Ever since China approved the controversial national security laws for Hong Kong end of May this year, there has been another surge of enquiries for the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) Programme, according to MM2H agency Starcity Global managing director Florence Ten.
She tells EdgeProp.my that her Hong Kong office has been receiving calls almost every day, especially when the news about the new laws first broke in May, from both new and current Hong Kong clients. This follows an earlier spike in interest last year during the height of protests against plans to allow extradition to mainland China
“Some of them (MM2H applicants) had attended our MM2H physical seminars that we used to hold at least once every month in our Hong Kong office. Generally, 40% to 50% of the attendees were there to collect information and there was no urgency to apply for the visa. Now some of them are calling us to proceed with the applications,” Ten shares.
The MM2H is a visa programme that allows foreigners who fulfill certain criteria to stay in Malaysia for as long as possible on a multiple-entry social visit pass.
Ten attributes the surge in demand to three main reasons — children’s education, the on-going protests and situation in Hong Kong and the tightening of terms and conditions of MM2H.
“Good quality and affordable international school fees have always been the main pull factor, even now at this tough time. Some of them did not feel the urgency to apply for the visa maybe because their children were still young, so the application could wait. But so many things have happened recently in Hong Kong, which have pushed them to make a decision earlier.
“In addition, the recent tightening of terms and conditions mean applicants with military- or security-related employment history or are from blue-collar professions are no longer welcome,” Ten notes.
In early March, Putrajaya has introduced stricter background checks for MM2H applications to counter security threats such as terrorism and criminal syndicates.
A back-up plan
“The tightening is real. Cases have been rejected solely because of the work background, and the news spread widely in Hongkongers’ MM2H information sharing groups. We have been receiving calls to confirm the news. This has made them decide sooner, worrying that the terms and conditions would be further tightened in the near future.
“However, more than half of them are not coming to Malaysia immediately (upon the approval), or only the wife and children will be coming over first while the husband continues to stay on and work in Hong Kong. It is like a back-up plan for them if the political and economic situation gets worse in Hong Kong, so they have an alternative place to go to,” Ten shares.
Ten shares that the MM2H seminars have gained more traction since May also thanks to the better reach of webinars.
“Our physical seminars used to average 100 to 120 attendees each time. Usually, 40 to 60 attendees would fill up the application form at the end of the seminar. Since physical seminars are not feasible now with the Covid-19 prevention measures, we have turned to webinars, which have been drawing more than four times the attendees of a physical seminar. The conversion rate however, remains at 40 to 60 people each session,” she shares, adding that the Q&A session in each webinar has been overwhelming.
Politics and economy not a concern
Ten foresees the trend to continue and is optimistic that MM2H applicants from Hong Kong this year (2020) will be strong despite the economic downturn in Malaysia due to the virus outbreak.
“So far, I’ve not received any issues of concern from Hong Kong clients on the political or economic situation in Malaysia.
“But it is worth noting there is rising demand for property renting rather than buying among the approved applicants compared with pre-pandemic times. Previously, those who applied for MM2H were mostly cash-rich and wanted to buy a property for self-occupation and future capital gains.
“I can tell some of those among the new batch of applicants from Hong Kong may not be as cash-rich,” Ten says.
Set up in 2002 to woo expatriates, MM2H has approved the long-stay visas for more than 40,000 people from 131 countries as at March 2020. An average of 3,000 foreigners were granted long-stay visas in each of the last six years, according to the official MM2H website.
To qualify, an applicant under 50 years old must have at least RM500,000 in liquid assets and a monthly income of RM10,000. He or she must also open a Malaysian fixed deposit account of a minimum RM300,000.
Those above 50 must have at least RM350,000 in liquid assets and open a fixed deposit account of a minimum RM150,000.
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