KUALA LUMPUR, March 4 — Putrajaya has introduced stricter background checks for Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) applications, a popular programme that allows wealthy expatriates to stay in the country on a 10 year visa, The Straits Times reported today.
The stricter process came about after approvals for the MM2H programme were placed under the Home Ministry, the Singapore daily said, citing a Police Special Branch official.
The Tourism Ministry handles other parts of the programme.
“A letter of good conduct (for the applicant) has been a requirement since 2002, it acts as the first line of defence,” the source was quoted as saying.
“But we are stricter now due to heightened security threats such as terrorism and (criminal) syndicates, and we wouldn’t want these people to jeopardise public order.”
As a result, close to 4,000 people have had their applications stalled since September last year. It took just two months for approval before.
Set up in 2002 to woo expatriates, the programme has approved the long-stay visas for more than 40,000 people from 131 countries. An average of 3,000 foreigners were granted long-stay visas in each of the last six years, according to the official MM2H website.
To qualify, an applicant under 50 years old must have at least RM500,000 (S$166,000) in liquid assets and a monthly income of RM10,000. He or she must also open a Malaysian fixed deposit (FD) account of RM300,000.
Those above 50 must have at least RM350,000 in liquid assets and open an FD account of RM150,000.
The stricter regulation was likely introduced because of crime syndicates involved in illegal casinos, betting games and financial scams led by foreign nationals.
There are also worries over money laundering, with foreign dirty cash parked in housing units, ST said.
Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Mohamaddin Ketapi last week announced the setting up of a task force comprising officials from immigration and the police force, to speed up the approval process for the backlogged applications.
This followed complaints from the MM2H Agents Association, whose 235-member companies assist foreigners in applying for long-term visas.
MM2H Agents Association president Lim Kok Sai said Malaysia could lose up to RM1 billion a year from the influx of cash due to the delay in approvals, the Singapore daily reported.