Tag Archives: expat

Malaysia Automated Clearance System (MACS)

If you live in Johor Bahru and work in Singapore (or have some other need to commute frequently, student etc.) you would fill up your passport quickly if you got stamps in your passport for each entry and exit.

The Malaysia Automated Clearance System (MACS) uses a sticker (with embedded with a RFID chip) that is attached to the passport and scanned upon entry and departure from Malaysia. So this removes the Malaysian stamps.

MACS has been developed to cater to non-Malaysian investors, business persons and professionals. A Malaysian sponsor company is required. Working for a business in Iskandar that also required you to work in Singapore would likely qualify. This requirement is stated in some places but seems to be ignored often especially for those with a Singapore passport (which makes sense, say you are just someone who lives in Singapore and has a weekend home in JB shouldn’t you be able to use MACS?).

You can apply and receive your MACS sticker at the main Johor Bahru CIQ (ask when you are there I can’t find a direct link on their web site).

Enhanced Immigration Automated Clearance System (eIACS) brochure

Singapore has the Enhanced Immigration Automated Clearance System (eIACS) for Singapore citizens, permanent residents and Long Term Pass holders and Work pass holders. See the link for various conditions. It might only be available for those with Malaysian, USA, UK, Chinese or Australian passports (I am not sure on this part).

Please add your comments on your experience or suggestions related to commuting between Singapore and Johor Bahru.

Related: Timeline for Extending Singapore’s MRT to Johor Bahru Slips Into 2020, or BeyondTaking the Bus from Johor Bahru to SingaporeOnline Resources for Living in Johor BahruSingapore and Iskandar Malaysia

2014 Make Malaysia My 2nd Home (MM2H) Statistics

Make Malaysia My 2nd Home (MM2H) is the program started by Malaysia in 2002 to encourage expats to stay in Malaysia by offering a long term (10 year) visa. The MM2H program is a very good idea to aid economic development in my opinion. It brings in foreign currency which is very useful: both from fixed deposits and spending by expats.

The currency help is especially helpful right now. The Malaysian Ringitt has collapsed in the last few months to just 3.57 MYR to the US $ now. It was stable at about 3 a couple years ago and slowly declined to 3.3 over a couple years before the recent collapse. The collapse is due to high government and consumer debt in Malaysia and the recent collapse of oil prices. Malaysia was running up large debts even when oil prices were high and the danger of doing so has come home to roost.

The MM2H program targets retirees and future retires and provides a relatively small but still consistent and useful inflow of hard currency which helps support the Ringitt (the recent collapse would be even worse without this support).

Since the program was started in 2002, 27,000 expats have been approved.

country 2014 total
China 1,294 6,219
Japan 362 3,546
Bangladesh 252 3,007
UK 93 2,169
Iran 23 1,312
Singapore 77 1,109
Taiwan 83 1,043
Pakistan 63 919
Korea 114 911
India 46 774

*data for 2014 is for 11 months, through November 2014.

China participation has exploded to 40% of the total in the last 2 years. From 2002 through 2012 China was granted 18% of MM2H visas.

It appears likely 2014 will finish with the 3rd largest number of MM2H visa granted just behind 2013 and 2012.

North America had 75 in 2014 and 1,017 total. South America has just 24 total. Africa had 31 in 2014 and 318 total while Oceana (which includes Australia and New Zealand) had 52 in 2014 and 743 total. Europe overall had 194 in 2014 and 3,553 total while Asia had 2,500 in 2014 and 21,212 total (which is 79% of all MM2H visas).

Related: Make Malaysia My 2nd Home (MM2H) Statistics (2012)Looking at the Malaysian Economy (2013)Iskandar Housing, Real Estate Investment Considerations

Iskandar: Present and Future

The potential for Iskandar, and the extended Johor Bahru, region remains strong. But the lack of progress on transportation issues for getting back and forth from Singapore are a huge problem for anyone wanting to think about living in the area now. I also remain worried about the huge imbalance between a huge boom in luxury condo development and the lack of a similar visible increase in high paying jobs to afford the huge numbers of luxury condos coming on the market now, and over the next 5 years.

The imbalance between office buildings and the huge numbers of luxury condo high rises continues to be a big warning sign I think. Add to that the very poor job done thus far dealing with the very initial stage of what will soon be a flood of cross border traffic is a huge warning sign that investors should heed.

The cooling measures on real estate investment were wise, though late (I would have done it a bit differently but overall taking cooling measure was, and is, a good idea).

There needs to have been more done sooner on the cross border transportation issues – a 3rd link should have been operational last year. The MRT should be under construction now. And more focus should be on bringing in high paying jobs to fill office buildings and then getting those built.

Without much more progress on transportation and many more high paying office jobs the current number of luxury condo buildings should not have been allowed. The efforts on health care and education and the good jobs they provide, as part of the Iskandar initiative, have been good but those jobs don’t come remotely close to justifying even a small fraction of the luxury condo units under construction.

Several new big hotels are a good boost for the economy (and are great tax revenue sources). Retail efforts are good (and also good for providing lots of jobs and tax revenue) but how much more can be expected there without better paying jobs elsewhere in the local economy (basically I think this is a good focus but I think everything that can be hoped for is being done)? Theme parks are a good hope for bringing in tourists and boosting the economy (and filling up those hotels and bringing in tax revenue and providing jobs). It seems to me the very bad transportation problems over the last year in moving between Singapore and JB are a big problem for investors in this area though (if I were such an investor I wouldn’t commit more investments until the situation was much improved and there was reason to believe it wouldn’t be allowed to fall back into the situation we have been living with now). The manufacturing efforts have been decent but are not very significant thus far in producing high paying jobs.

One example of a mistake that is going to cause problems for decades is failing to install fiber in brand new luxury condo buildings. Even if developers don’t want to invest in the future I would not have approved building plans for luxury condos after 2010 that did not include wiring every unit for fiber. Fiber is the future of high tech living and not investing in it is not the way to become known as a future focused location. Economic development requires thinking of the future and not allowing shortcuts and cheap solutions today from capping the potential for the future.

The potential for Iskandar remains as strong as it is for almost any region on the globe. But the next 10 years can build a solid foundation for long term success or can result in a system that is difficult to build upon (such as a huge imbalance in real estate, toward luxury condos for example, or a bad transportation system – which are hugely costly to deal with). The next 10 years is much more challenging to do well than the last 10 years – the begging was very easy by comparison to the challenges faced now. If it is done well, I can see the Iskandar/JB region paired with Singapore in creating one of the most vibrant areas on the globe and creating great jobs and lives for those living here (Singapore will also benefit greatly from this being done well).

Related: Iskandar Housing Real Estate Investment Considerations (2011)Minimum Housing Prices for Foreigners Investing In Malaysia Rise to RM 1,000,000The Potential of Iskandar is Very High but Investing in Iskandar has Risks (2011)

Tera Thai Restaurant

photo of Tera Thai restaurant building

Tera Thai restaurant is in an old house.

Tera Thai restaurant is near downtown Johor Bahru. Still some taxi drivers have a problem finding it – even with an address. It really shouldn’t be hard it is about 2 km away from the Thistle hotel but it in a quiet area with not much else around (it is near Sri Mulia Condominium and to get to Pangsapuri Adamai Condo, you have to pass the restaurant).

photo of beef dish

This was a great beef dish at Tera Thai, but I can’t remember what it is called.

It is a very nice restaurant with a great atmosphere and good service. The food is very good.

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Best Retirement Options: Ecuador, Panama, Malaysia

The MarketWatch web site (connected to the Wall Street Journal) provides a list of top international retirement destination and places Malaysia in the 3rd spot, after Ecuador and Panama.

The article notes the benefits of Malaysia as

  • Good and reasonably priced health care
  • English as the unofficial “first language” (it is a bit of a stretch to claim this, in my opinion, but you can get by in English).
  • Good weather with beaches, islands and jungles to enjoy.
  • Good food
  • Affordable prices

I would add the MM2H visa and the ability to buy property.

The list is packed with Central and South American options along with 2 in Europe and 2 in Asia. Rounding out the top 10 are: Mexico, Costa Rica, Uruguay, Colombia, Spain, Thailand and Malta.

Related: Retiring Overseas is an Appealing Option for Some RetireesMinimum Housing Prices for Foreigners Investing In Malaysia Rise to RM 1,000,000 (lower for MM2H participants) – Penang Condo MarketHotels and Accommodations for Travelers in Malaysia

Quality of Life and Personal Safety International Rankings for Cities

Mercer Quality of Living Survey, Worldwide Rankings, 2011. Selected cities to put Johor Bahru and Kuala Lumpor’s rankings in context (in SE Asia and the world).

Rank City, Country
1 Vienna, Austria
2 Zurich, Switzerland
3 Auckland, New Zealand
4 Munich, Germany
5 Vancouver, Canada
11 Sydney, Australia
18 Melbourne, Australia
25 Singapore, Singapore
30 Paris, France
30 San Francisco, California, USA
43 Washington, DC, USA
46 Tokyo, Japan
47 New York City, NY, USA
70 Hong Kong, China
76 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
80 Seoul, South Korea
83 Athens, Greece
85 Taipei, Taiwan
88 Cape Town, South Africa
95 Shanghai, China
97 Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
101 Brasilia, Brazil
101 Johor Bahru, Malaysia
109 Beijing, China
121 Bangkok, Thailand
121 Mexico City, Mexico
128 Manila, Philippines
135 Cairo, Egypt
140 Jakarta, Indonesia
141 Bangalore, India
143 New Delhi, India
147 Hanoi, Vietnam
186 Phnom Penh, Cambodia – Phnom Penh Travel information
196 Yangon, Myanmar

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Make Malaysia My 2nd Home (MM2H) Statistics

Make Malaysia My 2nd Home (MM2H) is the program from Malaysia to encourage expats to stay in Malaysia by offering a long term (10 year) visa. Here are some statistics on the participants.

Since the program was started in 2002 18,000 expats have been approved. 13,600 are from Asia, 2,900 from Europe, 800 from the Americas, 500 from Oceania and 200 from Africa. Countries that are consistently among the top countries yearly are: China, Japan, Iran, UK, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Australia, Korea.

In 2005 2,615 people were approved. 2012 was the next highest year at 2,387. Between 2005 and 2012 the approvals were close to 1,500. This year, through March (if I understand correctly), there have been 887 new MM2H visas issued.

The MM2H is a very good idea to aid economic development in my opinion. It provides a way for people to look into Malaysia as a retirement location, prior to retiring. That is a great way to encourage interest in the country. I would setup a similar program if I was responsible for another country (I don’t know of any such programs elsewhere) – I would imagine there will be several countries doing so in the next 10 years. I have a feeling there may be countries in South America that have something similar but I am not sure.

Related: MM2H statistics pageResidence Pass for Talented ExpatsIskandar Housing Real Estate Investment ConsiderationsMalaysian BlogsJohor Bahru Customs, Immigration, and Quarantine Complex (CIQ)

Paying Bills Electronically

Paying bills electronically isn’t as straight forward as it should be. For example, for my electricity bill I asked my real estate agent how to pay it and was told it could only be done online through 2 banks and suggesting I try my management office or paying in person. Well after a bit of investigation I found that one option to pay online was only available through 2 banks (but that options was closed down “to upgrade and better server our customers”). But another method to pay online is available through many banks.

Why real estate agents can’t even provide such basic information correctly is beyond me. I would expect such details as the very minimum to be expected of real estate agents serving expats. But sadly that seems to be the way it is.

I talked to my management office and they would take the payment but only bring the payments to the electric company every few weeks so they suggested paying at any post office (we don’t have many expats at this condo so their preference for paying in person instead of finding an internet solution is not that surprising). You can also mail the payments back (but I don’t have checks or stamps yet so that option doesn’t appeal to me).

If you want to pay online, go directly to your bank and go through the paying bills online section.

Another bill I have to pay directly is for my internet service. There is some option to pay online but you have to print out a form, complete it and mail it back in (this is just to make a payment). I am not sure why they don’t make it easier to pay online. Partially I am sure this is a preference of some people here to pay in person. Also I am sure it is because paying staff salaries is not a huge cash drain. In countries with higher staff salaries companies make it as easy as possible to pay online and avoid paying staff to just process payments made in person.

It looks like the best way to make payments is through your bank’s web site. Which is fine, now that I understand that is the way to do things.

Related: Android Mobile Phone Options in MalaysiaGiving Back to MalaysiaHotels and Accomations for Travelers in Malaysia

Vaccinations and Medical Services from the Clinic Australia

photo of strip mall and Klinik Australia fascade

External view the the Clinic Australia

I needed a vaccination booster and so looked for a place to get such services in Johor Bahru. I tried the Clinic Australia, near Plaza Pelangi, and was happy with the results. The clinic is located behind the Plaza Pelangi in the strip mall that hosts a few popular restaurants including: Rosmarino (Italian), Warakuya (Japanese) and Mulligan’s Irish Pub.

The clinic is a small operation in a strip of shops. I don’t think you can make reservations, I didn’t anyway, you just show up and wait as people are taken care of. They offer vaccinations and check ups (for visa, pre-employment and insurance). They also offer flu shots.

photo of the waiting room for the Clinic Austrailia

The waiting room is half of the available space (I think).

Related: Getting a Voltage Transformer in Johor BahruNursery in Johor BahruJohor Bahru shopping directory

Address: 37 Jalan Kuning 2, Taman Peangi, 80400 Johor Bahru.
Phone: 07-3319380
No website or email.