A push for 10-year passports

PETALING JAYA: Extending passport validity to 10 years will significantly reduce unnecessary bureaucracy, say Malaysians living abroad.

Cheong Wee Leng, 33, residing in California, United States, welcomed the potential policy change by the government.

Currently, Cheong must renew her passport every four years, unlike her American husband, who enjoys a 10-year renewal cycle.

“It takes me an hour to drive from my home to the passport office but the Malaysia Immigration Office is located in New York and it is the only producing office of the Malaysia International Passport in the United States.

“So, my passport has to be sent from here to New York and then sent back to the passport office where I applied. I need to go twice,” she said in expressing her frustration at the process.

Cheong highlighted an additional snag during her studies in the United States when she had to renew her passport twice within five years because her student visa was in the old passport.

“I had to carry two passports every time I went out, which was very troublesome,” she said.

The government is currently conducting a study on whether to extend passport validity to 10 years.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail pointed out that many other countries already practice this.

Doctorate student Sing Hwa Mee, 46, said her Taiwanese residence permit is tied to her passport’s expiration date.

She said the permit needed to be updated every time she renewed her passport.

“I’m currently a student, so it’s not a big problem for me, but it’s difficult for Malaysians working in Taiwan.”

Sing recounted a past incident when she was studying in China where she was temporarily unable to withdraw money because she hadn’t updated her passport information on time.

“It would be good news for Malaysians living abroad if our government allowed for passports to be valid for 10 years as it would save us from lots of problems,” she said.

Louis Khoo, who had been working in Singapore for the last 15 years, said he had to take leave to apply in person every time he needed to renew his passport.

“It takes two trips for submission and collection upon completion, so it’s better to have longer validity,” said the 42-year-old procurement specialist.

After renewing his passport, Khoo said it was also a requirement to update the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) permit online for a re-entry.

Malaysian Tourism Federation president Datuk Tan Kok Liang said extending passport validity from five to 10 years would be more beneficial for Malaysians.

These include reduction in renewal processing time, cost savings along with diminished administrative burden.

However, he said, there could be potential security concerns regarding outdated passport holders’ appearances and technological advances in biometrics, which may necessitate updates.

“International travel is based on demand and necessity, and whether the passport is valid for five years or 10 years will have minor impact on travel trends.

“However, the validity period of older passports must also comply with the safety and protocol standards of the host countries,” he said when contacted.

Malaysia Inbound Chinese Association (Mica) president Datuk Dr Angie Ng said the proposal would be more convenient for those in the tourism industry.

She said those in the industry needed to travel abroad for inspection and business, and lengthening passport validity reduces the frequency of renewals.

She also pointed out some Malaysian businessmen had their bank accounts temporarily frozen in China during the pandemic because they could not travel abroad to update their passport information in person.

“Extending passport validity to 10 years is beneficial for frequent travellers and Malaysian business people abroad.”

She believes that the Malaysian Immigration Department could provide more options for people, allowing for both five-year and 10-year renewals since not everyone travels frequently and it’s unnecessary to incur higher costs to renew passports for a 10-year term.

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