write.

I was also given a couple of certified copies of the letter and certificates, which saved me the trouble of copying them myself – you’ll need both the originals and a copy when you go to Putrajaya at the end of the process.

A few other things that might be useful to note:

  • Your current account will likely come with a debit card, and optionally a chequebook. I chose not to have the latter, having not written out a cheque back in the UK for probably well over ten years. However, payment by cheque is more widespread here, and you may find one useful. Not everywhere accepts credit/debit cards for bill payments and the like. I haven’t yet encountered any problems as a result of not having a chequebook, but I have had to pay a couple of bills with cash (including in one instance having to withdraw several thousand ringgit from a nearby cash machine…).
  • There’s a 1,500 RM per-transaction limit on ATM withdrawals.
  • ATM withdrawals are not necessarily free, as they usually are in the UK. You’ll need to check your bank’s terms and conditions carefully. Some will give you a certain number of free withdrawals per month. Some will only be free if you use their own ATMs, or those belonging to specific networks. If/when you pay for ATM withdrawals, the fee will typically range from 1 to 8 RM.
  • Credit and debit cards here have six-digit PINs rather than the four-digit ones you may be used to.
  • You can open a credit card here, but you may need to open an additional fixed deposit to do so. Usually you would just need to prove a given level of income. However, in my case, I was told that my rental income back in the UK could not be taken into account – only employment income is considered. But of course under MM2H, you’re not allowed to take employment. The solution was to open a one-year fixed deposit (earning a decent rate of interest), on which the bank placed a lien such that I could only withdraw it subject to not having any outstanding credit card balance. Fair enough. My credit limit would be 80% of the amount deposited. So no big deal, but something to keep in mind – when you send your funds across for your MM2H fixed deposits, you may want to send some extra over as well to cover whatever credit limit you want, plus of course whatever you want to keep in your current account here. I don’t know whether this is specific to my bank, or whether they would all be much the same. I suspect it may have something to do with not having a credit history here in Malaysia, so perhaps things will be different after a year or so. It may also be worth speaking to your existing UK credit card provider(s) to see if they can transfer you to an equivalent product here, and carry your credit history with you. I vaguely recall that American Express can do that.
  • JOMPay (“Jom” means “Let’s go!” or “Come”) is the national bill payment scheme, and the standard way to pay bills online, via mobile app, or at an ATM. Your utility bills for example will give you the information necessary to set up a payee in your online banking; you can then have the payment made instantly from your current account or credit card.
  • Whenever you sign up for anything (bank accounts, credit cards, broadband, mobile phone contracts etc etc), check the terms and conditions very carefully, and confirm with the staff exactly what you’re committing to. I don’t know the exact details of whatever consumer protection laws exist in Malaysia (something for the to-do list on a rainy day, perhaps… ;-)) but they clearly don’t have the same requirements for transparency that we are used to in the UK. Look out for little extras that you didn’t sign up for on your bill…

Once you’ve got your bank accounts, and optionally a credit card, sorted out, you can join in with Malaysia’s national pastime – spending like there’s no tomorrow. Or not. Or you could get your medical examination done

Submit to a medical examination

One of the requirements for obtaining your Malaysia My Second Home visa is to have a doctor certify that you are healthy. This involves going to any government-registered hospital or clinic and having a doctor examine you, who will then fill in a short form, sign it and stamp it with the hospital or clinic’s official stamp. The total cost for this is likely to be around 120 RM, if my experience is anything to go by. Worth noting that most doctors only accept, or at least seem to prefer, payment in cash.

Before you go, fill in your RBII form – this is a three-pager, of which the first two need to be completed by you, and the third is for the doctor to complete. You’ll need to download this from the MM2H web site and complete it by hand (or use a PDF editor to complete it on-screen, which may not be a bad idea if, like me, you have terrible handwriting). Form RBII is pretty much identical to RBI, which you will already have completed and submitted as part of your original application – however, RBII contains a different third page, this time being the one for the doctor to complete.

If you are applying with dependants, you need to complete a separate RBII form for each person in your party.

The bits you’ll need to complete, on the first two pages, are basically your personal details (name, gender, passport, date and place of birth), and then two sets of tick-boxes confirming whether or not you have certain illnesses and whether or not your senses are functioning. In theory, you can fill this in with the doctor during your examination, but you should probably do it in advance, if only to save the doctor some time – it doesn’t hurt to have thought about it beforehand, especially if you’re not certain of your medical status. If in doubt, have a full health check at home before you go to Malaysia, or before you even start the process.

Although in principle you can go to any hospital or clinic in Malaysia for your MM2H health check so long as it is government-registered, in practice not all will have experience of the MM2H requirements. It will be a lot simpler (and probably cheaper) if you find one that knows what you’re on about when you say ‘MM2H health check’.

In my case it took three goes. With the help of a local friend, we literally walked down a street in Pudu, on which almost every other shop-lot was a clinic. This seems to be fairly common in Kuala Lumpur – clinics (or ‘klinik’ to use the local spelling) are not hard to find. We went into the first one we came to and asked if they could do an ‘MM2H health check’ – to be met with blank looks, some discussion amongst themselves behind the counter, and then some hesitation as they weren’t sure whether the check needed to involve blood tests and x-rays and the like. We decided to move on.

The second clinic was much the same, and clearly hadn’t heard of MM2H, so again we passed. The third clinic was the complete opposite – they instantly knew what was needed, explained that it would take maybe 10 or 15 minutes and cost 120 RM, checked that I had my paperwork with me (the main thing was my passport and the RBII form, but I would take everything, just in case), and asked me to take a seat in the waiting room.

About five minutes later I was called in to see the doctor, who proceeded to conduct the examination. This involved him basically asking me the same questions as were on the first two pages of the RBII form, so that was nice and quick as I’d already completed it. He then did a standard blood pressure test, before using a stethoscope on my chest and back to listen to my breathing. A few other basic questions as I recall (do you feel unwell, have you suffered any illness recently, any family history of serious illness – that sort of thing), then he filled in page 3 of the RBII form, signed and stamped it, and we were done.

You’ll take the completed RBII form away with you, so keep it safe and add it to your collection of paperwork – you’ll need it when you go to Putrajaya in due course to collect your visa.

I’m not sure what happens if you have any of the illnesses listed on the RBII form, or if any of your senses aren’t working, or the doctor finds you to be anything less than healthy. The Terms & Conditions on the MM2H web site do mention that the requirement for medical insurance may be exempted for “participants who face difficulty… due to their age or medical condition”. So as far as I am aware, that would not automatically mean disqualification from eligibility for MM2H. But that’s probably where you should take advice, either by speaking to MOTAC, or using an agent to handle your case.

You’ll also need to obtain a “medical card” (medical insurance), which I’ll talk about next.

Obtain a “medical card”

Once you’re in Malaysia, you’ll need private medical insurance, as a condition of your Malaysia My Second Home visa (although exemptions are sometimes made). You can probably get by with a decent travel insurance policy from your home country for the first month or so (but do read the small print very carefully!), which gives you some time to arrange your insurance locally in Malaysia, but check how long that will cover you for – most travel policies have a thirty- or sixty- day maximum trip duration. Many also require that your trip start and end in your home country (or wherever the policy was purchased).

If you already have private medical insurance in your home country, that will likely be sufficient to meet the MM2H requirements, so long as it covers you worldwide (or at least in a region that includes Malaysia – e.g. South-East Asia, Asia Pacific, Worldwide excluding USA etc; if in doubt check with the MM2H Centre at the Ministry of Tourism in Putrajaya). It must also cover any dependants you’re including in your MM2H application – or they’ll need their own policies.

My sense is that the Ministry of Tourism isn’t too concerned about exactly what insurance you have or how it is arranged (e.g. one policy for your whole family, or several individual ones), so long as you are covered for any medical bills that may arise while you’re in Malaysia, so that you’re not a burden on the local healthcare system.

If you don’t already have private medical insurance, you can arrange a policy from your home country before you arrive in Malaysia – a bit of time on Google will find plenty of ‘expat medical insurance’ or ‘worldwide health insurance’ options. However, don’t be in a rush to do that. You may find better options by searching for ‘Malaysia medical card’.

Here’s what I discovered:

There are plenty of international / worldwide / expat health insurance policies out there. They work pretty much as you’d expect any insurance product to – you fill in some details, get a quote, adjust some options, pay your premium, and you’re covered. You may or may not need to go for a medical checkup first. They key points I found about pretty much all of these policies (there may be some exceptions, but I didn’t spot any) were:

  • They tend to be very expensive, but you can reduce your premiums by having an optional excess (or ‘deductible’), and/or a ‘co-pay’ amount. The deductible is the amount you are prepared to pay yourself before the insurance starts to pay out; a co-pay is where you agree to share any costs above the deductible with the insurer. So for example, you might have a £5,000 deductible and a 25% co-pay; this means you’ll pay the first £5,000 of any claims you make in the year (i.e. it can be one claim or multiple, but the insurance won’t pay out until your bill(s) go above £5,000 in total), then above that, you’ll pay 25% – so if you have, say, £6,000 of medical bills in the year, your insurer will cover £750. In my case (as a healthy man in my mid-40s), I was finding the initial premiums were up in the several-thousand-pounds area, but adding a deductible of between £5,000 and £10,000 brought them down to around £1,000 to £1,400 per year. Co-pay reduced the quotes a bit further, but not hugely.
  • They tend to only cover you until age 70, sometimes age 80.
  • They don’t generally cover you for day-to-day doctor or dentist visits, although some provide this as an optional extra (but unless you’re visiting a doctor several times a month, it’s probably not worth the extra premium – GP visits aren’t that expensive here, typically around 50 RM (£10 more or less) plus any medication you might be prescribed as a result.
  • They do usually cover you beyond just Malaysia (e.g. other countries in the region, or worldwide, though sometimes excluding USA).
  • As with pretty much any insurance product, you won’t know your renewal premium until nearer the time. Of course, you can pretty much guarantee it will go up as you get older, although most policies have some variety of No Claims Discount which ought to bring the price down or at least offset the increase.

So the key thing that I took away from my research was that this sort of medical insurance was only going to cover me for the really big serious stuff – a bad accident or a critical illness, that would keep my in hospital for weeks or months or require long term care, or a major operation. Anything (relatively) minor I’d have to cover myself.

I was prepared to accept that, and view my £1,000+ annual premium as the cost of putting my mind at ease, knowing that, while I might end up with some big medical bills here and there, I’d never be on the hook for the sort of bankruptcy-inducing costs I might face if I had no insurance at all.

But then I discovered the ‘medical card’.

This is again a medical insurance product, but with a few key differences to the insurance I described above:

  • You can’t get it unless you are Malaysian or otherwise have right-to-remain / residency in Malaysia (so you’ll need at least your MM2H conditional approval letter first).
  • It provides much the same scope and level of cover as expat / worldwide health insurance (usually including some level of cover overseas and medical evacuation back to Malaysia etc), but does not require the same sort of (huge) deductibles or co-pay. Typically you will pay the first 300 RM or so (approximately £60) of any hospital or clinic visit, but that’s it. As above, it doesn’t cover you for basic doctor or dentist visits, but the cover does kick in once you’re referred to a hospital or clinic for a procedure or operation etc.
  • You are usually covered up to age 100 (although there is typically a requirement that your cover starts before age 70).
  • Your lifetime premiums, or at least the next thirty years or so, are known in advance and will form part of your policy illustration / quote.

The really interesting thing (to me, anyway) is the way the medical card is funded. I’m basing this on the Prudential policy I went with, but I imagine other providers will be very similar.

You don’t actually pay your insurance premiums directly. Instead, you pay your premium (monthly, quarterly, or annually) into an investment vehicle. Your premiums are then deducted from this. You choose which funds you want your money to be invested into, depending on your attitude to risk and return etc, and in what proportions – there’s a decent range of funds to choose from, ranging from income, to steady-growth, to aggressive growth / higher risk, and cutting across those, various options to focus on local, regional or global investments. 

The idea is that your investment should grow over the years, sufficient to cover your insurance premiums. The amount you actually pay each year will be calculated to ensure your fund is sustainable (i.e. can cover your premiums) up to a given age, based on certain growth assumptions.

There is of course risk associated with investments, but given that they used an assumed growth rate of 2% as the baseline, I feel pretty comfortable that, over the long term, that shouldn’t be a problem. In the worst case, the investment underperforms and cannot meet the insurance premiums, in which case you have to top it up or let the policy lapse. In the best case, the investment outperforms and you can draw down on the surplus, e.g. to provide a bit of extra retirement income later on.

Conceptually, this is very similar to a mortgage endowment policy. But don’t be put off by the fact that these were so famously mis-sold in the UK back in the 1980s and 1990s – those were sold as being guaranteed to pay off your mortgage twenty-five years down the line, based on over-optimistic growth projections, which many of them then failed to achieve. There are no guarantees here, other than a very conservative projection – if you pay your contributions on time and your fund grows at a minimum of 2% per year on average, your insurance premiums will be covered. And as your insurance premiums are deducted monthly, you’ll soon know if it’s not performing as intended, rather than only finding out decades later.

Personally, I’d rather risk my investment failing to average 2% growth per year and, if need be, make some top-up contributions here and there, than risk taking out an insurance policy for which I have no idea what next year’s premium will be.

Here, the premiums are fixed in advance and transparent – you know exactly what your insurance cost actually is each year. And so you can see quite easily that in the early years, you’re effectively overpaying, massively, but in the later years you’re hugely underpaying – e.g. the actual cost of my insurance in year one is approximately 2,000 RM (around £400). My actual premium, the amount I must pay into my investment fund, is 6,000 RM (£1,200, roughly). In thirty years’ time the insurance cost will have risen to almost 12,000 RM (about £2,400), but my contribution will still be 6,000 RM.

Regardless of how your investment performs, and whether or not you actually need to, you have the option of making additional top-up contributions should you wish to. I chose to double my year-one contribution on the basis that, over the next ten, twenty, thirty years or so, that should put me in a decent position to have some surplus in the fund. I’ll probably make further top-ups in the early years and treat it as a way of diversifying beyond my UK-based ISA and SIPP investments.

What I really like about this approach (which I don’t think I’ve ever seen done in the UK for medical insurance – or perhaps I just haven’t looked hard enough) is that it turns an otherwise sunk cost into an investment, with the possibility of some surplus cash at the end or along the way. And the cost to me is pretty much the same as I’d be paying for a ‘traditional’ expat or worldwide medical insurance policy – perhaps even substantially less by the time I get to later life.

Obviously this is an investment, and not just an insurance product. You should take professional advice. There’s plenty of information online if you want to do your research, but I’d recommend making the actual purchase through a reputable insurance broker. I’m not sure whether you even can buy a Malaysian medical card online – my experience so far has been that, while some web sites give the appearance of letting you do so, sooner or later in the process you’ll find yourself having to speak to a real person.

I used an insurance broker friend (happy to refer you if you message me privately), who went through the options, explained how the whole thing works, and got all the paperwork sorted out. I also see value in having a known point of contact who I can call if anything ever happens. It might be worth noting (though perhaps this is just my experience!), that whereas back in the UK brokers tend to be about selling you the policy and then disappearing until it’s time to renew, here there seems to be much more emphasis on building a relationship and being much more closely involved in making sure your insurance needs are properly met. It’s much more personal.

Whichever approach you opt for, once you’ve arranged your insurance, there are three documents you’ll need for your file to take to Putrajaya when you collect your visa. The instructions you’ll receive with your conditional approval letter refer to “Original and copy of medical insurance… including insurance policy / receipt of payment / letter from the insurance company”. I found that they don’t need to see the actual insurance policy (which in any case may run to several hundred pages…). In my case they were perfectly happy to accept printouts of:

  • The cover letter from the insurer, confirming you are insured.
  • The payment receipt for the initial premium.
  • The policy summary certificate.

Take two copies of each – they’ll keep one and return the other to you.

Note that the proof of insurance must cover you and all dependants in your MM2H application, so if any of your dependants are on separate policies, you’ll need to provide the equivalent documents for each policy. That said, the documentation is optional for anyone over 60 years old (although it’s not entirely clear whether it’s the actual having of insurance, or the proof of it, that is optional… 😉 There is mention in the MM2H Terms & Conditions that the requirement for medical insurance may be exempted for “participants who face difficulty in obtaining [it] due to their age or medical condition”. So if you’re over 60 and/or not in the best of health, it’s probably worth speaking to MOTAC or an MM2H agent before you spend any money!

One other thing to bear in mind: most policies will have some sort of initial waiting period during which you won’t be covered for certain events. This is typically between one and four months, but may be different for individual conditions. For example, in my policy, I’m covered immediately for accidents, but only after one month for most illnesses, three months for coronary disease, and four months for certain other specific illnesses. So probably worth getting your insurance in place sooner rather than later, and do check how long you need to wait before scheduling your heart attack.

Anyway, once you’ve got all that sorted out, the next step is to complete the security bond form.

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