Understanding the ESD Malaysia: A Guide for Foreign Workers

Malaysia is a popular destination for expatriates seeking employment opportunities due to its robust economy, cultural diversity, and strategic location. To facilitate the entry and employment of foreign professionals, Malaysia has established the Expatriate Services Division (ESD). This article provides a comprehensive guide to understanding the ESD in Malaysia, covering its purpose, functions, application processes, and essential tips for foreign workers.

What is the Expatriate Services Division (ESD)?

Purpose of the ESD

The Expatriate Services Division (ESD) is a unit under the Immigration Department of Malaysia. It was established to streamline and enhance the process of hiring expatriates by providing a centralized and efficient service for companies and foreign workers. The ESD Malaysia aims to attract highly skilled foreign talent to Malaysia while ensuring compliance with immigration laws and regulations.

Functions of the ESD

The primary functions of the ESD include:

  • Processing Work Visa Applications: Handling the submission, processing, and approval of work visa applications for expatriates.
  • Issuing Employment Passes: Managing the issuance of various types of employment passes for foreign professionals.
  • Providing Guidance and Support: Offering assistance and information to companies and expatriates regarding visa requirements and procedures.
  • Ensuring Compliance: Ensuring that all applications and processes comply with Malaysian immigration laws and regulations.

Types of Employment Passes Managed by the ESD

Employment Pass (EP)

The Employment Pass is the most common type of work visa for foreign professionals in Malaysia. It is categorized based on salary and contract duration:

  • Category I: For positions with a minimum monthly salary of RM 10,000, valid for up to five years.
  • Category II: For positions with a monthly salary between RM 5,000 and RM 9,999, valid for up to two years.
  • Category III: For positions with a monthly salary between RM 3,000 and RM 4,999, valid for up to one year (renewable up to two times).

Professional Visit Pass (PVP)

The Professional Visit Pass is for foreign professionals visiting Malaysia to provide services or undergo training for a short period, typically not exceeding 12 months.

Dependent Pass

Employment Pass holders can apply for Dependent Passes for their immediate family members, including spouses, children under 18, and parents.

Social Visit Pass (Long Term)

This pass is for parents or spouses of expatriates working in Malaysia, allowing them to stay in the country for an extended period.

Eligibility Criteria for Employment Passes

General Requirements

To be eligible for an Employment Pass, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • Valid Passport: The passport must be valid for at least 18 months from the date of application.
  • Job Offer: A confirmed job offer from a Malaysian employer.
  • Minimum Salary: Meeting the minimum salary threshold relevant to the pass category.
  • Health Requirements: Passing a medical examination from a recognized clinic or hospital.

Specific Requirements for Employment Pass

  • Qualifications: Relevant educational qualifications and professional experience.
  • Job Position: The position should be managerial, executive, or technical in nature.
  • Company Registration: The employing company must be registered with the Companies Commission of Malaysia (SSM) and the ESD.

Application Process for Employment Passes

Step 1: Company Registration with ESD

Before applying for an Employment Pass, the employing company must register with the ESD. This involves submitting documents such as:

  • Company profile
  • Business license
  • Details of directors and shareholders

Step 2: Submission of Work Visa Application

Once the company is registered, the employer can submit the work visa application through the ESD portal. The required documents typically include:

  • Completed application form
  • Passport-sized photographs
  • Copy of the passport
  • Copy of the employment contract
  • Proof of qualifications and experience
  • Medical examination report

Step 3: Processing and Approval

The ESD reviews the application and may request additional information if needed. The processing time for an Employment Pass application typically ranges from two to four weeks. It is advisable to follow up with the employer or the ESD for updates.

Step 4: Issuance of Approval Letter

Upon approval, an Approval Letter is issued, allowing the expatriate to enter Malaysia and proceed with the visa endorsement.

Step 5: Visa Endorsement

After arriving in Malaysia, the expatriate must visit the Immigration Department to get the work visa endorsed in their passport. This step includes submitting the original Approval Letter, passport, and additional documents if required.

Tips for a Successful Application

Thorough Preparation

Ensure all required documents are prepared and verified before submission. This includes your passport, employment contract, qualifications, and medical report. Incomplete or inaccurate documentation can delay the application process.

Regular Communication

Maintain regular contact with your employer and the ESD to track the progress of your application. Promptly address any additional information or documentation requests to avoid delays.

Professional Assistance

Consider hiring an immigration consultant or legal expert to guide you through the application process. Their expertise can help ensure your application is accurate and complete.

Understand Your Rights and Obligations

Familiarize yourself with your rights and obligations under Malaysian employment and immigration laws. This includes understanding your employment contract, tax responsibilities, and compliance requirements.

Cultural Sensitivity

Malaysia is a multicultural society with diverse cultural norms. Being culturally sensitive and respectful of local customs can enhance your professional experience and foster positive relationships with Malaysian colleagues and clients.

Renewal and Extension of Employment Passes

Employment Pass Renewal

Employment Pass holders must apply for renewal at least three months before the expiration date. The renewal process involves:

  • Submitting a renewal application form
  • Providing a copy of the current passport
  • A new or extended employment contract
  • An updated medical report

Dependent Pass Renewal

Dependent Passes can also be renewed following a similar process, ensuring that all required documents are up-to-date.

Compliance and Legal Considerations

Adherence to Malaysian Laws

Expatriates must comply with Malaysian laws and regulations during their stay. This includes adhering to the terms of the visa, refraining from engaging in unauthorized employment, and respecting local customs and practices.

Income Tax Obligations

Foreign workers in Malaysia are subject to income tax. The tax rate depends on the duration of stay and the annual income. It is essential to register with the Inland Revenue Board of Malaysia and comply with tax regulations to avoid penalties.


The Expatriate Services Division (ESD) plays a vital role in facilitating the employment of foreign professionals in Malaysia. Understanding the ESD’s functions, the application process for employment passes, and compliance requirements is crucial for a successful transition into the Malaysian workforce. By following the guidelines outlined in this guide and seeking professional assistance when needed, expatriates can navigate the application process smoothly and enjoy a rewarding professional experience in Malaysia.