AS the foreign spouse of a Malaysian, I am writing to correct the misleading statements in the letter “Find an employer to sponsor you, foreign spouse” (The Star, Nov 21).
The statement that the foreign spouse of Malaysians wanting to work are subject to the same rules as all other foreign workers is utterly incorrect. To work in Malaysia, a foreign spouse needs to hold a Long Term Social Visit Pass (LTSVP) with a duration of one year or longer, and stamped with a Work Endorsement. Both are obtained from the Immigration Department. Employing a foreign spouse with an LTSVP and Work Endorsement is actually more advantageous to employers than employing foreign workers or expatriates on Employment Passes (EP). This is because the Work Endorsement is provided free of charge to the foreign spouse, versus EPs for expatriates and passes for foreign workers that come at a cost to employers.
The problem for foreign spouses, however, is that Malaysian employers will not even consider hiring them as long as the statement “Any form of employment is strictly prohibited” appears on their LTSVP.
To get this prohibition removed, the foreign spouse needs to have a Work Endorsement added to his/her LTSVP. When introduced several years ago, the endorsement could be obtained simply by asking for it when applying for the LTSVP.
There was no application form, no need to have an offer of employment in hand, and the endorsement was not tied to a specific employer or location.
Over time, however, the rules regarding the LTSVP and the Work Endorsement have tightened considerably. In the past, one could apply for and receive the LTSVP a few days after arrival in Malaysia. Now, foreign spouses cannot apply for it until they have been here for at least six months. The duration of the first LTSVP granted to most foreign spouses is now only six months, which is a problem as the Work Endorsement will only be approved for those who hold an LTSVP valid for one year or longer.
The result is that, for at least the first year in Malaysia, a foreign spouse is unable to work and financially support his/her Malaysian family.
In addition, female foreign spouses who have applied for the Work Endorsement from Oct 1, 2018 onwards are reporting the enactment of a new rule that denies them permission to work for the first three years of their stay in Malaysia.
With regard to the Work Endorsement, the process now requires (at minimum) the completion of an application, a letter from the Malaysian spouse giving permission for their foreign husband/wife to work, and the presentation of an employment letter with paid stamp duty.
The requirement to have an offer of employment in hand when applying is problematic given the reluctance of employers to consider foreign spouses who don’t already possess permission to work. As a result, many spouses who apply for the Work Endorsement are unable to obtain it and are effectively banned from working.
What foreign spouses with legitimate unions and honourable intentions are requesting is a return to the LTSVP and Work Endorsement requirements that allow them to adequately support their Malaysian families upon arrival, as well as actively contribute to the development of this wonderful country that we are blessed to call home.