Moving Overseas: Malaysia, first in a series

People are on the move all over the planet: students moving for study; workers moving for better job opportunities; refugees fleeing violence and oppression; retirees moving for a change in outlook, lifestyle or adventure; tourists traveling for fun.

Southeast Asia is a popular destination for foreigners who want to move overseas whether it be for retirement, work or just a change of life. It would be interesting to see the statistics on the number of Americans who are leaving the States for overseas destinations as the economy of the US still seems stuck in the doldrums. Life in Southeast Asia can certainly be less expensive than life in the States, and the warm weather is attractive for those of us getting on in years who don’t want to deal with cold weather and snow. I’ve already written extensively about life here in Indonesia. But, there is another Southeast Asian country that is actively seeking foreigners who want to relocate to this part of the world: Malaysia.

Malaysia’s government set up the Malaysia My Second Home program (MM2H) for foreigners who want to move to the country on a long term basis. Some of the features of the program are: a ten-year multiple-entry visa, tax-free import privileges, the ability to purchase a home, the ability to invest in and own a business, no taxes on income earned outside the country, and a clear set of procedures for entry into the program.

MM2H has two sets of financial requirements: one for people under 50, and one for people over 50. The under-50 requirements are a bit stiff in regards to finances – it’s required to have a minimum of RM500,000 and a monthly offshore income of RM10,000; that’s around USD165,000 and USD3,333. So, foreigners who want to retire early need to have some significant financial resources available. For the over-50 crowd, things are a bit more reasonable. We need to have RM350,000 in assets and a monthly income from a government approved pension of RM10,000, or a fixed deposit account in Malaysia of RM150,000. While it is possible to purchase a house, the price of the house has to be at least RM500,000. So, while the 10-year visa and tax-free status looks great, the financial requirements may be above the resources of many of us.

photo by: By Azreey - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

photo by: By AzreeyOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Reading a few blogs about life for expats in Malaysia, their experiences seem to be very similar in many respects to that of life for expats in Indonesia. The positives about moving to Malaysia include a low cost of living, an infrastructure that is one of the most developed in Southeast Asia, a stable political system, a low crime rate, the multiculturalism of the country and an excellent location for traveling around the region.

So, as potential expats look around for places in SE Asia to retire to, Malaysia appears to offer some attractive benefits but at a cost. At this stage, Indonesia’s financial requirements for long-term residency are lower than Malaysia’s. For someone like me with a retirement income below the Malaysian requirements, I’d say that retiring in Indonesia is the more attractive option.

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