Foreigners Alert: How to Obtain Permanent Residency in Southeast Asia

The ten countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) may be forming the ASEAN Economic Community this year, but regulations and procedures will still significantly vary between countries.

Overall, obtaining a long-term residency status is a challenge for foreigners. We explain permanent residency and other programs available for foreigners who wish to reside in nine of the ten ASEAN nations.

Malaysia

Foreigners in Malaysia can either obtain a permanent visa or choose to participate in the Malaysian residency program. 

Foreigners meeting one of the following requirements may apply at the Malaysian Immigration Department for permanent residency:

  • Foreigners with five years of continuous residency in Malaysia with a legal Entry Permit
  • Foreigners married to a Malaysian citizen for 10 years

Foreigners are allowed stay in the country with a long term visa through the Malaysia My Second Home Program (MM2H). This visa is in force for at least ten years. It is extendable provided the foreigner fulfills medical and financial requirements of the program. These include:

  • offshore income equivalent to 10,000 ringgit a month
  • minimum liquid assets of 500,000 ringgit for applicants younger than 50  
  • minimum liquid assets of 350,000 ringgit for applicants aged 50 years or older

The Philippines

This Philippines enables foreigners to have long-term residence in multiple types of procedures. Foreigners can apply for one of the following categories:

  • Foreigners married to Filipino citizens
  • Foreigners who are returning former Filipino citizens

Native English speakers who wish to teach in the Philippines may also apply for permanent residency status.

Different types of visa available in the Philippines enabling foreigners to have long term residence include:

Special Resident Retiree’s Visa (SRRV), allowing foreigners and overseas Filipinos aged 35 years and older to stay indefinitely in the country with different specific requirements.

Special Investors Resident Visa (SIRV), allowing foreigners investing in profitable economic activities to reside in the Philippines for the period in which the required qualifications and investments are still valid.

Singapore

Foreigners in Singapore can apply for an Entry Permit, which is an application for Singapore Permanent Residence. This is available to those who:

  • are spouse or unmarried offspring (below 21) of a Singaporean Citizen/Permanent Resident
  • are aged parents of a Singapore Citizen
  • hold a P, Q or S work pass and working in Singapore
  • are Investors/Entrepreneurs
  • satisfy certain other guidelines

Professionals in the following fields can apply for permanent residency in Singapore:

  • Professionals or technical personnel and skilled workers
  • Foreign investors with a minimum investment of S$2.5 million in a new business, an expansion of an existing business or in a Global Investment Program-approved fund
  • Artists in photography, dance, music, theatre, literature or film

Thailand

Foreigners eligible for permanent residence in Thailand include those who:

  • are related as a spouse, parent, or guardian to a Thai citizen or a person with permanent resident status in Thailand
  • are foreign investors who have invested a minimum of 3 million baht (US$10,000) to 10 million baht (US$350,000) in the Thai economy
  • are workers in relevant business visa categories
  • are classified as professionals or experts
  • are in other categories established by the government

Foreigners must also be a holder of a Thai non-immigrant visa for the last three years or more, and hold the visa at the time of application.

Cambodia

Foreigners wishing to stay in Cambodia can either obtain and extend their business or ordinary visas, or become a Cambodian Citizen.

A Business/Ordinary Visa (E) allows foreigners to stay for up to one month, and can be easily extended for three months, six months or 12 months. Business visas are the most popular way to reside long-term in Cambodia.

Cambodian Citizenship can be applied for at the Ministry of the Interior. An application will normally take two to three months to process. Eligible foreigners are those who:

  • make a donation of US$310,000 to the government for the benefit of the Cambodian people
  • have lived and worked in Cambodia for a minimum of seven years, and are proficient in Khmer in reading, writing and speaking
  • married to a Cambodian citizen, following three years of cohabitation from the date of marriage registration

Laos

Laos does not offer any form of long-term visa for non-citizens. To reside permanently, foreigners can apply for permanent residency. Those eligible include foreigners who:

  • have lived in Laos for 10 continuous years, including at least 10 months per year residing in Laos
  • are classed as specialists or scientists
  • have ran a stable business in Laos with investment value of minimum US$500,000 for at least five years
  • actively contribute to the development of the nation

Indonesia

Permanent Stay Permit or ITAP can be issued to foreigners for a period of five years and can be extended for an unlimited period if the permit has not been cancelled.

Foreigners eligible are those who:

  • hold a Temporary Residence Permit as a religious cleric/missionary, expatriate worker, investor, or retiree, and have stayed in Indonesia for at least three years in Indonesia since the Temporary Stay Permit has been granted;
  • are members of a mixed marriage family involving an Indonesian citizen
  • have spouses, offspring of a foreign national holding a Permanent Residence Permit
  • are former Indonesian citizens or hold dual citizenship of the Republic of Indonesia and another country

Vietnam

Foreigners who have been temporarily residing in Vietnam for three consecutive years shall be considered for permanent residence if they:

  • have a spouse, offspring, or parent who is a Vietnamese citizens residing in Vietnam
  • are classed as a scientist or an expert
  • have made meritorious contributions to the development and protection of Vietnam and are awarded medals and titles by the government
  • have no nationality and have had temporary residence in Vietnam since or before the year 2000

Myanmar

The Myanmar government introduced a permanent residence system for foreigners in December of 2014. Although specific information has not yet been announced, the state-owned media has revealed that this is aimed at persons who can contribute to the nation’s development, including scholars, experts, intellectuals and investors from other countries, as well as former Myanmar citizens.

About the Author

Dezan Shira & Associates, a specialist foreign direct investment practice that provides advisory services to multinationals investing in emerging Asia. This article was first published in ASEAN Briefing and was reedited for clarity and conciseness. For further details or to contact the firm, please visit www.dezshira.com

Photo credit: Shutterstock

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