An Open Letter to YB Ismail Sabri on the Issues Impacting Malaysians and their Non-Citizen Spouses and Children

4th June 2020 | Malaysians married to foreign spouses gladly welcome the statement of YB Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri during the Press Conference on 28th May 2020. He stated: “Foreigners staying with family members who are Malaysians can also stay in the country for as long as they wish to or return to their home countries. For those who are keen to stay longer, they need to request an appointment… to renew their visa online under the department’s online appointment application (STO).”

However, since 29th May, Malaysians who had appointments visited various State Immigration departments with their spouses have been dismayed to hear that there were no changes to the process: those with a Social Visit Pass (SVP) were informed that they would still have to leave the country 14 days from when the Movement Control Order (MCO) is lifted. Nor are non-citizen spouses and children of Malaysians allowed to submit new applications for the Long-Term Social Visit Pass (LTSVP) during this time.

A foreign husband of a Malaysian says, “My wife is currently undergoing treatment for uterine cancer and I need to be here to care for her. I need to be able to apply for an LTSVP or at least have my visa renewed.”

Respectfully, we would like to inform the Home Minister that these cases are not tourists but husbands, wives and children of Malaysians who are being forced to separate from their families in Malaysia for no reason.

During normal circumstances, most Malaysians with foreign spouses were used to doing what is termed a “Visa Run” to a neighbouring country due to a bureaucratic process which does not allow renewal of tourist/social visit passes of non-citizen spouses and citizens. Should this become an option once the MCO is lifted it would bring with it a heightened risk of infection, not only for spouses but also to their family members upon their return.  Additionally, there is also the uncertainty as to when these spouses and children would be allowed to return to Malaysia once they leave the country.

Malaysians and their spouses are also very concerned that they are unable to secure booking for appointments on STO websites till September 2020 for many of the State Immigration departments such as Johor Bahru and Shah Alam.

A foreign wife of a Malaysian whose visa is soon expiring and is unable to secure an appointment at Shah Alam Immigration says, “I need to renew my visa as it is expiring soon and my pregnancy is due in the mid of August. The booking seems to be fully booked till the 2nd September. It is going to be challenging for me to secure an appointment and do the renewal soon after my delivery. I feel hopeless now and I really do not know what to do.” 

We appreciate that the Government recognises that the well-being of a healthy family is in their togetherness. In this, we welcome the statement of Senior Minister YB Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri that interstate travel will be allowed from 1st June for married couples. Similarly, we also look forward to foreign spouses and children stranded across national borders being allowed to return to Malaysia in the best interest of the Malaysian family, while observing the mandatory 14-day quarantine on a self-paying basis.

Furthermore, foreign spouses of Chinese and Nigerian nationalities are only allowed to renew their visas at the Immigration in Putrajaya, we also wish to know if Malaysians married to Chinese and Nigerian nationals will be allowed interstate travel.

The situation is stark in cases where pregnant women are unable to return to Malaysia or are undergoing pregnancy alone in Malaysia, children who are stranded overseas, families who have to care for elderly adults and those with medical conditions. Many have reported suffering from trauma and heightened stress.

A Malaysian woman whose husband is stranded overseas says “I am 8-months pregnant, living with senior citizen parents who are 80 and 74 years old while caring for my elder son. I really need my husband to be here by my side as I’m delivering soon and I don’t even know who is going to drive me to the hospital in case of emergency. I feel depressed.” 

Annually there are 100,000 Malaysians marrying non-citizens and the challenges mentioned above may be impacting a larger population of Malaysians and their families, hence calls for a critical need to review policies and laws, and the adoption of Temporary Special Measures to address the immediate needs during Covid-19.

We would like to end on a positive note by extending our heartfelt gratitude to the Ministries and front liners for all the sacrifices and efforts taken in effectively flattening the curve of the Covid-19 outbreak.  We especially applaud the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the efforts to repatriate Malaysian citizens and their families from overseas safely.

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