Malaysia has one of the sanest and most hassle-free tourist visa procedures in all of Asia, with most visitors being granted a free 30-to-90 day Social Visit Pass on arrival. Compare that to virtually every other country in the region, which are not only more stingy with the time they grant travellers, but also charge them into the bargain.
For the vast majority of visitors to Malaysia, such a generous allotment of days in their visa means never having to deal with the Immigration Department, which is a good thing, to say the least. It’s not really the fault of the frontline staff — many of whom are surprisingly helpful — rather that the rules and regulations they operate under are completely insane.
Should you wish to extend your Social Visit Pass — they can in theory be extended twice, for 30 days at a time — in Kuala Lumpur, you’ll need to head to the immigration office (Mon-Fri, 07:30-13:00, 14:00-17:30), which moved in late 2011 to a new complex in the middle of nowhere. Getting there by public transport may be a nightmare (one near-mythical bus from KL Sentral, RapidKL U83), but it’s once inside the building that the fun really begins. Nearly everything to do with foreigners is dealt with by one room on the first floor (follow the signs which say visa, pas & permit).
Once inside the room, join the queue at counter 21, where you will be given a number, and at least one form to fill out. The numbers are only called out in Malay, so keep your eyes peeled on the electronic boards. Expect even the simplest of requests to involve visits to several different counters. Try to stay calm and polite at all times, however time-consuming and convoluted the process is.
Each extension to a Social Visit Pass costs 50 ringgit. While an extension should in theory only be granted if you have a good reason, such as illness, in practice, the first extension should be given without too much fuss, and possibly the second one too.
Although it might seem like more bother, a better option overall is simply to leave Malaysia for a few days, and get a new Social Visit Pass. The easiest (and cheapest) way from KL is to get a bus or train to Singapore. But this is also the border crossing where immigration officials are most likely to give you trouble. It is perfectly legal to get back-to-back Social Visit Passes, so try not to be intimidated into paying a bribe.
Ways to avoid hassle include:
– Always having an onward plane or train ticket;
– Leaving Malaysia for at least three days;
– Mixing up the places you do visa runs to;
– Opting for airports rather than overland crossings.
Clearly, if you do several visa runs in a row, always staying until the very end of your permitted stay, then suspicions will be raised. After two to three years, a long break from Malaysia is advisable, or alternatively, get a new passport.
Kompleks Kementerian Dalam Negeri (KDN)
69 Jalan Sri Hartamas 1, off Jalan Duta, Solaris Dutamas
T: (03) 6201 2423
By Pat Fama
Last updated on 2nd January, 2012.