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What Makes Malaysia’s ‘Special Pass’ Special?

When a foreign national is granted a Pass to stay in Malaysia, be it a Work Pass or Social Visit Pass, the Pass will have a specific validity period; foreign nationals must always ensure that they exit the country before the Pass expires. Failure to do so will result in foreign nationals being considered as having ‘overstayed’ in Malaysia and they may be subject to penalties by the Immigration Department, such as fines, detention, or being blacklisted from entering Malaysia in the future. But what if foreign nationals encounter issues which restrict them from departing Malaysia? What if they fall sick and cannot travel? What if they have lost their passport while in Malaysia? What if they are in the midst of renewing their current work pass and need to continue working and residing in Malaysia, but their existing Pass has already expired? Can anything be done to help them?
 
 Special Pass – That’s the Answer.
 
A Special Pass is a temporary pass which is issued by the Immigration Department to allow foreign nationals to extend their stay in Malaysia due to ‘special’ circumstances; for example, illness, an accident, conflict in a foreign national’s home country etc. If a Special Pass is required, the foreign national needs to submit an application to the Immigration Department prior to the expiration of their current pass. Generally speaking, the Immigration Department adjudicates Special Pass applications in approximately three working days from submission. These applications must be accompanied by the relevant supporting documentation.
 
 Generally, there are three common instances where the Immigration Department will grant a Special Pass:
 
 Making Arrangements to Exit Malaysia 
 
This type of Special Pass is granted in cases where foreign nationals need to extend their stay in Malaysia for less than 30 days (for instance, if the foreign national is not able to leave Malaysia before the expiry of their current pass). For this, the foreign national needs to provide a copy of a flight itinerary, showing the intended date of departure from Malaysia and if approved, the Immigration Department may extend the pass up until the intended departure date.
 
Pending Approval of an Employment Pass (or other related Passes)
 
For cases where the foreign national is in the midst of renewing their work pass (or other related pass) in Malaysia, they may be eligible to apply for a Special Pass to remain in Malaysia for up to a further 30 days beyond current pass expiry, pending the decision on the relevant renewal application. For this, the foreign national needs to furnish evidence to show that their application is in progress. If the renewal application cannot be completed within the validity of the Special Pass, the foreign national may apply for a second Special Pass. However, they may need to provide a copy of his or her flight ticket showing that they will depart Malaysia if the pending renewal application cannot be completed within the duration of the second Special Pass.
 
One of the common questions that we face as immigration consultants is “Can I work while on Special Pass?” Our answer: “It’s at the discretion of the Immigration Department”. Generally, a foreign national is allowed to continue working while holding a Special Pass. However, the Immigration Department may deny a foreign national’s ability to continue working while holding the Special Pass by indicating as such on the Special Pass endorsement.   
 
Completing In-Country Immigration Process
 
If a foreign national enters Malaysia with the requirement to complete an in-country immigration process, for instance, to transfer an Employment Pass from an old to a new passport, they may receive a Special Pass on arrival at immigration control, which will state “To report to the Immigration Office”. The foreign national will be given up to 30 days period to remain in Malaysia and within this time, they need to complete any immigration formalities at the immigration headquarters to rectify their status in Malaysia.  
 
A Special Pass is an option to allow a foreign national to remain in Malaysia if they encounter any unforeseen issues which require them to extend their stay unexpectedly. While the Special Pass is the best route to avoid being considered as having overstayed in Malaysia and exists as an alternative option to assist foreign nationals in unexpected circumstances, it is important to note that issuance of the Special Pass is discretionary and requires strong justification and appropriate supporting documentation demonstrating the need.
 
 For more information contact our Kuala Lumpur office.