Shocked over such short notice


PETALING JAYA: A notice from several foreign missions in Malaysia advising their citizens with expired social visit passes to be prepared to leave by next week has left many scrambling for answers.Many of them have been stranded in Malaysia since early last year when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, and they were made to understand that they could stay in Malaysia for up to 14 working days until the end of the movement control order, which has not been lifted until now.

Last week, foreigners in the country began receiving emails from their embassies in Malaysia advising them that they may have to leave the country before April 21 if they have a social visit pass that expired on or after Jan 1,2020.

The email detailed that there was a 14-working day grace period for them to leave after the end of the MCO on March 31 this year without applying for a special pass or approval from immigration.

Although the MCO was extended until April 14, there has not been any indication from the government that the grace period has been extended.

Several attempts have been made to contact officials from embassies here and the Malaysian Immigration Department on the matter. As at press time, both have yet to issue a statement on the matter.

Joanne Richardson, a US citizen stranded in Malaysia with an expired social visit pass, said this uncertainty had left many in a precarious situation.

“We have been here for a year and have rented apartments, adopted animals and made social obligations. We cannot just drop everything to leave immediately, ” she said in an email to The Star.Richardson, who was born in Romania, said she could not return to her native country in the European Union as she lost her residency status during the lockdown and was barred from entering with a US passport.

She added that others might not want to return because they did not want to face strict lockdowns or high numbers of Covid-19 cases in their home countries.

Richardson said the lack of an official statement from the Malaysian Immigration Department had compounded the confusion.

Despite the uncertainty, another US citizen Pete Mancuso, 50, said he had already booked his flight ticket home but was prepared to let go of it if he was allowed to stay longer.

“I love Malaysia and am happy to stay. I have been living away from the US for the past 10 years and the timing to return is not really great now, ” he said.

Another American, a language teacher who was in the midst of securing a longer-term work permit before the movement control order began last year, said she was hoping to get clarification on the advisory while she figured out her next move.

“It has been stressful and we have been in this same situation since last year, ” said the San Francisco native, who did not want to be named.

A Syrian tourist, who only wanted to be known as Oday, said he did not receive a notification from his embassy about having to leave Malaysia before April 21.

Oday, 30, came to Malaysia on March 6 last year on a social visit pass which has since lapsed.

However, he managed to get the relevant documents from the Syrian embassy here vouching for him.

He said he used the documents to show the authorities that he could legally stay in the country until the end of the MCO.

“I was not able to book a ticket, and I have settled in with my Venezuelan girlfriend here. We hope to leave for Canada soon, ” Oday added.

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US Embassy , Travel , Covid-19 , Immigration

   

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