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  • Elaine Sim

Do West Malaysians or Sabahans need work permits in Sarawak?

Updated: May 8

Under the Malaysia Agreement, Sarawak retains autonomy over certain immigration and employment matters. West Malaysians and Sabahans to apply for work permits to work in Sarawak. There are also policy restrictions on sectors, salaries, sponsors and age. Many of these policies are put in place to reserve local jobs for Sarawakians.

What are the permitted sectors?

There are no exhaustive list of permitted sectors, but generally, the industries that allow the hiring of expatriates in Sarawak are:

  • Digital Economy

  • Oil, Gas and Energy

  • Tourism

  • Financial Services

  • Communication, Content and Infrastructure

  • Business Services

  • Palm Oil

  • Electronics & Electrical

  • Wholesale and Retail

  • Education

  • Healthcare

  • Agriculture

Certain sectors are also considered on a case by case basis depending on the need of the State. The Sarawak government also allows work permits for charitable organisation and religious activities.

What work permits are West Malaysians and Sabahans eligible for?

In Sarawak, West Malaysians and Sabahans are considered expatriates. According to Investopedia, the term “Expatriate” means the following:

Therefore, similar to non-Malaysians, West Malaysians and Sabahans will need to apply for work permits too. Broadly, there are 2 categories of work permits.

Typically, these permits will only be considered for persons in key positions, managerial roles, directorships or persons with special skills.

Can general workers from West Malaysia or Sabah work in Sarawak?

General workers is a term that refers to employees who are working in jobs that are more manual in nature. These may include the jobs of cleaners, transporters, construction work and so on.

Generally, if the salary of the applicant is below RM2,500 monthly, then the work permit application will be subject to the labour quota process managed by the Sarawak Labour Department. The immigration permits will be processed by the Sarawak Immigration Department's Foreign Worker Unit, rather than the Expatriate Services Division.

What about West Malaysian or Sabahan spouses of Sarawakians?

Spouses of Sarawakians will have more options to live and work in Sarawak due to their personal connection to a Sarawakian. If the West Malaysian or Sabahan spouse chooses to work, they may apply for the Spouse Programme Employment Pass. More information on spouses can be found here.

Our website and its contents are provided for general information purposes only and nothing on this website or in its contents is intended to provide professional advice. Please contact us at or +6082-295175 for more information.

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