With all the changes to the European visa program this year, it’s easy to overlook developments on the other side of the world. That would be a mistake, because there are great opportunities there.
For example, Malaysia launched the digital nomad visa about a year ago. This is called De Rantau Nomad Pass. It is for applicants with an income of at least $24,000 per year, much lower than similar programs in Europe. Once approved, applicants can stay in Malaysia for up to 12 months, with the option to extend for a further 12 months.
Unlike many other digital nomad programs that stipulate that you work for an overseas client or employer, candidates can work for Malaysians. Spouses and children are welcome.
Registration fee is just over 200 USD, 75% refundable if unsuccessful. This program is run by a government agency and focuses on the technology sector, but the definition of technology jobs is broad enough to include people who write for a living.
On the other hand, if you only run a digital store or similar business, you probably won’t qualify. This is because the government wants Nomad Pass to attract skills and ideas that they hope will spread to local people.
To facilitate this, part of the program is a network of “hubs”, which include co-working spaces, nearby accommodation and discounts on a range of business and leisure activities.
One of the benefits of working in Malaysia is that income from foreign sources is not taxed. This is a much better deal than many European countries, where you become a tax resident after six months in the country.
Many people also don’t realize that Malaysia is an English-speaking country. It was once part of the largest British colony in Malaysia and many traces of British colonialism still exist.
Country clubs, tennis courts, English pubs and other colonial attractions are part of the cultural fabric. De Rantau Nomad Pass is not Malaysia’s first attempt to obtain a long-term residence visa. It offers a standalone vehicle visa, called Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H).
The program allows 10 years of residency in the country for applicants who meet minimum monthly income and net worth requirements. More than 40,000 MM2H visas have been issued, mainly to Chinese and Japanese nationals, but also to a significant number of Europeans and North Americans.
Since it does not allow local employment or business, it is mainly used by foreign retirees attracted by the country’s low cost of living and tropical lifestyle. A few years ago, the government quadrupled the minimum investment for the MM2H visa, and applications fell off a cliff.
This has led to a lot of internal political pressure from areas that benefit from investment in retirement housing to relax the requirements. In October, the government announced a review of investment thresholds, promising to make them more attractive.
If living in a tropical environment in the vibrant Southeast Asia region appeals to you, be sure to check out my upcoming IL Magazine article explaining how to qualify for these visas.