All About Work Permits in Malaysia: Types, How to Apply, & Renewal Process

All About Work Permits in Malaysia: Types, How to Apply, & Renewal Process

Asia is on a roll right now in terms of job prospects for professionals. From Singapore to Taiwan, companies across the continent are in desperate need of quality talent, and Malaysia is no exception.

But, before you can start sampling every nasi lemak in sight, you need to find a job, ideally with CakeResume using the best job portal for careers in APAC. After that, it’s onto one of the work permits Malaysia requires for legal expat employment, as you can only apply to these once there’s already an employment contract in your pocket.

With such strict regulations and variety of Malaysia work permits available, we’ve decided to provide you with a quick overview covering all the information related to choosing, applying, and renewing a work permit in Malaysia, making it easy to come and work in the country of nasi lemak.

Types of Work Permits in Malaysia

Employment Pass (EP)

Features and Requirements

The Employment Pass (EP) is a comprehensive type of work permit that is designed for skilled foreign professionals seeking employment in Malaysia. Although this Malaysia work permit features three categories based on income levels and (educational) qualifications, qualifying expats for the Employment Pass must be at least 27 years old, or 23 for roles in the IT industry.

Categories and Criteria

There are three Employment Pass work permits for Malaysia, aptly named Employment Pass Category 1, Category 2, and Category 3. The Malaysia Employment Pass Category 1 is tailored for professionals in key executive positions, Category 2 and 3 are for managerial professionals and non-executive skilled workers respectively. 

Employment Pass Category 1: Expats considered for this Malaysia work permit must have a valid employment contract in a key company position, such as CEOs, executives, directors, for a minimum of 2 to a maximum of 5 years, with a minimum monthly salary of $2,145 USD (RM10,000).

Employment Pass Category 2: Those in professional and managerial positions, such as marketing managers, professors, and investment managers, that earn a monthly salary between $1000 USD to just over $2140 USD (RM 5,000 and RM 9,999) for a minimum of two years are able to apply for this work permit in Malaysia. 

Employment Pass Category 3: Highly skilled and experienced workers in non-executive positions like design, manufacturing, and tech are eligible to apply for this Malaysia work permit, as long as they are set to earn a monthly salary between roughly $644 to just over $1000 USD (RM3000 and RM4999) for a maximum of two years. 

Temporary Employment Pass (PLKS)

Purpose and Applicability

The Temporary Employment Pass (PLKS) acts as a short-term work permit in Malaysia for non-skilled workers, and is only applicable to certain industries and sectors. 

With two categories, the PLKS is either for foreign workers in construction, manufacturing, agriculture, services, and plantation, or female individuals between the ages of 21 and 45 to care for young children or the elderly as Foreign Domestic Helpers.

Eligibility and Duration

Those eligible for obtaining a Temporary Employment Pass must be between the ages of 18 and 45 and from the designated list of approved countries. More importantly, expats must be in a contract of employment with a maximum salary of just over $1000 USD (RM5000) per month and/or for a maximum of 2 years, although this can be extended yearly for up to 10 years. 

Professional Visit Pass (PVP)

Purpose and Scope

The Professional Visit Pass (PVP) acts as a temporary work permit Malaysia offers for professionals attending matters in Malaysia, such as business meetings, conferences, or short-term assignments like those for visiting lecturers, foreign media correspondents, volunteers, etc.

Eligibility and Conditions

Those eligible for obtaining a Professional Visit Pass must be employed at a non-Malaysian company and be set to work on behalf of this company in Malaysia, under the supervision of a Malaysian company (your sponsor) for a maximum of one year. What this means is that your Malaysian sponsor company will make the application for your work permit in Malaysia, so your original company won’t have to worry about how to apply for a work permit in Malaysia. 

Application Process for Work Permits in Malaysia

Required Documents


Document Checklist

As part of the application process, candidates will need to have the following documents on hand and sent to their employer:

  • Valid passport (for next 6 months at least) and a copy
  • Copy of Official university diploma(s)/transcript(s)
  • Detailed resume
  • Reference letter(s) from previous employment
  • 2 passport sized color photographs (of you)
  • Copy of employment contract from company
  • Description of the job you will be doing for said company in Malaysia
  • Employment pass application form (completed)

Notarization and Translation

Whether it be for work permits in Malaysia or work permits in Taiwan, notarizing and translating documents is a common ask of foreign applicants based in countries where English is not the lingua franca and their official documents are not in English (or Malay, in this case).

Luckily, it’s not hard to find a notary body to authenticate and translate your documents, with even a quick Google search pulling up results. However, when in doubt, it’s always worth shooting off a quick line to the Malaysia Overseas Mission in your country for confirmation about what services you are expected to use.

Online vs. Physical Submission

While there are a few steps to applying for a working visa in Malaysia, the bulk of the work is actually done by the employer. That’s because employers are the ones who go through the government approval process, meaning that soon-to-be expats don’t play a large role in how to apply for work permits in Malaysia. 

According to the Expatriate Services Division (ESD), employers need to log in to the ESD website to fill in, upload, and submit all the required information about the candidate. Once paid and approved, a Visa with Reference letter will be issued (and accessed online or picked up at a MYXpats Centre) which will then be needed when candidates go to a MYXpats Centre or immigration office to confirm their passport.

Submission Timelines

Unlike other work permit issuers -  UK takes between three to eight weeks  - Malaysia work permits take a maximum of 5 working days to be issued. Being that as it may, there is much to get in order before submitting your work permit Malaysia application, therefore it’s advised that you leave as many as ten weeks from the start of gathering documents to receiving your freshly minted Malaysia work permit.

Processing Time

Factors Influencing Processing Time

The ten week timeline mention earlier is influenced by alternative factors that could impact the overall processing time of your work permit Malaysia application, such as:

  • Delayed payment fee
  • Incorrect or missing documentation
  • Incorrect type of work permit chosen

However, it’s really the external factors, i.e. employers,  that can heavily influence your work permit Malaysia processing time. Seeing as they are the only ones who can start your application, the immigration process could be incredibly slow depending on the actions of your employer. This is why it’s a good idea to have a large buffer of ten weeks in your timeline.

Expedited Processing Options

With that said, if all your documents are in order, there’s little need for urgent or time-sensitive Malaysia work permit applications as the process itself is extremely swift. There also does not appear to be an expedited processing option.

Renewal and Extension of Malaysia Work Permits

Renewal Process

When it comes to thinking about how to renew work permits in Malaysia, what you should really be concerned about is do you remember all the steps you went through to initially gain a work permit, because the process for renewing is practically identical. With the exception of needing salary slips and proof of tax payment for renewing. 

Things are also a little different for those wanting to change employers, although the document checklist outlined earlier is still required. This is because Malaysia has strict regulations regarding career changes for expatriates. Specifically, expatriates are permitted to work only for the employer initially listed on their Malaysia work permit, indicating a lack of flexibility in changing employers.

If a new company is on the cards, expats have to get a new work permit. They also have to obtain a release letter from the old employer that confirms this change, in addition to the employment contract from the new employer. All of which has to be added to your work permit renewal process.

Extension of Stay

Although some work permits in Malaysia are issued for a maximum of 60 months, not all allow expats to remain in-country for this long. Should you find that the company needs change or future business dealings in Malaysia are on the cards, you may need to extend your stay. Thankfully, whatever the reason, renewing your Malaysia work permit is super easy as long as you are not on an Employment Pass Category 3, as this cannot be renewed more than twice.


The importance of understanding the detailed process of how to apply for work permits in Malaysia cannot be understated when it comes to your application being processed successfully and being able to have a legally compliant stay. It goes without saying that this extends to the work permit Malaysia renewal process as well. 

As a result, it is paramount that prospective workers in Malaysia know the specific eligibility criteria for the Employment Pass, Temporary Employment Pass, and Professional Visit Pass, and which work permit type suits them best, as well as the necessary documents they will need to provide their employer with for their initial application and/or renewal. 

Lastly, while CakeResume offers a variety of resources for professionals in Malaysia that we would love you to explore, please also remember to refer to official sources and seek professional advice for specific situations that arise along your Malaysia work permit journey.

CakeResume is a free resume maker and portfolio builder that provides hundreds of resume templates (free download) and various job resume examples to help showcase the best you. Landing your dream job will be a piece of cake!

— Originally Written by Eva O'mara—

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