Malaysia to clamp down on ‘visa runs’

JOHOR BARU: IMMIGRATION officers are dusting off a provision in the law books to deny unsavoury characters from setting foot in the country.

They have alerted all personnel at air, land and sea entry points and put at the top of the Immigration watch list, those they deem as being “on passport runs”, with officers ready to give them the marching orders.

visarun_malThese are mostly foreigners who come to Malaysia for reasons other than leisure and found to have been abusing the non-visa entry.

Under Immigration regulations, most foreigners do not need visas when the duration of their visits — for business or leisure — is less than a month.

This proactive enforcement was triggered by a spike in speedy re-entries by foreigners who exit the country just before their 30-day stay is up.

The country’s first line in security screening had noticed that these suspect foreigners would leave the country, some for no more than an hour, just to get their passports stamped for a renewed 30-day stay.

The department revealed that the surge in this trend was particularly noticeable at the Customs, Immigration and Quarantine checkpoint at the Causeway here and the Bukit Kayu Hitam checkpoint in Kedah.

Immigration officers have strong reason to believe that these foreigners are involved in vice, including prostitution and drugs.

Immigration director-general Datuk Alias Ahmad told the New Straits Times that while many citizens of Asean countries were guilty of this, a significant number of “tourists” from non-Asean countries were habitually making their passport runs at the country’s checkpoints.

“Effective immediately, those who make three consecutive U-turns into the country will be held for questioning.

“Those who fail to furnish the department with convincing evidence of their intended stay in the country will be denied entry,” he said, adding that bona-fide frequent visitors, had nothing to worry as their credentials would support their travel into the country.

Those turned away at one entry point will find that all other entry points into the country would also be closed to them.

Immigration records showed that most of those who abused their stay were young women from China, believed to be working in the flesh trade. Those from Uzbekistan are a close second.

Thais, Vietnamese, Indonesians and Filipinas are also among those going in and out of the country regularly. There is a sizeable number of male foreigners doing this as they are employed illegally.

The Immigration’s concerns are not without basis. Records from the federal police headquarters’ vice division show that they had been picking up nationals from these countries at red-light areas, with many of them openly offering sex.

Alias said the department was determined to stop foreigners from circumventing the system, to carry out illicit activities in the country.

“It is brazenly done. Groups of foreigners re-enter the country as soon as they leave.

“As there is no cooling-off period for them, they return almost immediately.

“If they could, they would not leave at all… but to avoid problems with their travel documents, they will go to the nearest border checkpoint to get their passports stamped before reentering as a tourist.”

Alias said this new measure should not be misconstrued as not welcoming tourists into the country but part of the department’s efforts to keep out those abusing their tourist visas.

“Normally, an average tourist will stay in the country for about a week. These foreigners who make regular U-turns are not genuine tourists.

“Granted, there is no law to limit the number of U-turns, but I am exercising the department’s right to step up checks on those who come into the country this way.

“If they can explain to us the reason for their multiple entries and furnish us with more details of their stay, including their accommodation and spending money, we will certainly welcome them. Otherwise, we have to deport them.”

Alias said aside from international airports, checks against these foreigners had been stepped up at all land and sea entry points, as these were the preferred routes as they were less costly and time-consuming.

Alias said the crackdown on abuse of stay as well as permits, was critical in ensuring the country’s security and social stability.

He added that foreigners coming into Malaysia for economic reasons, including vice, had adopted various methods, including getting student passes without even attending classes they had signed up for.

The NST last year also exposed how syndicates dealing in the flesh trade were abusing foreign spousal visas to secure their working girls’ lengthy stays in the country.

An Immigration counter at Kuching International Airport. Immigration director-general Datuk Alias Ahmad says foreigners who have legitimate reason to leave the country and return a short time later need not worry. Pic by Ghazali Bujang

Source: New Straits Times

5 Comments on “Malaysia to clamp down on ‘visa runs’”

  1. I think you did not read her post well. She said they wanted to stay in Malaysia for a while so she could decide of she and her husband liked it enough to invest her money.

    Its her right to do that. It is NOT FREE, it is a LAGRE chunk of money to put away and then decide they do not like the country. Yes, the money is still their money, however, it will take time to get it back if the choose to leave. The MM2H process IS NOT easy and it takes months some times to process.

  2. Rozzie, why all the trouble of a Visa run. Obviously you want to live in Malaysia. As in any other country there are Immigration laws. And what is your problem with the MM2H Visa? Ok, you have to put a deposit in a bank. So what. It is still you money and you get interest on it. The price for the 10-years Visa itself is a real give away. Almost for free. Besides that. With your MM2H Visa you are aible to buy a tax free car and that safes you a bundle. Think twice. It is easy to apply and you will never have Visa stress anymore.

  3. Rozzie. I have never had this issue, although I’ve been in Asia 3 years. The only time I really did 1 day turn arounds was in Thailand….and I did it many times without issue….but lately, I’ve changed. I normally stay out of the country at least a couple of months.

    I think this shows that I don’t have an illegal job to run back to in two days. I think long term, my way around the issue, is keep 2 small apartments in 2 countries, rather than one big one. This way I can go 2 months, 2 months, 2 months…but still not need hotels, etc.

    I don’t like it, but I try to keep in mind.
    1. In my country…we wouldn’t want people using tourist visas or stamps to ‘live’ somewhere….
    2. Going out for a few days and back is obvious that you are living somewhere, which is not what visa exemption stamps are for….nor are ‘tourist visas’.
    3. We have to live with the laws of countries who are nice enough to allow us to stay there. There ARE ways (MM2H) to do it, and I guess we have to live within those boundaries.
    4. spending $2000 or $3000 a month in a country doesn’t give us the right to stay there. Real tourists spend $3000 a WEEK, especially the Chinese and Koreans. I guess they have to factor that in when they realize we are using roads, services, etc…things usually reserved for those paying TAXES somewhere.

    I can jump up and down about laws in other countries and say ‘I spend 2k there’, but…laws are laws.

    Happy Expatting

  4. Rozzie. I have never had this issue, although I’ve been in Asia 3 years. The only time I really did

  5. My husband and I who are retired just made our very first visa run after having the last three months in Penag. We flew to singapore for four days. Upon arriving back in Penag we were hassled by immigration and reluctantly given another 90 days but told we had to apply for the MM2H visa. We told them we were seeing if we like Malaysia before we made such a big commitment as it involved moving 50,000 into a malaysian bank account. Immigration didn’t care. It’s sad because we love penang and are pure consumers, spending about 5000 myr a month in the local economy. We have enough money to easily support ourselves.
    We were told we had to stay out a week or more each time which I wouldn’t mind but who’s to say that next month they won’t change it. We don’t feel like committing to an apt lease along with the trappings if staying here and being able to renew our visa without being hassled is going to be an issue. Our impression today was not very good of immigration being able to recognize us as legitimate visitors.

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