A Guide To Employing Workers In Malaysia

In Malaysia, there are millions of foreign workers that support the local economy through the job market. Employing foreign workers has taken on two perspectives namely, the illegal or the legal methods. It is always wise to avoid employing illegal workers although this is a cheaper option compared to legal foreign workers.

In Malaysia, foreign workers are allowed to be employed in the manufacturing, construction, plantation, agricultural, services and domestic help sectors, which are mainly labour intensive. Only foreign nationals from the countries listed below are permitted to work in Malaysia:

Approved sectors

Country of origin

·         Manufacturing

·         Plantation

·         Agriculture

·         Construction

·         Services Sector

·         Indonesia

·         Cambodia

·         Nepal

·         Myanmar

·         Laos

·         Vietnam

·         Philippines (male only)

·         Pakistan

·         Sri Lanka

·         Thailand

·         Turkmenistan

·         Uzbekistan

·         Kazakhstan


·  Services (cooks, wholesale/retail, barber,metal/scraps/recycle, textile)

·  Construction (fixing of high voltage cable only)

·    Agriculture

·    Plantation

·         India


Approval of visa / permits are based on merits of each individual case and are also subject to conditions that will be determined from a time-to-time basis. Applications to employ foreign workers will only be considered when efforts to find qualified local people and permanent residents have been exhausted.

The Malaysian government imposes the following annual levy on foreign workers:

Approved Sectors

Annual Levy









Domestic Help



        Welfare home

         Island resort







All applications for foreign employees or workers, has to be submitted to the One Stop Centre, Ministry of Home Affairs except for applications for foreign maids which has to be submitted to the Malaysian Immigration Department.


According to the Malaysian Immigration Department, the following are important factors to consider and ensure before applying for a legal foreign worker:

·         The foreign worker must be in the age group of 18 to 45 years.

·         The foreign worker is not permitted to bring his/her family to live in Malaysia.

·       The foreign worker is not allowed to change jobs or change employers without obtaining prior permission from the Ministry of Home Affairs.

·         The foreign worker is allowed to work within a period not exceeding 5 years.

·         The foreign worker is only allowed to stay in Malaysia according to the dates set in his / her work permit.

·         The foreign worker is not allowed to marry any local resident or migrant worker in Malaysia.


In Malaysia, the bulk of foreign workers are employed in unskilled jobs such as in the construction and plantation sector, which are shunned by locals. Local employees prefer white-collar jobs as compared to labour intensive work. Employers should take every precaution when using agents to hire foreign workers as some agents are fraudsters and will abscond once they have milked employers of their money. Use the services of agents approved by the Department of Labour, Ministry of Human Resources, to avoid problems with fraud and cheating. Get a list from the Ministry’s website at www.jtksm.mohr.gov.my


By Christina Thomas

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