Malaysia has introduced a groundbreaking initiative that has garnered significant attention among digital nomads worldwide. Building on the existing “social visit pass” visa, which allows travelers from countries like the U.S., UK, and Canada to visit for tourism or business for 90 days, the Malaysian government launched the DE Rantau program—a digital nomad visa scheme aimed at establishing Malaysia as the top digital nomad destination in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Introducing the DE Rantau Program
To cement Malaysia’s position as a leading digital nomad destination in the ASEAN region, the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) launched the DE Rantau program. With a vision to support both local and foreign digital nomads, this program goes beyond providing a mere visa by creating DE Rantau “hubs”—pre-verified accommodations tailored specifically for digital nomads. These hubs aim to foster a supportive environment that encourages networking and community building among digital nomads across the country.
The DE Rantau Nomad Pass serves as the visa and residency scheme for foreign digital nomads seeking to live and work in Malaysia. Falling under the broader category of “Professional Visit Pass,” this program offers several advantages. Digital nomads can obtain a stay of 3-12 months initially, with the option to renew for an additional 12 months. One of the most notable benefits of the DE Rantau program is that digital nomads are exempt from paying standard Malaysian tax rates on income earned from foreign companies or clients.
Tax Advantages for Digital Nomads
Digital nomads participating in the DE Rantau program must register with Malaysia’s tax office and report their income. However, they are not subject to the standard Malaysian tax rates on income earned from foreign sources. While the exact tax structure remains somewhat opaque, the MDEC’s DE Rantau FAQ page provides relevant tax codes and designated points of contact for any tax-related inquiries specific to the program.
Qualifications and Eligibility
To be eligible for the DE Rantau Nomad Pass, applicants must meet certain criteria. Digital freelancers, independent contractors, and remote workers should have a minimum annual income of $24,000 (or $2,000 per month). The program defines the digital domain broadly, encompassing fields such as IT (software development, support, and sales, UX, UI, cloud computing, cybersecurity, blockchain, AI, machine learning, data-related work, digital currency support, etc.), digital marketing, digital content creation, and internet connectivity technology.
To ensure a successful DE Rantau Nomad Pass application, applicants must submit several documents. These include:
- Proof of Income: Latest 3 months of bank statements, income statements or tax returns, and pay slips.
- Proof of Employment: Active contract with a foreign company or long-term established client(s).
- Passport: With 6 empty pages and a validity of at least 14 months.
- Qualifications: Educational certificates and an up-to-date resume.
- Proof of Tax Registration: Tax registration slip from the Inland Revenue Board of Malaysia.
- Proof of Insurance: Valid medical insurance policy for coverage in Malaysia.
- Proof of Good Conduct: Certified letter from local police in the applicant’s country of residence.
- Personal Bond Payment: A payment of $450 for U.S. citizens and $224 for UK and European citizens, which is refundable upon the expiration of the pass.
- Visa Fee: A fee of $225 for all applicants, with a 75% refund in case of application denial.
Efficient Applicant Experience
Applying for the DE Rantau Nomad Pass is a straightforward and convenient process. The entire application is completed online through MDEC’s foreign nomad portal. Applicants need to register online and submit scanned and digital copies of the required documents. The processing time for applications typically ranges from 6 to 8 weeks. While there have been occasional reports of delayed approval, attributed to additional manual verification of documents or employers, the overall feedback from applicants has been positive.
As regulations and requirements may evolve over time, it’s essential to stay up to date with the latest information. We encourage aspiring digital nomads to visit the official government website or consult with relevant authorities for the most accurate and current details. Good luck on your digital nomad journey, and may Malaysia’s DE Rantau Nomad Pass open doors to new opportunities and experiences for you. Good Luck!