Penang as your second home / Muze at PICC Property Showcase: editorial
The MM2H (Malaysia My Second Home) program is of special appeal to Hongkongers as it has low entry requirements and it enables the MM2H holder and their family members to reside in Malaysia for 10-years at a time.
Emigration becomes a hot topic in the community whenever there are political or economic changes, or a combination thereof; these changes do not normally happen overnight, but often reflect the cumulative effect of creeping developments. In the last few years, Penang has emerged as a popular choice for those seeking a safe haven amid ongoing social and political uncertainties.
A place like home
The Malaysian state of Penang is a favored destination owing to its close proximity to Hong Kong and its similar colonial history and culture. There are short and easy daily flights from Hong Kong via Cathay Dragon; it provides ample convenience for those who need to travel frequently between the two places. Given the comparatively low cost of living there, Penang is also a much more affordable immigration option than countries like the UK or Australia.
With a Chinese ethnic population equivalent to 60% on Penang Island, Cantonese, Mandarin, other Chinese dialects and English are used in everyday life, which spares Hong Kong people the confusion and hassle of living in a place where language barriers exist. Looking at the bigger picture, Penang’s modern history was shaped under a previous British administration, and it upholds a commonwealth legal system akin to that of Hong Kong, where English documentation is used for business dealings.
The capital city of Penang, George Town, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for preserving beautiful heritage buildings – many have even claimed it to be reminiscent of the old Hong Kong. In fact, this scenic coastal city is one of the Malaysia’s most urbanised and economically vital states. Known as the ‘Silicon Valley of the East’, it is home to 300 multinational corporations with manufacturing facilities, including Tesla, HP and Dell. Last year, Penang recorded foreign direct investments (FDIs) of RM15 billion in the manufacturing sector, the largest in the country. The city is undergoing a range of exciting new changes, including the Penang 2030 Economic Transformation Program, RM1 billion international airport expansion, and the RM46 billion Penang Transport Master Plan.
“Malaysia feels like home to many Hongkongers, as they can readily adapt to the pleasant and congenial living environment,” notes Dr. Theresa Fok, Founder and Managing Director of Jade Land Properties (HK) Limited, a boutique real estate consultancy specializing in Malaysia properties.
Established international school system
When making a decision on emigration, families have the added concern on the quality of education for their children. The international education landscape in Malaysia has grown rapidly over the last decade. Expatriate children have diverse options when it comes to quality international schools, such as Prince of Wales Island International School (POWIIS) and Dalat International School.
For those who are new to the English language or require English enrichment, POWIIS offers the English as an Additional Language Program to help children integrate into the international boarding school environment.
Upholding high standards, these schools offer internationally-recognized syllabuses like the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma and the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE). They provide a seamless education path for students from nursery to high school, and facilitate transition into world-renowned universities abroad.
Welcoming to foreigners
The Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) program, aimed at promoting Malaysia as an ideal place to stay and invest, has successfully attracted many Hongkongers in their search for a safe haven for their family. The 10-year renewable multiple-entry social visit visa allows convenient entry and long-term stay for foreigners. It has the advantages of having no obligation for applicants to stay in Malaysia for any period of time, and the cost of investment is low*.
MM2H holders enjoy various benefits, including permission to run a business, obtaining favourable mortgage loans of up to 70% (subject to bank approval), and eligibility for their kids to study at schools in Malaysia.
The permit is ideal for those who want to keep their Hong Kong business and assets, but want a back-up home abroad. They can choose to live in Malaysia for a while and come back to Hong Kong as they wish.
Although the West Malaysia MM2H program is temporarily suspended until next year due to the outbreak of COVID-19, Vincent Fong, founder of the Hong Kong-based MM2H Club, says that East Malaysia continues to accept MM2H applications, allowing successful applicants to reside in both East and West Malaysia, including Kuala Lumpur and Penang. “The MM2H program will be handled by the Immigration Department from now on, instead of by the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry,” he adds.
Commenting on the policy changes, Fok points out the importance of the MM2H program to the Malaysia government. “The current suspension also gives the government ample time to conduct a full review of the program, thereby improving the process and activities involved.”
A promising investment destination
Although a time deposit alone is enough to meet the investment requirement for MM2H, Fok says that many Hongkongers prefer buying an apartment to realize their emigration plan. “Hong Kong buyers predominantly focus on new first-hand properties because of their significant price premium potentials. Mixed-use developments – especially those located in a prime locale and adjacent to Grade-A office buildings, shopping outlets and comprehensive wellness facilities – have been their most popular choices.”
Take PICC (Penang International Commercial City) for example, this comprehensive mixed-use smart city is located in the new business district of Bayan Lepas. It is also home to the Penang International Airport and the special economic zone. The fact that renowned multinational firms have established manufacturing facilities and offices at this bustling hub supports rental demand and yield.
“We’ve already sold some 500 units out of 800+ available, because the integrated development offers such wonderful value and convenience to residents in terms of lifestyle and amenities,” Fok notes. “Set to be completed in two years, PICC will ride on the state government’s major focus on the Southern District of Penang in its ‘Penang 2030’ plan and on the MM2H arrangement, which bodes well for price appreciation.”