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  • Elaine Sim

How to hire foreign workers in Sarawak/ Malaysia?

Updated: Apr 18

Hiring foreign workers is a great alternative to resolving some of your labour issues in Malaysia, particularly where locals are not able to fill or stay in the vacancies. Typically foreign workers are hired in labour intensive industries such as construction, manufacturing and plantation.


There are many regulations and immigration rules involved to hire foreign workers. Here's how you can get started:

Step 1: Worker nationality

Decide which nationality you want to hire based on your industry needs, job skills, language or religious requirements of the job. Once you have decided, check with the respective embassies of the source country on how your company may get accredited to hire workers from their country. Typically, in Sarawak, you can only hire Indonesian nationals for foreign worker jobs. However, permission to hire other nationalities are also considered on a case by case basis.

Step 2: Permission to hire foreign workers

Your company must obtain a labour quota from the Sarawak labour department if you plan to hire foreign workers in Sarawak. Typically, the five approved sectors to hire foreign workers are construction, manufacturing, plantation, services and transportation. The services sector is broadly defined, they typically include restaurants and spas. Secondly, the headcount approval you can obtain will also depend largely on the need of your industry. For example, higher quotas are typically approved for the construction and plantation sector that hires a high ratio of foreign workers. However, for light industrial or high tech manufacturing such as electrical and electronic manufacturing, you may not get a very high labour quota approval because there are more locals available to fill those vacancies. Kindly refer to the Sarawak labour department for further advice on labour quota approvals.

Step 3: Register a job order with a licensed recruitment agency

Most source country regulations will require you to obtain an approved permit (i.e. approved labour quota from the labour department) before your company is allowed to register a job order with the embassies. Further, to register a job order, you typically need to appoint a licensed recruitment agency in the source country to source workers for you. There is a long list of regulatory requirements that licensed source country agencies are best able to assist you with. This may include special processes to obtain passports for workers, government mandated insurance schemes and orientations, country specific medical examinations and local mobilisation.

Step 4: Apply for work permits with the Immigration Department

Once you have selected your workers, your company may proceed straight to the immigration department to apply for work permits for your selected workers. In Malaysia, workers typically need to be processed in the source country. This includes waiting for an approval from the Malaysian Immigration Department before entering Malaysia to start work. There are a lot of restrictions for tourists to obtain work passes in Malaysia. So be careful if you are offered this option as your worker may not obtain a work permit and risks becoming irregular. You may want to use a licensed Malaysian employment agency to assist you to obtain legal entry and permits for your selected workers to avoid running into any issues with the immigration department.


There are many benefits to hiring foreign workers for your company, especially when you face challenges filling certain vacancies with locals. However, you must also know that hiring foreign workers come with many regulations and immigration requirements that can be costly and tedious. And if not done properly, you may still face the same retention issues, in addition to legal ones.

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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