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  • Mia Gusting

Exploring the Stringent Immigration laws in Sabah: Is it Fair?

The main legislation governing immigration laws in Malaysia is the Immigration Law Act 1959/63. The Act regulates the admission into and departure from Malaysia, entry permits, procedures on arrival in Malaysia, removal from Malaysia, offenses and the special provisions for East Malaysia; Sabah, Sarawak and the Federal Territory of Labuan.

The stumbling blocks of the special provisions of the Act are designed as a way for individuals from certain countries to be banned from entering the state of Sabah and that these state policies are inaccessible for public scrutiny. The question remains, are the existence of these policies justifiable or is it simply a form of racial profiling, prejudice and discrimination?

An example of this drawback is the issuing of visas to foreign spouses. A Malaysian Long Term Social Visit Pass (LTSVP) is a visa that is issued to foreigners, allowing them to stay for a minimum period of six months to a maximum of five years. This is also known as a spouse visa. As the name suggests, the Malaysian Long Term Social Visit Pass is available to:

  • The foreign national spouse of a Malaysian citizen

  • Family members of Malaysia Employment Pass holders:

    • Common-law spouse

    • Children over 21 (unmarried)

    • Parents or in-laws

  • Foreign nationals seeking medical treatment in Malaysia and one companion

In order for a person to apply for citizenship, they would need to fulfil certain requirements, and one of which is to stay in Malaysia a minimum of three years.

A Malaysian citizen and a person is allowed to retain in the state if they are

  • in possession of a valid Entry Permit lawfully issued to him or her

  • with his or her name endorsed upon a valid Entry Permit and he or she is in the company of the holder of the Permit

  • in possession of a valid Pass lawfully issued to him or her to enter Malaysia

However, the state of Sabah provides strict immigration laws that impedes foreigners who have local spouses but are denied these visas due to coming from certain “banned” countries. And the likelihood of them obtaining citizenship is close to none due to the existing “unattainable” criterias. The government provides little to no clarity towards these unconstitutional policies and these loopholes would likely remain.

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