PUTRAJAYA: We will study a recent proposal to have Malaysian passports with 10-year validity period, says Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail.
He said the proposal will be studied by the government based on the merits of such practice in other countries.
Saifuddin Nasution said for now, Malaysia will continue to maintain the five-year validity period for its passports.
“It will be status quo. We are not rejecting the proposal, but will study it further,” said Saifuddin Nasution after the Home Ministry’s monthly gathering.
The proposal was made by the Immigration Services Union to ease congestion at the department.
It was also proposed to safeguard the welfare of Immigration officers who often work for days without a break to cater to the long queues.
Saifuddin Nasution said congestion at Immigration centres due to passport applications has been steeply reduced in the past one year following the introduction of the online passport application.
“We advise the public to opt for the online application. Half of passport applications are done online, and it takes less than three days to be ready.
“We also found that only 60% of those who obtain their passports use it for travel while the rest simply hold on to it without any travel plans,” he said.
Saifuddin Nasution also said congestion at the country’s gateways, especially the KL International Airport and Johor Causeway, is being resolved with additional staff.
There will also be compulsory manning of all counters by Immigration staff during peak hours, he added.
On security concerns following the recent announcement of the visa liberalisation programme, which offers visa-free travel for tourists from China and India, Saifuddin Nasution said the foreigners will be monitored.
He said they are required to furnish their details and whereabouts in the Malaysian Digital Arrival Card (MDAC).
“The security aspects of the country will not be compromised. The MDAC will be enforced to keep track of the tourists.
“We intend to boost the economy and the fastest way to do this is to promote the tourism sector,” he said.
Starting Dec 1, foreigners entering the country must submit the MDAC three days prior to their arrival.
Exemption is granted for those from three categories: travellers on transit or transferring through Singapore without seeking Immigration clearance; Malaysian permanent residents; and Malaysian Automated Clearance System (MACS) holders.
On concerns of the rise in Covid-19 cases with the visa-free programme, Saifuddin Nasution said the Health Ministry has not issued any warning.
“It has not been established if the rise in Covid-19 cases is due to internal or external factors.
“In the past, Covid-19 spread from China and that is why there were strict restrictions at the borders. The Home Ministry will refer to the Health Ministry on this matter.
“As of now, we have not received any update or warning from the Health Ministry to take preventive steps. Until we receive such advisory, this programme will proceed as planned,” he said.
On claims of overstaying by tourists based on the number of arrivals and the lower number of exits, Saifuddin Nasution said it is a misunderstanding because not all foreigners came to Malaysia on social visas.
“There are foreigners who are here on study visas and professional or work visas, which allows them to remain in the country for a year or more.
“I have clarified the confusion on these figures with the Immigration Department and it was justified. There are many types of visas that are issued, not just social visas,” he said.