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How to get a Visa
The citizens of most western countries get a free 3months visa on entry. Free of charge. But not all countries do. There are restrictions.
A good site to check everything about the Custom- and Visa Regulations is here.
It's not a Government site, but it appears to be very complete with its info and a lot clearer (and perhaps even updated more often than a Government site? ) Be aware that the information there is only offered as a guide to Visa requirements and may change without notice.
If in doubt, for accurate up-to-date details, contact the Malaysian embassy in your country or in Kuala Lumpur.
A list of Embassies of Malaysia you find here
When the Visa expires - how to get a new one
In the past, when this visa expired, you could go out of the country and re-enter the same day and get an other visa for 3 months. For free again.
And this could be done over and over again.
This has changed now.
Now the Immigration in Langkawi expects you to spend 72 hours out of the country before you re-enter the country.
And they will you give only a few visas in this way ....
Then you will get only a month, 14 days, or even 7 days.
If this happens (at Immigration at the Jetty point), you have the possibility to go to the Immigration Headquarter, which is located at Telaga Harbour.
In my own experience, they have more time to look into your situation and are normally more open to grant you an other 3 months, if everything is ok with you. But there is no guarantee.
Getting a visa is normally less a problem when you re-enter by plane.
Staying for longer
If you do such a visarun for a few times - they will tell you that you should go on the "Malaysia my 2nd Home" program.
There is also the possibility, that a well reputed, financially sound Malaysian might sponsors you. He takes over the responsability, that you will not create any expenses for the State of Malaysia.
This possibility is disputed and I have first to find out more about it to present it as a real possibility. It might be a 'Kampung Legend'.....
The 4th way known to me, is to marry a Malaysian.( If you marry a Muslim, you have to convert to Islam ). But if you marry a Chinese, an Indian or a Person from Borneo or Sawarak, the procedure seems to be pretty simple, as these people can marry without the Islamic protocol.
But again I am not sure, if marrying a Bumiputra or a Non-Bumiputra gives you the same rights - and it might well be that this possibility gets closed in the near future.
Read more about the general situation further down.
Visa run to Satun
The place most westerners go for this visa run - is Satun, in Thailand. The ferry to Satun (from Kuah Jetty Point) costs ca. RM 30 one way and takes about 1 hr. (The price goes constantly up every year. This is early 2009.)
If you are from a neighbouring country, like Thailand or Indonesia or other non-western countries, you will get a visa for only one month and in Satun there was long (and perhaps still is) the practice, that someone like this, had to put RM 20 in his passport to be served hassle free...... (my friend from Indonesia had to do it every month for some years).
If you are from Israel - sorry: no entry into Malaysia.
About the general situation with Immigration
Many 'Westerners' have made visa runs for years. I know people who have done that without any problem for 10 years and more. I myself have done it for 7 years.
In the beginning of 2008 the general attitude of Immigration has hardened.They now point out, that a Tourist Visa is only for real Tourists and that the Immigration Laws state clearly, that a Tourist Visa can not be misused for living in Malaysia.
This harder line seems to be applied in the whole of Malaysia. Entering Malaysia at Johor Baru is as difficult as entering at Langkawi - if not more.
On the other side, entering by airplane is easier, as is entering by a private yacht. These people are generally treated in a slightly more respectful way.
In the long run one has to find one of the above solutions. Nothing else I know of will do. Some are more lucky than others - but they can not relay on their luck. Living on a Tourist Visa is limited and the actions of Immigration are unpredictable.