Malaysia is implementing a new system to make it easier for companies to apply for employment visas, hoping to draw foreign professionals to the country’s core industries and boost its post-pandemic economy.
Last Thursday, the country launched the Xpats Gateway, a single window application system that speeds up the processing time for expatriate visas. Employers in finance, energy and other important sectors are prioritised, with processing time shortened to five working days.
Speaking on the Xpats Gateway, Economy Minister, Rafizi Ramli, in a statement said: “This will not only speed up the application process but also make it easier for [companies that apply for their employees’ visas]. They no longer need to go to many different agencies; all will be integrated within one application.”
“Previously the application process had to squeeze through a series of bottlenecks at multiple agencies, resulting in waiting periods of about three months,” Rafizi added.
The new system ranks companies from Tier 1 to Tier 5 based on five key indicators: whether the employer is in the country’s 12 key economic areas, a company’s life cycle stage, revenues, issued capital and track record. Applications from Tier 1 and Tier 2 companies will be processed within five working days.
The 12 key areas include oil, gas and energy, financial services, communications content and infrastructure.
The overhaul comes as Malaysia seeks to attract talent for core and emerging sectors. The South East Asian country of 33 million has been accepting foreign workers in various fields, with the number standing at around 1.5 million as of 2022, according to Human Resources Minister, V. Sivakumar’s reply in Parliament in March 2023. The total number of foreign workers in Malaysia in 2019, before the pandemic, was 2 million.
In 2022, Malaysia introduced a digital nomad visa programme targeting IT professionals such as cybersecurity experts, software developers, digital content creators and developers.
The lack of talent and skills “poses a major challenge for growing companies, leading to the lack of higher wages and value jobs,” Rafizi said, referring to the digital and technology sectors as catalysts for economic growth.
According to Malaysia’s Critical Occupations List, released in April, talent retention has become increasingly challenging for companies in Malaysia, especially within the aerospace, construction and food-processing industries. The report also cites low technical skills and slow technological adoption due to a lack of financial incentives and expertise. In addition, heavy investment and training costs have contributed to the talent shortage in those sectors, the report says.
Governments across Asia have been rolling out measures to attract talent, leading to an intensifying regional race for workers. Neighbouring Thailand in September introduced the Long-Term Resident visa that allows holders to stay in the country for 10 years. It targets foreign professionals in sectors such as electric vehicles and biotechnology, remote workers who wish to live in Thailand and wealthy retirees.
Another neighbour, Singapore, in January launched the Overseas Networks & Expertise Pass, targeting top global talent. The visa allows high-earning individuals to stay in the city-state for five years and work for multiple employers.
(Culled from NIKKEI Asia)