Love ASEAN and want to stay long-term but find the rules too strict when it comes to owning properties? How about obtaining permanent residency or even citizenship then?
For foreigners, there are clearly some restrictions to buying property in ASEAN; however once you are a permanent resident, the road to owning a property becomes much easier for almost all the countries. You don’t have full citizens’ rights yet but you are given more privileges than a foreigner. Rules on becoming a permanent resident or on getting a long-term visa vary greatly between ASEAN countries. The easiest countries to get your long-term visa in ASEAN are Malaysia and the Philippines. It is anticipated that as ASEAN opens up further, there will be more relaxation of the rules on permanent residency.
Foreigners can either obtain a permanent visa or choose the Malaysian residency programme, called Malaysia My Second Home Programme (MM2H).
Foreigners below may apply at the Malaysian Immigration Department for permanent residency:
• Foreigners with five years of continuous residency in Malaysia with a legal Entry Permit;
• Foreigners married to a Malaysian citizen for 10 years.
Foreigners can also apply for a retirement visa, better known as MM2H. This visa is available for at least 10 years which can be extended, provided the foreigners fulfill medical and financial requirements of the programme, including an offshore income of RM10,000 per month and minimum liquid assets of RM500,000 for applicants under 50 years old and RM350,000 for applicants over 50.
However, being in the MM2H programme does not entitle you to relaxation on the rules for foreign ownership of property in Malaysia. The rules that apply to foreigners will still apply to you except the floor price in some states are lower. And you may get a higher margin of financing at up to 80%.
The Philippines enables foreigners to have long-term residence via several different types of visas. Foreigners can apply for one of the following categories:
• Foreigners married to Filipino citizens
• Filipino returnee
• Native English speakers who wish to teach in the Philippines may also apply for permanent residency status.
• Special Investors Resident Visa (SIRV) allows foreigners investing in profitable economic activities to reside in the Philippines for as long as the required qualifications and investments are still valid.
• Special Resident Retiree’s Visa (SRRV) allows foreigners and overseas Filipinos above 35 years old to stay indefinitely in the country with different specific requirements. Holders of SRRV are permitted to hold employment, own a business, attend school, buy a condominium or house (but not the land), receive mortgage financing, and enjoy most of the same benefits offered to any citizen of the country. The SRRV visa never expires – once you have it, it’s a simple matter of reporting to the immigration once a year and paying USD10 to get your ID card renewed. It’s as good as being a citizen.
More good news: Your overseas pension or social security is exempt from Philippine taxes, and any interest earned on bank deposits may be withdrawn at any time. If you ever decide to relinquish your Philippine residency status, your entire qualifying deposit is returned to you.
Within the umbrella of the SRRV, there are 4 different categories:
1. ‘SRRV Smile’ allows you to remain in the Philippines for as long as you wish provided you deposit USD20,000 in a Philippine bank and keep it there for the duration of your stay. This visa is available to anyone who is 35 or older. The deposit is fixed and may not be used to invest in a long-term lease or condominium purchase.
2. ‘SRRV Classic’ specifies that you can use your funds to purchase a condominium unit or a long-term property lease. Applicants aged 35 to 49 must deposit USD50,000 in a Philippine bank or buy a ready-to-occupy condo costing USD50,000 or more. Applicants aged 50 or above need to invest only USD10,000 if they have an individual pension of at least USD800 per month. (A couple would need a combined pension income of at least USD1,000 per month.) Applicants who are at least 50 years old who cannot meet the pension requirements can still qualify for the “SRRV Classic” visa by maintaining a deposit of at least USD20,000 in a local bank.
3. ‘SRRV Human Touch’ offers the benefits of permanent Philippine residency to any retiree with a pre-existing, non-contagious medical condition who is in need of ongoing medical care or services. The minimum investment amount is just USD10,000 for any applicant aged 35 or older, and the conditions are the same as for those in the ‘SRRV Smile’ programme. Applicants must be able to show a pension of at least USD1,500 per month and give proof of health insurance. This is perfect for those with disabilities or chronic medical conditions.
4. ‘SRRV Courtesy’ visa is for people aged 50 or older who are either former citizens of the Philippines or ambassadors or diplomats who have served in the Philippines. The terms and conditions are the same as for the ‘SRRV Classic’ programme.
Laos does not offer any form of long-term visa for non-citizens. However, a foreigner can apply for permanent residency if he wants to stay permanently. Eligible foreigners are those who:
• have lived in Laos for 10 continuous years including at least 10 months per year residing in Laos;
• are classed as specialists or scientists;
• have operated a stable business in Laos with investment value of minimum USD500,000 for at least 5 years;
• actively contribute to the development of the nation.
Being a permanent resident entitles you to Central Provident Fund benefits and a range of personal tax reliefs and subsidies. Like citizens, PRs in Singapore also have access to public housing, quality education and healthcare services at highly subsidised rates.
Foreigners are eligible to apply for permanent residence if the following applies:
(a) Spouse and unmarried children (below 21 years old) of a Singapore Citizen or Singapore Permanent Resident
(b) Aged parents of a citizen
(c) Employment Pass/S Pass holders
(d) Investors under the Global Investor Programme
Professionals in the following fields can apply for PR in Singapore:
• Professionals or technical personnel and skilled workers;
• Foreign investors with a minimum investment of SGD2.5 million in a new business, an expansion of an existing business or in a Global Investment Programme-approved fund;
• Artists in photography, dance, music, theatre, literature or film.
It is known to be extremely difficult to obtain permanent residency in Thailand; however that shouldn’t stop you if you have strong reasons to wanting to stay there permanently.
Eligible foreigners include those who:
• are related as a spouse, parent, or guardian to a Thai citizen or a person with permanent resident status in Thailand;
• foreign investors who have invested a minimum of 3 to 10 million baht in the Thai economy (USD100,000 – USD350,000);
• workers in relevant business visa categories;
• are classified as professionals or experts;
• are in other categories established by the government.
Foreigners must also be a holder of a Thai non-immigrant visa for the last three years or more, and hold the visa at the time of application
Permanent Residence Permit (ITAP) may be given to foreigners for a period of 5 years and can be extended for an unlimited period if the permit has not been cancelled. Foreigners eligible are those who:
• hold a Temporary Residence Permit as a religious cleric/missionary, expatriate worker, investor, or retiree, and have stayed in Indonesia for at least three years since the Temporary Stay Permit has been granted;
• are members of a mixed marriage family involving an Indonesian citizen;
• have spouses, offspring of a foreign national holding a Permanent Residence Permit;
• are former Indonesian citizens or hold dual citizenship of the Republic of Indonesia and another country.
Foreigners wishing to stay permanently or long-term in Cambodia can either obtain and extend their business or ordinary visas, or become a Cambodian citizen. It is known that the citizenship is quite easy to come by.
A Business/Ordinary Visa (E) allows foreigners to stay for up to one month, and can be easily extended for 3 months, 6 months or 12 months. Business visas are the most popular way to reside long-term in Cambodia.
Cambodian citizenship can be applied for at the Ministry of the Interior, which normally takes 2-3 months to process. Eligible foreigners are those who:
• make a donation of USD310,000 to the government for the benefit of Cambodian people;
• have lived and worked in Cambodia for a minimum of seven years, and are proficient in Khmer in reading, writing and speaking;
• married to a Cambodian citizen, following three years of co-habitation from the date of marriage registration.
The Myanmar government introduced a permanent residence system for foreigners in December 2014 for the first time. Eligible foreigners include scholars, experts, intellectuals and investors from other countries, as well as former Myanmar citizens. Applications will be approved based on the annual requirements for the country’s development.
Spouses or relatives can be supplied with a PR household certificate. However, the other persons included in the certificate will not receive the PR status but be recognised as dependents. The PR allows foreigners five years residency in the country. The applicants for the PR system are subject to a non-refundable application fee of USD500 and those approved will have to pay an annual fee of USD500 if they are former Myanmar citizens and USD1,000 if they are foreigners.
Foreigners who have been temporarily residing in Vietnam for three consecutive years shall be considered for permanent residence if they:
• have a spouse, offspring or a parent who is a Vietnamese citizen residing in Vietnam;
• are classed as a scientist or an expert;
• have made meritorious contributions to the development and protection of Vietnam and are awarded medals and titles by the government;
• have no nationality and have had temporary residence in Vietnam since or before the year 2000.