SEPTEMBER 10 — In 2015 my wife and I began to consider our retirement plans. We knew that we wanted to move to SE Asia as we wanted to take advantage of our age and travel throughout this part of our world while our health still permitted. While researching online, my wife discovered the Malaysia My 2nd Home (MM2H) programme. After spending a holiday here in 2016 we were convinced, Malaysia would become our new home!
We initially chose Malaysia because of its high use of English, central location for easy travel throughout Asia, and the promise of a renewable 10-year MM2H visa. After retiring and moving to Penang in 2018, our reasons for living here have changed significantly.
We quickly came to love so many things about living in Malaysia. Friendly smiles from almost everyone we encounter, or a strangers willingness to go out of their way to help a lost and bumbling orang asing convinced us that Malaysians are truly warm and friendly people. We love it when a local proudly recommends their favourite food such as Penang laksa, curry mee, ikan bakar, chicken masala, durian kampung, rojak or cendol and have come to embrace the food culture here. We have marked our calendars with all of the holidays celebrated here and have come to realise that not only is Malaysia a multi-ethnic, multicultural society but more importantly, you allow each group to maintain their separate and unique cultural identities (unlike our country that forces immigrants to assimilate and conform).
We have tried our best to fit in here in Malaysia. We now have an adik lelaki and an adik perempuan and we love spending time at their house in Kota Kuala Mudah. We have helped honour relatives at wakes and funerals with new friends here on Pulau Penang and in Seberang Perai. I continue to study Bahasa and do my best to learn Hokkien (just knowing lu ho bo, cam siah and ho chiah go a long way here on the island). We’ve also learned to say salaam pakcik/makcik in Kedah and found out that a simple nandri usually elicits another smile when ordering roti canai or nasi kandar. We have supported a fund-raiser for the volunteer bomba in Tanjung Bungah (Mount Erskine), attended a dinner honouring the police for their efforts during the pandemic, and were privileged to have tea with the former Governor of Penang (and yes, I was taught by a friend to address him as Tuan Yang Terutama).
However, beginning October 1st, the rules of the MM2H programme (and the lives of all MM2H visa-holders) will change. While the original rules of the programme required applicants to have a minimum of RM10,000 per month in offshore income, we will now be required to have RM40,000 per month. The original rules required us to deposit RM150,000 in a fixed deposit here in Malaysia, we will now be required to place RM1,000,000 in a fixed deposit. As financially blessed as my wife and I are, we (along with 90-95 per cent of all visa holders) will no longer qualify for the programme and will have to leave Malaysia when our visas expire.
We are privileged to live here in Malaysia and know that the government has the right to change the rules under which we live, and we acknowledge that we are not entitled to any special treatment. More importantly, the Malaysian government is currently focused on leading our country out of the most challenging situation since World War 2, not on trying to appease a small number of kaya orang asing. However, the promise of the MM2H programme has always been that any new, stricter requirements would NOT be applied to existing visa holders. Our hope and prayer are that Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin will reconsider the recently announced requirements as they apply to the current visa holders. We sincerely want to remain in Malaysia and enjoy the wonderfully diverse and hospitable culture that you have created here.
William (BJ) Huffman
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or organisation and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.