Iranians in Malaysia dismayed by visa change

Investors, students and holiday-makers affected by policy that targets criminals.

By Grace Chen and Samuel Bahari for Khabar Southeast Asia in Kuala Lumpur

March 06, 2014
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Many Iranians in Malaysia are upset about the ending of the policy that enabled them to obtain a 90-day visa on arrival (VOA), according to the Malaysian Iran Friendship Association (MIFA).

  • A woman offers samples of Iranian dates at the Malaysian International Halal Showcase in Kuala Lumpur in May 2007. Recent enactments of policies targeting drug smugglers and illegal emigres have had an impact on Iranians working or studying in Malaysia. [Tengku Bahar/AFP]

    A woman offers samples of Iranian dates at the Malaysian International Halal Showcase in Kuala Lumpur in May 2007. Recent enactments of policies targeting drug smugglers and illegal emigres have had an impact on Iranians working or studying in Malaysia. [Tengku Bahar/AFP]

Though Malaysia's Home Ministry revoked the policy in October to combat drug smuggling and stem a flow of illegal emigration, the change impacts many Iranians legitimately in the country for trade, tourism, and education.

"The Iranian community is generally quite upset," Malaysian lawyer and MIFA Vice President Hishamuddin Hashim told Khabar Southeast Asia. "Some 99% of Iranians who enter the country are legitimate tourists compared to asylum seekers who maybe only number less than 1%."

The sudden change led to last-minute cancellations of Malaysia tour packages, impacting airlines offering direct flights between Kuala Lumpur and Tehran, he said.

Seven out of 10 of MIFA's members are Iranians permanently living in Malaysia, Hishamuddin noted, adding many Iranians started Malaysian companies and pay Malaysian taxes. According to the National University of Singapore's Middle East Institute, 70,000 to 100,000 Iranians live in Malaysia.

Formerly, Iranian businessmen took advantage of the 90-day visa to iron out paperwork required to set up enterprises here.

"Now with only 14 days to work with, there is just not enough time to even get the basics settled," Hashim said. "While those who have long-term visas will not be affected, it is going to make new investors think twice about coming here."

The expat community

Iranians must now apply for 14-day tourist visas via Malaysian embassies or consulates. Eligible Iranians can apply for two or five-year work visas through the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA), or apply for 10-year visas under the Malaysia My Second Home programme.

"Most Iranians in Malaysia are young students trying to get a degree here and return to Iran. Yet, many of them when [they] return to Iran cannot adjust to living in Iran and end up going to other countries," Iranian linguist and Malaysian resident Samira Ebrahimi, told Khabar.

Samira, who came to Malaysia to study in 2008, found the country friendly and the cost of living affordable. But, she said, the Iranian expatriate community is not a close one.

"I usually prefer not to mix with Iranians," she said. "Because of the political situation in Iran, it is very difficult to trust other Iranians. It is not just me. Most Iranians here prefer to keep their distance with other Iranians."

Samira said Iranians are aware they are subjected to Islamic Republic agents' surveillance even in Malaysia. "Many Iranians talk about this and that is why we cannot trust other Iranians here in Malaysia."

Worries for the future

Samira, who plans to move to another country, said she did not expect the new visa policy to affect her, while other Iranians expressed dismay about it.

"I was surprised when Malaysian authorities revoked the visa on arrival for us ... I know that it has something to do with some political issues, but it just brings more restrictions for our passports," holiday tourist Naveed Ali told Khabar. "Whatever the actual reasons behind this, I hope it will revert back to what it used to be."

Visiting 21-year-old Iranian student Faridah worried the policy change could complicate her higher education plans.

"I will graduate from my diploma study programme in my country in April [2014] and I was planning to continue my further studies in Malaysia," she told Khabar. "I came here to survey potential universities.

"I hope the relationship between both countries will get better, so it won't affect my ability to study here and possibly get a job here as well," she said.

Andhika Bhakti in Jakarta, Indonesia contributed to this report

Reader Comments
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    • RAHMAN
      May 25, 2014 @ 12:05:36AM
    • amutha
      May 18, 2014 @ 09:05:56AM
    • Anyone who doesn't think about religion, the nation and country should be punished for not respecting the origins of our country.
    • cheng ho
      May 12, 2014 @ 03:05:42AM
    • Zionism is the mother of all evil and the world would be safer without it.
    • Puvan
      May 6, 2014 @ 09:05:11PM
    • My sympathise towards all Iranian brothers and sisters pertaining to their Visa problem's in Malaysia. Like what our good friend honourable MIFA VC said " 99% are legitimate travellers etc, etc and ONLY 1% are asylum seekers etc, etc ". Well actually its THE 1% that worries the Malaysian Security Agencies. Latest action by the Malaysian Goverment is indeed the most appropitate as a preventive measure to curb security problem from irresponsible Iranian citizens. Good Job Malaysia, its better late than never. Do Not Compromise on Security Measures. Shut the door to all trouble makers.
    • ary
      April 22, 2014 @ 06:04:17PM
    • I don't really understand.
    • atoexzz
      April 2, 2014 @ 11:04:24AM
    • I Like That
    • abdurrohman badar
      April 13, 2014 @ 07:04:37PM
    • I like the news and articles in this newspaper and it should publish more news on the Islamic world, especially on advancements in the field of science and development and also the oppression of Muslim minorities in various countries
    • jcht
      March 27, 2014 @ 07:03:06AM
    • Great article.
    • RAMLI
      March 6, 2014 @ 03:03:16AM
    • The article is good and can give information to those who are busy with work and cannot get information about foreign politics.

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