Working as a freelance in Malaysia

Hi everyone,

So I live in Malaysia under the foreign spouse visa for over 2 years now. I have tried researching this myself but it seems to be a grey area.

I want to start working online as a freelance personal assistant for UK / Ireland etc.

How and should I report and register this with immigration? Is there a work permit I can get for this type of work?

I understand foreign income isn't taxable here but should I still tell immigration and see if there is some kind of permit I can apply for? It would also be nice to be able to open my own bank account here instead of using my spouses since I'm not allowed to open one without a job.

Any information or advice is appreciated.

Thank you!!

1. From what I understand foreign income IS taxable here, If you're legally a resident.

2. And there isn't a work permit for this.

Hey thanks for your reply!

Oh okay from what I read foreign income is not taxable in Malaysia since 2004 except for certain things like banking, insurance, etc. But that was just what I read on a Google search.

Okay so if there is no work permit for this am I allowed to do this type of work and should I declare this to immigration at my next appointment? Also would doing online work allow me to be eligible to open a Malaysian bank account or even a joint account with my spouse?

Thanks in advance!

Bank account depends on the bank and your pass type.

For tax questions, see … xpatriates

"If an expatriate lives in Malaysia for 182 days or more in an assessment year, they will be considered a resident for tax purposes. Expatriates deemed residents for tax purposes pay progressive rates (between 0 and 30%, depending on their income). They are also eligible for tax deductions."

And if immigration asks you a question you should be 100% honest.

Oh that's brilliant thank you so much for this information!

Yes of course I am a guest in this country so I would never lie to authorities.
I haven't started working yet it was just a thought since there is a lack of job opportunities right now.
I also wanted to be sure I have all the info first, re tax & permission, so thank you very much for your help!!

Have a great day, Stay safe!

To be honest I would check that with a local tax advisor, ideally one who has expat experience. They are not so expensive here and a small investment now could save you a lot of hassle and cost in future.

A good one will also be able to refer you to specialists on immigration to double check the visa requirements. Hope that's a bit helpful!


That's very helpful, do you have one you would recommend?

@mal88 Not exactly. There are exemptions. And it seems that @michaelaclancy wouldn't need to pay taxes from his freelance income. Check the following:

Under the proposal in 2022 Budget, the exemption of foreign source income received in Malaysia by a resident person (other than a resident company carrying on the business of banking, insurance, sea and air transport) provided under Paragraph 28, Schedule 6 of the Income Tax Act 1967 has been removed with effect from 1 January 2022 following the gazette of the Finance Act 2021.

Following the above proposal, the PKPP initially announced by the Inland Revenue Board (IRB) on 16 November 2021 for remittance of foreign source income for the period 1 January 2022 to 30 June 2022 (PKPP period) to be treated as follows:

  • Income remitted in the PKPP period is taxed at 3% (gross); and
  • Income remitted during the PKPP period will be accepted by IRB in good faith i.e. will not be subject to tax audit/investigation and penalties.

However, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) has announced on 30 December 2021 that the following foreign source income received in Malaysia from 1 January 2022 to 31 December 2026 will be exempted from Malaysian income tax:

  • All types of income received by resident individuals except resident individuals carry on business through a partnership; and
  • Dividend income received by resident companies and limited liability partnership.

Google for more info.

You need to be careful if your dependant's visa specfically procludes you from working,as it could threaten your spouses Employment pass

A few things. People have to stop believing or thinking that Immigration gives a general workpass allowing the expat to work anywhere. Any workpass has to come from the local Malaysian employer who as the sponsor gets the specific pass from Immigration on behalf of the employee.

Second, spouses are precluded from working but the ability to work can be endorsed from Immigration. I think thats done at the time of the LTSVP being issued, Im not sure it can be done afterwards. The endorsement means the person could be allowed to be sponsored by a company but is not itself a visa or workpass. The employer still has to apply for the workpass for the employee. Since, if I understand correctly, your employer is foreign, there is no path for them to apply for your workpass as a local so there is nothing for you to apply for or get.

I suppose its also possible some spouses work quietly on their own projects and dont speak about it but im not encouraging any law-breaking.

Having said that, years back I went to a chartered accountant to discuss the chance for foreign income and my filing and tax obligations. He told me to just forget about it and carry on, Malaysia wasnt interested. I left it there and didnt ask for specific law codes to review for myself.