INTERVIEW Sharifah Ikhlas Syed Ismail Aljaffree, Director Malaysia My Second Home Centre

Malaysia, MM2H, niche market, interview

Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) Programme is an initiative by the Government of Malaysia to attract and allow foreigners who fulfil certain criteria, to stay in Malaysia for as long as possible on a 10-year renewable social visit pass with multiple-entry visa and spend more in Malaysia. Launched in 2002, the programme allows foreigners from selected countries to stay long or domicile in Malaysia for a period of 10 years. The Ministry of Tourism in partnership with the Immigration Department of Malaysia has a one-stop centre to process new applications, offer advices and promote the MM2H programme. 

Originally targeting retired foreigners, the scheme has been extended to anyone wishing to settle in Malaysia. MM2H looks at two categories: 50 years and above, and 50 years and below. Applicants aged 51 years and above, must show liquid assets of 350,000 Malaysian Ringgit (approx. US$84,000) in a personal bank account. Applicants aged 50 years and below have to show a bank account with 500,000 Malaysian Ringgit (approx. US$120,000). All applicants must then prove that they will receive a monthly income equivalent to RM10,000 (approx. US$2,400).

How does MM2H prove successful. In an interview with TourMAB, a special media website supported by Malaysia Ministry of Tourism, Sharifah Ikhlas Syed Ismail Aljaffree, Director Malaysia My Second Home, gives more information.

Where are most MM2H applicants from?

Sharifah Ikhlas Syed Ismail Aljaffree- China is the country that has the highest number of participants in this programme, at around 47%. We have about 130 participating countries and we currently have over 40,000 approved applications in the programme. Top countries also include South Korea, Japan, Bangladesh and the UK. We also have a good number from Hong Kong and Taiwan. Australia and the US are showing a very good response to this programme, as well as Singapore. Applications are very encouraging at the moment, running at around 500-600 a month. We do not want to focus on one country as a supply market. We want to get a diversity of nations coming in, creating a cross-cultural social effect on the local communities.

What attracts people to the scheme?

Each nationality has different factors as to why they want to choose Malaysia. Different nationalities have different priorities. For Chinese people, they may be tired of the harsh winter conditions in some parts of their country. The same thing goes for Japan, because of the very cold winter in their country. People choose Malaysia for the climate, the location, the affordable cost of living, and perhaps for other family members who had already migrated here. But things are evolving. We are now seeing Chinese people coming here because of property investment, for the affordable medical facilities of very high quality. In some cases, it’s also for the good level of education they can find here for their children.

Do different states attract different people?

Indeed! British retirees are very attracted by Penang, for the lifestyle, and thanks to the British heritage linked with the island. Chinese and Japanese are attracted to Kuala Lumpur and Selangor. Americans and Australians are proving to be attracted by Johor Bahru. Younger people in general tend to be more attracted to KL, for the vibrant lifestyle, amenities and infrastructures it offers. Some of these people are professionals, who have a work base somewhere else in Southeast Asia. It may be that the husband is working in Hong Kong. He will put his family residing in Kuala Lumpur. The same goes for the US and European nationals. Many of them have worked with a multinational company here in Malaysia before, and as they have been exposed to the lifestyle, they enjoyed the climate and the cost of living there.

What are the key challenges you are facing with this programme?

We are competing with countries like Malta, Portugal, or even Thailand. So, everybody has their own niche. I think that besides infrastructures, the beaches or the beautiful mountains we have, the most intrinsic value for which foreigners choose Malaysia is the traditional warmth of the Malaysians. That is what attracts them most. We welcome foreigners very well, so they always feel at home here. People settle down quickly here in Malaysia.

The idea of international living or global migration was really started in the Caribbean. If you look at what Internationalliving.com says, their top four countries for retirement are in the Caribbean. But Malaysia is ranked fifth. Latin American countries cater primarily for the US market. They even offer citizenship, which we do not. Our scheme is like a long stay, and people are free to come in and out of the country.

Each Malaysian state also has its own characters. Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Johor Bahru and Penang are among the popular states offering good lifestyle, where it is easy for people to settle down, where they have good facilities and of course education centres for the children as well.

What are the key benefits of joining this programme?

Firstly, this programme offers a 10-year renewable social visit pass with multiple-entry visa. Some stop at ten years, but ours is renewable. Secondly is the repatriation of income, the earning from your investment is not taxable.

Foreigners under the MM2H are able to purchase property here. Different states have different requirements for foreigners to purchase property. The minimum investment is generally around one million Ringgit Malaysian, but the states regulations differs. It is higher in Selangor, Penang or Johor Bahru but local banks can lend up to 60% and there are other international banks in Malaysia that lend as well, such as HSBC, or Bank of China.

MM2H participants are allowed to invest in Malaysia. They are also able to obtain a Malaysian driving licence, and can bring domestic help into the country from their own country. Unmarried children can be sent to private schools here. All these privileges are subject to rules and regulations.

(Edited from TourMAB)