Government’s reluctance to review MM2H visa criteria is ‘mind-boggling, outrageous’: Johor sultan

JOHOR BAHRU: The Johor sultan has criticised the Ministry of Home Affairs for its reluctance to review the new criteria of the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme, which were tightened recently to ensure the quality of the applicants.

“(Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar) said the ministry’s decision was mind-boggling and outrageous, considering that MM2H had brought huge economic benefits to Malaysia,” according to a post on the ruler’s Facebook page on Friday (Sep 17).

The MM2H programme, introduced in 2002, is a long-term visa scheme for foreigners to purchase property and reside in Malaysia. It was temporarily halted in August 2020 pending review by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, according to Bernama.

On Aug 11, Ministry of Home Affairs secretary-general Wan Ahmad Dahlan Abdul Aziz announced in a press conference that the programme would be reactivated with improved policies and conditions to balance security and economic aspects. 

Participants will now be required to have a monthly offshore income of at least RM40,000 (US$9,600), up from RM10,000 previously.

They also need to have a fixed deposit of RM1 million, compared with the previous conditions of between RM150,000 and RM300,000.

Additionally, MM2H applicants will have to prove ownership of liquid assets worth at least RM1.5 million.

Government’s reluctance to review MM2H visa criteria is ‘mind-boggling, outrageous’: Johor sultan
Johor ruler Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar speaking at the Johor state assembly on Aug 12, 2021. (Photo: Facebook/Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar)

The enhanced conditions have sparked heated discussions among existing MM2H visa holders and stakeholders, who said the new rules are too stringent. 

The Johor ruler has been among the vocal critics. Last month, he urged the government to revise the conditions as they would dampen foreigners’ interest in coming to Malaysia and forcing existing MM2H participants to leave the country.   

“This means massive revenue loss for Malaysia. 

“The review was supposed to make things better but the new criteria is only going to drive investors and tourists away from Malaysia,” he said in a Facebook post on Aug 30.

Home Affairs Minister Hamzah Zainuddin was quoted as saying that the government was prepared to re-examine the new criteria.

“We will look into them seriously,” he said, according to the Star. 

Subsequently, he said in parliament on Sep 14 that the revised criteria added an additional layer of protection for national security purposes. The enhanced conditions were to attract genuine, high quality participants who could contribute positively to economic growth, he was quoted as saying by the Star. 

He said for previous participants, it would be decided based on a case-to-case basis due to the security concerns. Some of them were disguised as MM2H participants but were using Malaysia as a “transit” to carry out unlawful activities, he claimed.  

The Johor ruler, in his Friday Facebook post, said the minister had rejected the appeals for a review despite his earlier promise. 

“What we have heard in parliament is a mere promise to consider MM2H applicants on a case-by-case basis. It falls short of expectations and I can only say that this is pathetic.

“This is a complete letdown to all the existing MM2H participants and the relevant stakeholders,” he stated. 

Sultan Ibrahim said that if security was the main reason for the new criteria, the home ministry only has to revoke the visas of errant MM2H pass holders, instead of implementing a blanket ruling. 

“MM2H offers multiplier economic effects. Malaysians benefit and so does the government. But now we are chasing them away. And the bad international publicity is detrimental for Malaysia,“ he said. 

“I hope good sense will prevail and the government will reinstate the programme without any drastic changes immediately,” he added. 

The ruler said he would personally take up the matter soon with Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, especially since Johor is a popular MM2H destination and the potential loss of revenue to the state from this programme was enormous. 

Mr Hamzah said in the parliament that there were 34,000 principal visa holders under the MM2H programme. 

“Another thing that everyone was talking about, as if the total amount of deposits in Bank Negara is high. In 2019, there was only RM921 million,” he said, according to parliamentary transcripts.

CNA

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