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).
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 Beyond – Taking the Bus from Johor Bahru to Singapore – Online Resources for Living in Johor Bahru – Singapore and Iskandar Malaysia
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.
*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
One of the many advantages of living in Malaysia is the number of great tourist destinations that are fairly easy to travel to. The plane trips are so much better than the horrible system now in place in the USA (much better service, no TSA security theater, many fewer delays…). Prices are reasonable also. I will gladly pay $50 US to fly on the airlines like Malaysia Airlines (which I flew this time) and Singapore Airlines over some of the budget airlines. I just don’t want to deal with companies that are going to try to rip you off any chance they get and have much less reliable flights (cancelling them more often, etc.). I will fly Firefly.
The flights from Johor Bahru are not very good, pretty much you have to go through Kuala Lumpor, which is fine, but you can be stuck with long waits which I don’t like. Still often it is preferable to flying out of Singapore (though not always). On this trip, to avoid that long delay I was able to fly JB to KL to Siem Reap and then on the way back fly Phnom Penh to KL to JB. These both had short layovers but Siem Reap to KL to JB had over 4 hours wait. I took the bus from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh.
Siem Reap, Cambodia Airport
The Siem Reap airport is nice, new and small. You need a passport photo for your visa (which I just happen to carry with me from my memories as a child of needed them, but I hadn’t read anything about needing them). Those with passports from many countries you can get a visa at the airport (you don’t need one in advance) but you should make sure this is true for your country in advance. The cost was $20 US. I would imagine that you can get the photo there (for a high price, I would guess) but even more annoying is probably the delay it would add of waiting in another line).
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 page – Residence Pass for Talented Expats – Iskandar Housing Real Estate Investment Considerations – Malaysian Blogs – Johor Bahru Customs, Immigration, and Quarantine Complex (CIQ)
Johor Bahru CIQ
The Johor Bahru Customs, Immigration, and Quarantine Complex (CIQ) is a very large complex at the causeway to Singapore that accommodates Malaysian customs check for cars, trucks, buses and the JB Sentral train station. The CIQ was opened in 2008. The complex is know as CIQ – if you tell a taxi for example they will know where you mean to go if you say CIQ.
Looking up to Johor Bahru CIQ from the street (all photos by John Hunter)
Queues are often reasonable but at rush hour (especially leaving Singapore on Friday’s and near public holidays) can be long. In several ways taking the bus is quite appealing (costs of bringing a car into Singapore plus tolls and there are significant restrictions on taxis that make that option difficult) but the walking from the entrance to the custom lines is quite a distance so that will add 5 minutes to your time. And waiting for a bus once you clear customs can add another 5 – 10 minutes. [update – given all the long delays and complaints from people they reopened walking over the causway as an option. A newspaper story in 2016 claimed 300,000 people walk across each day, that surprises me and I am not 100% sure the number is accurate]
The 2nd link (to the West) has shorter queues currently (these are the only 2 links between Singapore and Johor Bahru now). That is one of the reasons many people have been buying out near the 2nd link. Also that is a focus area for the Iskandar economic development initiative and the available of housing estates with integrated security and new bungalows is another attraction.
JB Sentral, which opened in 2010, is located in the same area and includes the train station and a large bus terminal.
Singapore and Malaysia have been taking recently about extending the MRT (light rail) from Singapore into Johor Bahru before the end of this decade and the likely location of the first stop is JB Sentral. This MRT (and extending 5 to 7 more stops in Johor Bahru will be a welcome improvement to mass transit and continue to build the economic ties between the two cities. Currently you have to take the long walk through Malaysian customs, then walk to the bus, take it over the causeway, walk through Singapore customs, catch the bus again and then got to the MRT (which for some reason isn’t the closer Woodlands MRT but the Kranji MRT). So just getting on the MRT in JB and clearing customs and getting right back on will be a big improvement. Of course they will have to add quite a few more customs staff to prevent long queues.
Related: Taking the Bus from Johor Bahru to Singapore – Residence Pass for Talented Expats – Penang Condo Market
I wrote about the Malaysian Residence Pass for Skilled Professionals previously. I found some up to date links to the official site, with some updated information (do see my original post, as the post shares information I don’t see on the official site now – that information may not be official but it does provide some good ideas on what was being thought of when the program was originally announced).
One part of the plan for long term economic growth is to focus on workers with highly valued talents globally: technology, engineering (oil production, construction, manufacturing…), higher education, health care… From the official TalentCorp site (this is the organization the government is putting in charge of implementation of the efforts to attract and grow talent):
a nation’s economic growth would hinge on its ability to attract, nurture and retain top talent. Malaysia has thus far achieved some success in steering its economy to current levels. Going forward, talent is expected to play a key role in supporting Malaysia achieve its objectives of propelling the economy to a high-income status.
Major cities around the world have thrived because of talent and their ability to capitalize on the best and brightest minds around. Malaysian professionals from abroad and top foreign talent complement the Malaysian talent pool, providing variety and diversity in terms of expertise and experience. Our local pool must be enhanced with the best skills and talents that can be tapped globally.
We welcome talent to Malaysia, which offers a host of opportunities for talent to develop and enhance their skills and experience in key sectors of the economy. The Malaysian Government has rolled out various initiatives and programs to engage top foreign talent in the long term.
As I mentioned the Residence Pass (which offers a long term visa without being tied to 1 employer – for skilled professionals) program was signed in April of 2011 to attract and keep top talent in Malaysia. Since my original post the program is officially providing the new passes. However, at this time, it is limited to those expats already with a current visa and having been in Malaysia on such a visa for the last 3 years.
Obviously this is a very small percentage of the talent available globally. So the program will obviously need to expand to be more useful. But I don’t see any details on when that will happen. I have asked but have not received a response yet. Please share information you have that others would find interesting.
As I said before, I think this effort to attract, retain and encourage the development of internationally valuable talent is a very wise move by Malaysia. I have written about the importance of science and engineering to economic development on the Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog for years: How to Build a World Class Technology Economy (2006) – The Economic Benefits of Engineering Excellence (2007) – Keeping Out Technology Workers is not a Good Economic Strategy (2009) – Science and Engineering in Global Economics (2006) – Asia: Rising Stars of Science and Engineering (2007).
Related: Penang Condo Market – Strong Singapore Dollar – Singapore Ranks Highly as an Expat Destination