Working in Malaysia is an attractive prospect for many expats, and there is a range of jobs available, particularly in cities such as Kuala Lumpur. Teaching, IT, tourism and finance are all potential sectors for expat employment. The Malaysian government is trying to encourage local companies to hire Malaysian personnel above overseas workers, so this may prove a barrier to certain types of employment as there is often a quota system in place and you may find that the sectors in which you are allowed to work as a foreign national are restricted.
Your prospective employer will have to show that there is no qualified Malay who could undertake the job. Although Malaysia’s economy has been significantly growing in recent years, it has been slowing somewhat as we approach the 2020s, with Chinese demand for Malaysian exports falling, and a decrease in oil prices. However, skills shortages in some significant digital industries give hope to qualified expats who are seeking work in the region.
Malaysian job permits require quite a large degree of bureaucracy. Employers must first apply to the Immigration Department for a Visa with Reference (VDR) approval before employing foreign personnel. There are some age restrictions: overseas workers need to be under 50 if applying for a work permit.
The government also imposes a quota (also known as a dependency ratio ceiling, or DRC) on certain sectors and in addition imposes a levy. This is to encourage employers to hire local rather than foreign workers. Higher skilled foreign workers carry a lower rate of levy.
A VDR application must include:
• VDR application form
• quota approval letter from the Ministry of Home Affairs
• original receipt of payment for levy
• IM.12 and IM.38 Forms
• security bond: deposits / insurance guarantee / bank guarantee (the insurance guarantee must be stamped and valid for at least 18 months )
• copy of your passport
• 1 x recent photo
• medical certificates from the medical centre in your country of origin (valid for 3 months from the date of issuance)
• evidence of the Foreign Worker Compensation Scheme (insurance)
• evidence of an insurance policy from the Health Insurance Protection Scheme Foreign Workers (SPIKPA)
You must remain in your home nation while pending VDR approval from the Malaysia Immigration Department. You will then only be allowed to enter the country at authorized entry points using the VDR issued by the Immigration Department and the entry visa issued by the Malaysian Attachés Office in your country of origin. Your employer must ensure that the clearance process is done within 24 hours from your arrival time. You will then need to pass a medical check.
You can work for up to 10 years with the VDR, but you may wish to apply for permanent residency.
Fintech and e-commerce continue to grow in the region and there remains a skills shortage in these areas. Expats with expertise in computer and information technology, artificial intelligence, cyber security and data science may find themselves with an advantage. Experts suggest that personnel with a strong background in project management will also continue to find themselves in demand.
Mandarin speakers (or speakers of another Asian language) will find themselves at an advantage.
The Malaysian working week is 48 hours long, with a maximum of 8 hours a day and 6 days a week. Typical working hours are 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. with a break for lunch, from Mondays – Fridays although some businesses open on Saturdays, which brings the working hours up to their maximum.
Your annual holiday entitlement is 10 days per year but there are a large number of public holidays (ranging from 18-20 days depending on which region you are working in).
Maternity leave has just been extended to 90 days but this has not yet been ratified in law, so some private sector companies are still applying the old 60 day limit. You will need to have worked for your employer for a specified consecutive period prior to this. A further extension, plus paternity leave, has also been called for.
Recently the government is set to increase the minimum wage in 57 major cities from 1,100 ringgit (US$270) to 1,200 ringgit (US$295). The minimum wage in more rural areas will remain at the lower figure. Salaries are said by some calculations to average at around 102,980 ringgit (US$25.281) annually but if you are working in the finance sector, or have specialist skills, you are likely to be paid considerably more.
A foreign spouse is permitted to work in Malaysia without having to change their Social Visit Pass to the Employment Pass, on condition that the spouse has acquired work approval from the Immigration Department.
It is advised that you obtain a job offer before flying and it is also advisable to discuss a relocation package with your employer first, too. You can search online on one of the many job boards relating to vacancies in Malaysia, or approach a recruitment agency.
MalaysiaJobs.org has listings of job sites pertaining to the region.
It is also acceptable to approach a company directly.
A standard one page CV/resume is acceptable. It is a good idea to include a photograph. You may wish to get some of your headings, at least, translated into Malay.
The Malaysian constitution forbids discrimination against citizens based on sex, religion, and race. However, some forms of same sex relationships are still illegal even if the law is rarely enforced. There remain some racial tensions between groups.
It is a good idea to have your list of qualifications translated, unless you are applying to an international company, and you may also wish to have any diplomas or certificates apostilled.
You may need to be put through a training course to qualify as a higher skilled worker: for example the Workplace Literacy and Numeracy (WPLN) listening and speaking assessments if you are applying to work in some areas of the hospitality industry.
Malaysia is a popular destination for many expats, who travel to the country for tourism, business and residence. Although Malaysia’s economy has been significantly growing over the past few years, the rate of this has somewhat slowed recently. However, there are still jobs available in many industries. If you are thinking of travelling to Malaysia, whether for work or pleasure, read on to learn about the necessary visas and permits.
You will need a visa to visit Malaysia if you are planning to live and work there. However, citizens from around 97 nationalities will not need one to either enter the country or stay there for up to 90 days. For example, this applies to you if you are from the EU, Britain, the USA or Australia.
Some other nations, such as Hong Kong and Russia, will have visa-free entry for 30 days.
For longer periods, you will need to apply for a visa. Your application will depend on whether you need a single-entry or a multiple-entry visa, as well as your reasons for applying.
The Malaysian government has set up an online application system to accept applications for electronic visas (eVisas) and electronic travel registration and information (eNTRI). This can be accessed by citizens from a number of countries, such as India.
Your passport will need to be valid for around six months.
You can apply for:
• A visa with reference – this requires the express permission of the Immigration Department of Malaysia; it is granted to professionals, expatriates, students and spouses of Malaysian citizens
• A visa without reference – this does not require any permission or reference from the Immigration Department of Malaysia, and tourist visas, visas for a social visits and eNTRI visas come under this category
In the second category, you can apply for a single-entry or a multiple-entry visa.
This is issued to foreign nationals who require a visa to enter Malaysia mainly for a social visit. It is normally valid for a single entry and for a period of three months from the date of issue.
A multiple-entry visa – you may require this visa, for example, if you are intending to enter the country mainly for business or government-to-government matters – is normally valid for a period from three months to one year from the date of issue. It does not permit you to remain in the country for more than 30 days, and it can not be extended.
You will need to submit:
• Proof of sufficient funds for the duration of your stay in Malaysia
• A valid and confirmed return ticket
Tour groups are not eligible to apply for the multiple-entry visa.
You may wish to apply for a Malaysia my second home (MM2H) visa for longer term residence. This is not a permanent residence permit. It is a form of a social visit visa that allows for multiple entries and exits and has some basic financial requirements:
• Liquid assets of 500,000 MR (US$120,000)
• A minimum offshore income of at least 10,000 MR (US$2,400)
• A passive investment of 300,000 MR (US$72,000)
You will need to submit:
• Three months’ worth of your most recent bank statements
• A medical check
• Copies of the IM.12 or social pass form
• Your passport
• A letter of good conduct from your country of residence
• A certified birth certificate
You will also need to pay a security bond and a personal bond.
The eNTRI visa processing fee is around US$23.
A long-term visa costs around US$23.
An MM2H visa costs around US$23.
A tourist visa can take as little as 24 hours to process. The MM2H visa may take longer. It is advised that, if you are applying for a visa, you do so in good time before you travel.
Malaysian job permits require quite a large degree of bureaucracy. Employers must first apply to the Immigration Department for a visa with reference (VDR) approval before employing foreign personnel.
You must be under 50 to apply for a work permit in Malaysia, if you are from overseas. The government also imposes a quota, known as a dependency ratio ceiling (DRC), on certain sectors, and imposes a levy. This is to encourage employers to hire local rather than foreign workers. The more highly skilled the foreign worker, the lower the rate of levy they carry.
A VDR application must include:
• VDR application form
• A quota approval letter from the Ministry of Home Affairs
• Original receipt of payment for levy
• IM.12 and IM.38 Forms
• Security bond: deposits / insurance guarantee / bank guarantee (the insurance guarantee must be stamped and valid for at least 18 months )
• A copy of your passport
• One recent photo
• Medical certificates from the medical centre in your country of origin (valid for three months from the date of issuance)
• Evidence of the Foreign Worker Compensation Scheme (insurance)
• Evidence of an insurance policy from the Health Insurance Protection Scheme Foreign Workers (SPIKPA)
You must remain in your home nation while your VDR is pending approval from the Malaysia Immigration Department. You will then only be allowed to enter the country at authorised entry points using the VDR issued by the Immigration Department and the entry visa issued by the Malaysian Attachés Office in your country of origin. Your employer must ensure that the clearance process is done within 24 hours of your arrival time. You will then need to pass a medical check.
You can work for up to 10 years, but you may wish to apply for permanent residency.
Many expats take out private medical insurance, even if this is not a requirement of residence, because healthcare is expensive in their destination country or because certain treatments and procedures are not available.
When taking out health insurance, be sure to check factors such as the annual and lifetime policy limits, whether there are any exclusions which are likely to affect you, whether you are limited to treatment from specific types of healthcare providers, and whether the policy covers emergency evacuation for medical treatment.
Too frequently, potential buyers of health insurance look only for the lowest cost of premiums before really considering the specific benefits and areas of cover they may actually need. Some plans are cheaper for a reason. Often they include large voluntary deductibles on any claim you might make in the future and may severely cap the benefits received under the plan. Clients should define their needs first, establish the particular area of cover they need, then determine their annual healthcare insurance budget. Only then should they look to premium comparisons, last of all.
Do not buy a plan without studying the policy wording carefully. If in doubt, ask, and only when completely satisfied complete all application forms fully, to the best of your ability.
Important questions to ask the insurance provider:
1. Does the plan allow for cooling off periods, cancellation and then repayment of premium in full?
2. Does the plan offer “Moratorium” or is it “Full underwriting” and do you need to have a medical examination before joining?
3. Does the insurer offer a 24 hour help line, 7 days a week, available from anywhere in the world (freephone)? Most insurers now offer this facility.
4. Are pre-existing conditions excluded when joining and if so, for how long are such conditions excluded?
5. Are all and any nationalities accepted or are there restrictions which apply to local nationals? Some insurers will only take expatriates abroad and not local nationals into an overseas plan.
6. Does the plan allow you to continue cover unbroken through your lifetime? In most cases insurers will continue to offer existing clients cover year on year, irrespective of age or claims history, although premium rates charged can increase dramatically with age.
7. Does the insurer allow for any doctor or consultant or hospital within the plan? Are there any restrictions in this respect? Most international plans do not place restrictions on either hospitals or doctors, but almost all demand that their help lines are called first, prior to approval of any inpatient care.
8. Does the insurer provide for the direct settlement of bills presented by hospitals worldwide, regardless of location (or do you have to pay first)?
9. What are the insurers procedures for outpatient claims? Do these require any pre-authorization or if stated in the plan can you just pay and claim? How long before you get money back from the insurer? 14 days? 28 days?.
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If you’re looking to rent accommodation in Malaysia, you shouldn’t have a problem. You don’t need residency in order to rent an apartment, and in fact proving that you have secured accommodation is a requirement for foreigners who are looking to apply for a temporary stay visa.
Both unfurnished and furnished accommodations are available. Smaller apartments (with two bedrooms or less) are often furnished, whereas larger family-style homes are often unfurnished, though that’s not always the rule.
Typically, apartment contracts last for one or two years in Malaysia, with the option to negotiate a lower rent if you’re willing to sign a two-year contract. You’ll need to give your landlord two months’ notice if you want to break your lease early, or if you want to renew. Rent usually doesn’t include utilities. Rents are often negotiable, so make sure you’ve done your research and know what a reasonable price is for your chosen neighbourhood.
Once you’ve found a property, you’ll usually pay a deposit that’s equivalent to two months’ rent, which you’ll get back at the end of your contract, assuming the property is in the same condition as when you got it. You’ll also need to pay your first month’s rent upfront, as well as an additional fee (equalling half of one month’s rent) to pay any outstanding utility payments on the property.
After you and your landlord have signed the lease, it will need to be stamped so that it can be used as evidence in a court of law. You as the tenant will be responsible for this, and the fee is usually around $20.
Prices vary depending on exact locations, but in general, rent in Malaysia is affordable, especially for expats who have good jobs or sufficient fixed incomes to live in comfort. Rent in big cities is more expensive than in the countryside and in smaller towns, and while the average cost of accommodation is very reasonable, there are certainly luxury options that cost as much as those in Europe. Example rents in Kuala Lumpur and Penang include:
• A one-bedroom apartment in Kuala Lumpur will cost an average of $550/month
• A three-bedroom family home in Kuala Lumpur will cost an average of $1,050/month
• A one-bedroom in Penang will cost an average of $260/month
• A three-bedroom family home in Penang will cost an average of $560/month
If you’re planning on starting the rental process in Malaysia, keep in mind a few country-specific tips:
Types of accommodation in Malaysia include:
• Bungalows, which often include a garden or pool
• “Semi-ds,” or semi-detached housing, where two houses are built next to each other (sharing a wall) – each usually offers some private outdoor space
• Terraced houses, which are built next to each other with no space on either side
• Condos, which include amenities, such as security, a gym, and pools – these are usually the most popular options for expats
• Gated developments, which have shared amenities, similar to condos, and a range of houses inside
Before signing your lease, check for damp walls and ceilings. Some properties have insulation issues, and dampness can lead to health issues if the root problem isn’t fixed.
In Malaysia, the tenant is responsible for servicing any air conditioners on the property. This will cost about $30 per unit and needs to be done every three to six months.
If you want to buy property in Malaysia, you’re in luck – there are few restrictions on foreigners owning property in Malaysia and the process is relatively straightforward.
Foreigners can buy landed property, apartments, condominiums, or land, as long as it’s worth more than MYR 1,000,000 ($230,000) – this is lower in some states and higher in others – and is not considered low-cost housing or on reservations of land meant for the Malay people. These rules are meant to keep foreigners from driving up the cost and availability of accommodations for native Malaysians, while still encouraging foreign investment.
There are three kinds of property titles you may want to buy: a master title, which comes with the land and usually goes to developers; a strata title, granted to property owners who have properties in shared buildings (like condos); or an individual title, which is for property that comes with land, like bungalows or houses.
To find a property to buy, check out the search websites and realtors that are included in the section on renting.
Once you’ve found a property you want to buy, it’s time to begin the house-buying procedure. You’ll need to submit an application, as part of which you must pay a lawyer .4%-1% of the property’s value.
You’ll then apply for financing. Banks in Malaysia provide up to 70%-80% of the purchase price, as long as you are working and have a valid work permit. Other banks will lend to people who have Malaysia My Second Home visas. If you’re under 50, you’ll need to show the bank proof of liquid assets worth at least RM 500,000 ($114,000) and an income of RM 10,000 ($2,200) per month. Applicants over 50 will need to show RM 350,000 ($80,000) in liquid assets and the same monthly income.
Within 14 days of submitting your application and offer, you’ll need to sign the Sale and Purchase Agreement and pay a 10% deposit to the seller. At this point, you’ll need to provide a certified copy of your passport, an assessment receipt from a surveyor, and an official application form. You’ll also need to pay a stamp duty of 4%.
Once the seller or developer approves your application, you’ll pay the balance purchase price. You will then take possession of the property on the date specified, at which point the seller will deliver the title and certificate of completion and compliance to you.
Keep in mind that a new 2019 tax rule increased the real property gains tax from 5% to 10% for those who have owned a home for six years or more. The rule also made it such that if you sell a property within five years of owning it, you’ll need to pay real property gains tax of 30% on the profit.
Consider if you want (or are able) to transport your belongings yourself or whether you will need the services of a removals company that deals with international moves. Unless you are travelling very light, or making a fairly short move by road, you will probably need professional help to ship your possessions. Ask for quotes from several companies first, ensuring that they visit your home to carry out a survey of your requirements. It may be worth paying extra for the removals firm to pack your possessions for you, particularly if they are going to be transported to a distant country and need special protection for the long journey. Make sure you bring to their attention anything fragile or precious that needs particularly careful wrapping and packing.
Before agreeing to a quotation, ensure that you are fully aware of exactly what is covered in the price, and that the service to be provided meets all of your requirements. For example, does the service include both packing and unpacking of your household effects? What about disassembling and reassembling of furniture? If you are planning to put anything into storage in your destination country while you find accommodation, does the price include final delivery and unpacking at your home, or will you need to arrange collection of the items? Obtain a firm estimate of the likely arrival date of your items and obtain contact details for any agents that will be dealing with the removal in your destination country. Ensure that the removals company is aware in advance of any practical considerations such as the lack of an elevator to your apartment, or likely parking problems.
If using a removals company, you may be required to take out their insurance cover for your possessions. Whether or not this is the case, ensure that you have adequate insurance for anything of actual or sentimental value that could get lost or damaged during the move. Take the time to accurately complete or check an inventory of your possessions to be moved, as this will form the basis for any insurance claim for losses or damages. Find out if insurance is included in the price quoted by the removals company, or whether you are required to pay extra for this.
The removals company should arrange any customs and importation documents on your behalf, but if you are arranging the move independently you will need to find out what documents are required and what import duties and taxes are payable (and whether you are eligible for exemption from these).
Make sure that you set aside the important documents you will need for the journey, such as passports and air tickets, and keep these easily accessible in your hand luggage.
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QUICK LINK: Malaysia health insurance
The Malaysian government heavily subsidises healthcare, which is paid for out of taxation. It is not a universal system, however, and Malaysia does not have a national health insurance scheme as such. A national plan, 1Care for 1Malaysia, was proposed in 2009 relating to overhauling the system, and based on the principle ‘use according to need, pay according to ability.’ However, implementation of this has so far been non-existent.
In 2011, however, the Malaysian government introduced the Foreign Worker Hospitalisation and Surgical Insurance Scheme (FWHS or SKHPPA), a compulsory scheme run by the Ministry of Health & Immigration Department for expat workers, to protect overseas workers in case of illness or accident.
You will have a choice of insurance providers, as a number of these are contracted to the government scheme.
Your employer should register you with the Foreign Worker Hospitalisation and Surgical Insurance Scheme. If you are self-employer or are not working while you live in Malaysia, you will not be covered at all by the state system and you will need to take out private insurance.
Local Banks of Malaysia
The local banks of Malaysia are governed by the Central Bank, which operates out of Kuala Lumpur. Examples of local banks include Affin Bank, AmBank Malaysia, Alliance Bank Malaysia, CIMB Bank, CitiBank, Hong Leong Bank, Maybank2u, RHB Bank and United Overseas Bank Malaysia.
Some banks, such as CIMB, has recently started targeting expats and tailoring services specifically to make foreigners more comfortable and confident in the banking system of Malaysia. Many banks offer a low, flat fee for wiring money back to your home country. There is also a deposit insurance act in place that protects up to 250,000 Malaysian Ringgit per bank customer.
Of all the local banks previously mentioned, the three below are rated as being the most expat-friendly and easy to work with. Provided that you have all of the necessary documentation, you should be able to open an account in a single visit, and walk out with a debit card if you choose to get one.
5th Floor Bangunan CIMB Jalan Semantan Damansara Heights 50490 Kuala Lumpur
Phone 1300 880 900, +603 22956100
Fax +603 2093 9688
Technology Park Malaysia, 57000 Kuala Lumpur, Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Phone +60 3-8996 1070
Level 2 Wisma Hong Leong, 18 Jalan Perak, 50450 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Phone +60 3 2164 2828
Fax +60 3 2715 8623
Many expats would prefer to stay with their original bank, but that may not always be possible overseas. It is possible to retain your accounts in the United States while opening a checking account in Malaysia for expenses. If you are running a business in Malaysia, a checking account may not be sufficient. If this is the case, you can either consult one of the banks listed above, or there is one other option. Bank of America has a big presence in Malaysia, and has several services aimed at helping expats make a success out of their stay in the country. These services mainly include business related guidance, such as trade finance, investment banking advisory services, and products for cash management and international debt and equity capital markets.
Bank of America Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur Level 18, Wisma Goldhill 67 Jalan Raja Chulan 50200
Kuala Lumpur, Jalan Raja Chulan, 50200 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah
Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Telephone: +60 3-2034 3900
Typical banking hours are 9:00 am to 4:00 pm Monday through Friday. Some branches are open in the morning on Saturdays, but they are few and far between. You can also expect the bank to be closed on public holidays.
What kinds of bank accounts are available?
Expats are eligible for three kinds of bank accounts. These are savings accounts, checking accounts, and a combination of the two. Joint accounts are also possible so long as the other account holder has the appropriate documents and can provide proof of visa.
Interesting tip: All students are permitted to open a savings account at Malaysian local banks. A student visa is required, as well as an enrollment certificate from the university that includes the intended bank of business. These banks will issue an ATM card for the account. Many universities have local bank branches on campus.
There are certain limitations to opening a bank account in Malaysia. The account holder must have the right type of visa or work permit for the account. This is where it gets confusing. It is not possible to open company accounts with student visas, guardian visas, MM2H visas, or professional visas that were not issued by the company. There can also be problems if your visa is set to expire within 6 months of you applying for a bank account. It is best to consult several banks beforehand and ask them specifically what the requirements are before applying.
What do I need to bring to open an account?
To open a bank account in Malaysia, expats must present these documents:
• Valid work permit, must not expire within the next 6 months
• Proof of address
• Partnership certificate (joint accounts)
• Statement of employment from employer
Expats who intend to live in Malaysia beyond the tourist limit must provide:
• Malaysia My Second Home Visa (MM2H)
• Original passport and copy
• Work permit
• Employment certificate
• Proof of address
Is it safe to use credit cards?
The use of credit and debit cards is not as common in Malaysia as it is in the United States and United Kingdom. Small shops, street vendors, taxi cabs, and rural businesses may not accept cards at all. It is best to have cash on hand just in case this happens. Credit and debit card holders should be cautious with their use of credit cards, as credit card fraud is common in Malaysia. In fact, Malaysia ranks in the top 10 countries for credit card fraud. ATMs are available, but only dispense Malaysian Ringgit, and many machines close at midnight. Be sure to safeguard your credit card information because many online purchases only require the card number, expiration date, and security number. A quick photo or scan can get all of this information quickly and easily.
It is also possible to apply for a credit card from a Malaysian institution. Many local banks offer credit cards. To apply for a credit card, the following documents are required:
• Paycheck stubs from the previous 3 months
• Latest tax return form
• Work permit
How about a loan?
With a valid visa and a decent credit rating, most expats are able to get loans from a Malaysian bank. The requirements are similar to those of a loan from an American institution. For an expat to apply for a loan, they should make sure they have these documents:
• Photocopy of passport
• Paycheck stubs from the previous 3 months
• Latest tax return form (less than one year old)
• For salaried employees: letter of appointment or confirmation letter stating salary and other income
• Letter of Offer, Sale and Purchase Agreement, or Deposit or booking receipt from housing developer or private seller
• Copy of land title
• Bank statements going back six months
There are many ways of sending money from one country to another. As always, expats can save themselves a lot of trouble and expense if they do a little research and shop around for the best deal.
International Bank Transfers
For most expats, currency transfer involves transferring small to medium sized amounts regularly from an existing bank account back home into a new overseas bank account in the local currency. These may be pension payments, benefits, or any other form of income.
Your home bank will usually be glad to oblige. You can set up facilities with them “on demand” whereby you fax or call them on the phone, provide a secret code or two, tell them the amount in question, and they will transfer it to your new bank, automatically converting it into the relevant local currency. Some banks also allow you to make international payments online. Whatever method you choose, transfers normally take between 3-7 days although 1-2 day transfers are often available but be prepared to pay more for these.
You can also set up regular transactions that are processed automatically on a fixed day of each month. Many state pensions and benefits can be paid directly into your new bank abroad without going through your home bank at all. Some private pension organisations may also offer the same facility.
When you first set up a transfer of funds abroad, the sending bank or institution will ask you for various codes that identify the destination bank. Often they will ask for IBAN (International Bank Account Number), BIC (Bank Identifier Code) or SWIFT codes but don?t panic – your new bank will give these to you and they may even already be listed in your new chequebook or bank statements.
As far as charges are concerned, you will probably be required to pay a flat fee per transaction. Additionally a percentage fee is often charged for the currency conversion itself. You may also find that your receiving bank charges you for receiving the transfer. Charges vary by bank but can quickly add up – ask your bank(s) for an indication of the fees involved.
As a general rule, transferring larger sums less frequently usually works out cheaper than transferring smaller amounts more often. However, if you need to transfer regular amounts of at least a few hundred pounds/dollars or need to make a larger one-off payment (e.g. for a house purchase) you should consider the services of a currency broker.
Cash Machine/ATM Withdrawals
Thanks to modern technology, most people abroad can go to a cash machine/ATM and withdraw local currency funds directly from their home bank account. This is a useful option to have for expats but exercise caution – many banks make hefty charges for using this type of facility. You may also find that withdrawal limits are in place (as a security measure) even if you significant funds in your account back home.
You can also use VISA or Mastercard credit cards to obtain cash in this fashion and if you pay the amount off quickly and avoid interest charges then fine – but once again credit card charges for cash withdrawals can be high. Check the rates carefully.
Currency brokers (also called foreign exchange brokers) offer significant advantages over traditional banks. Firstly, brokers will often be able to offer you a better rate than your bank. Secondly, the entire process is more transparent – many banks require you to accept the exchange rate available on the day they process your transaction, whatever and whenever that may be, but a specialist broker will offer greater flexibility, even allowing you to specify the rate you want in advance.
Currency brokers are smaller companies than major banks so always check their background carefully. Ask existing expats for their own experiences and recommendations before choosing a firm to handle your own foreign exchange requirements.
A good broker will discuss all the options with you and enable you to make the best decision for your circumstances. Using a broker will typically off the following advantages:
1) Currency brokers generally provide superior exchange rates to the high street banks. The currency brokers have access to the interbank rate and do not have the high costs that the banks have. This means that they can usually offer better exchange rates.
2) Use of a free Market Watch/Order Service: This allows you to tell your currency broker your target or budget exchange rate and they will ring you if that exchange rate level is reached. As the rate moves every few seconds, currency brokers can act as your eyes and ears on the market.
3) Ability to fix the exchange rate in advance using a Forward Contract. If you know you need to convert/move funds in the future but don?t yet have the money you can reserve a rate in advance using a Forward Contract. During this period, you are exposed to exchange rate movements and therefore, a forward contract is ideal if, for example, you have agreed to buy a house and want to fix the rate now but will not be making payment for a couple of months.
Savings from currency brokers can vary from between 1 and 4 per cent on the exchange rate alone, and specialists do not typically charge any fees for transmitting the funds abroad, unlike banks which often levy expensive fees or charges. If you are emigrating and transferring a large sum of money – such as the proceeds of a property – a foreign exchange company could potentially save you thousands.
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If you are going to be living and working in Malaysia, you may be wondering which languages are spoken in the country, and whether you will have problems in communicating with local people if you are a native English speaker. We will answer some of your questions below.
The official language in Malaysia is Malay, an Austronesian language, but the country is home to many more, some from overseas such as Tamil or forms of Chinese, but also many more local tongues and dialects, such as Kazadandusuns, Bajau and Sama. Many of these languages are not widely spoken and some are facing extinction. Malay itself is a standardised form of the Bahasa dialect and is also known as Bahasa Melayu.
Around 60 million people worldwide speak Malay, including in Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei and Thailand. It is an ancient language, and traces of it have been found around 600 AD. It has taken various forms and has had several scripts: it was written in Indian script in the 14th century, then Arabic, and was then replaced by Latin script in the 17th century.
English is widely spoken throughout Malaysia, which used to be a British colony and has inherited British English as its second language. It is particularly widespread in cities, such as Kuala Lumpur, and is the principal language of commerce, thus you will have little difficulty with communication in the workplace.
The most commonly spoken languages are:
• Manglish (Malay, English, Chinese and Tamil)
• Chinese (particularly in Southern Malaysia)
• Dusunic (spoken in Sabah)
Manglish is also termed Malaysian Standard English (MySE). It is spoken by around 60% of the population although it is held to be on the decline.
You may find that you slip into Manglish if you are in Malaysia for a long time, but you will also find plenty of language training provision in Malay, in Malaysia.
There are many private language schools throughout the country, particularly in the cities. These offer Malay for various purposes, from conversational Malay to language for business purposes, at a range of levels from beginners to advanced. Malay teachers say that learning the language is not as hard as you might think: it is not gendered and has only three tenses. You will find a large number of training resources online.
In addition, language exchange is possible: team up with a Malay speaker who wants to learn English.
Although you can get by if you only speak English, you may find that it is helpful to have at least a few words in Malay, particularly if you are travelling outside the cities.
You may be intending to seek work in Malaysia as an English teacher. It is a popular destination but there is not quite the same level of demand as there is in some other Asian countries, such as Japan, since Malaysia’s history as a British colony means that English is, as we outline above, widespread throughout the country and many Malaysians are already proficient. However, you will find some jobs available.
It is always easier to get work in international education if you have at least a certificate in either TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages).
It is also preferable if you have experience in teaching schemes such as the Cambridge English exams or IELTS (International English Language Testing System): the English test for study, migration or work. Some teaching experience in the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) will also be helpful. This assesses analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills in written English for use in admission to graduate management programs, such as the MBA. You may also find work more easily if you are experienced in teaching English for particular sectors, such as tourism and hospitality, or business/finance.
It will also be helpful to have at least a Bachelor’s degree as most language schools require this: basically, the rule of thumb is that the more qualifications you have, both in TEFL and in academic subjects, the easier you will find it to get work. The average monthly salary is around US$1800, and the cost of living in Malaysia is quite low. You may find that accommodation is included. Malaysian job permits require quite a high degree of bureaucracy and your employer may need to assist you with obtaining a work permit.
If you are intending to seek work in interpretation or translation, you will need a high standard of Malay and will also need the relevant qualifications. You may find that due to Malaysian levels of proficiency in English, there is not the demand for English language services that you will encounter in other Asian countries.
The World Bank reports that relatively few Malaysian students complete post secondary education. They say that educational spending is ‘adequate’: expenditure on basic education is more than double that of other ASEAN countries. However, the 2012 PISA testing showed that Malaysian students outperform only Indonesian students and educationally lag behind lower income countries such as Vietnam.
The country’s educational system is overseen by the Ministry of Education (Kementerian Pendidikan).
In Malaysian public schools the language of instruction is Bahasa Melayu. English is taught as a second language in both primary and secondary schools. In Chinese and Tamil national-type primary schools, however, Bahasa Melayu is taught as a second language and English is taught as a third language.
The education system is organised as follows:
• 6 years of compulsory primary education (starting at the age of 7)
• 3 years of lower secondary education
• 2 years of upper secondary
• 2 years of pre-university senior secondary study
There are various different schools at primary level:
• national schools
• ethnic schools (for instance, most commonly Chinese & Tamil)
• private schools
• international schools
Primary schools, whatever type they may be, follow the Malaysian National Curriculum, including study of a first language (Bahasa Melayu, Chinese or Tamil), English as a second language, Islamic education (compulsory for Muslim students), mathematics, science, civic/moral education, local studies, physical education, health education, music and art.
Primary education ends with the Primary School Achievement Test (Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah). This rates students’ abilities in written and spoken Malay and English, mathematics, and science. All students will then automatically progress on to secondary school.
Lower-secondary level (Forms 1 – 3) is not compulsory, but in practice most children in Malaysia are enrolled. The curriculum at this stage includes the national language (Bahasa Melayu), English, science, history, geography and mathematics, with other elective subjects.
Students then take the PMR, Lower Secondary Assessment test (Penitaian Menengah Rendah), which assesses students on the core curriculum subjects above. Students must pass this test in order to move on to upper secondary school and may be streamed. Upper secondary education is divided into:
• academic (arts or science)
• technical and vocational (technical, vocational or skills training)
This will depend on the PMR results and students’ own inclinations. At this level they must take the core curriculum subjects of Bahasa Melayu, English, mathematics, Islamic studies/moral education and history. Other subjects will depend on the stream in which they are placed. Students in the technical stream might take civil engineering, for instance, while those in the vocational stream may do catering.
Students from all secondary educational streams will complete their studies by taking the SPM (Open Certification Examination / Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia) administered by the Malaysian Examination Syndicate, and this will dictate their university options.
The school year runs from January – November.
If you prefer your child to attend a private school, you will find considerable choice. There are a number of international schools here — over 150 establishments — with a number of new schools opening over the next few years.
These are geared towards completion of international educational standards such as the International Baccalaureate or the Cambridge exams. Some are branches of long-standing British boarding schools; all are independently run and privately owned.
For example, the British International School of Kuala Lumpur (BSKL), now run by Nord Anglia, offers the British National Curriculum and the language of instruction is English. Fees are based on educational level and range from around US$10K per annum for nursery level, going up to around US$23K for Year 13.
Marlborough College, Malaysia, is a branch of the original English private school, based in Johor Bahru. This offers the Adapted National Curriculum for England/ IGCSE/ IB Diploma. It caters for ages 3-18 and is co-educational. It offers day and boarding facilities for around 900 students. Fees range from an upper limit of day school sixth form at just under US$10K per annum, and around US$15K for sixth form boarding.
Also in Kuala Lumpur is the Australian International School Malaysia (AISM) which follows the Australian and New South Wales Board of Studies curriculum. Fees here are in the region of the US$5K mark per term.
The Mont’Kiara International School, a day school, is home to mainly American students and offers the IB Diploma. Its 630 students range from 3-18 and it is co-educational.
Most schools will invite you for an initial visit and will put your child through an assessment: they will want to see school reports, for example. You may also need to pay admission or registration fees, and some schools may ask for a deposit. Check exactly what is included in the fees that you pay, and read the small print. Some schools may offer a sibling discount, so if you have more than one child enrolled in the same school, this could prove cost effective.
All of the schools mentioned above have had a high standard of exam results. Check your selected school’s facilities, and the range of extracurricular activities: these will vary from school to school.
You may wish to check if your selected school is registered with an international accreditation body such as the Council of British International Schools (COBIS) or the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
Homeschooling is legal in Malaysia, should you wish to go down this route, but you are legally obliged to inform the Ministry of Education if you choose to home educate your children.