Hiring a foreign domestic helper (maid) in Malaysia without an agency
Published on 18 Dec 2023, last updated on 2 Feb 2024
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Whether or not an employer can hire a domestic helper without an agency depends on the circumstances of the domestic helper you are hiring, though for the majority of cases, employers in Malaysia must involve a licensed agency to comply with source-country government regulations.
SMO was an online system introduced by the Malaysian government in 2018 to allow for Malaysian* employers to hire migrant domestic helpers without going through a licensed agency. Under this system, prospective domestic helpers would enter Malaysia via Social Visit Pass (tourist visa) which is then converted into a work permit once the helper passes her on-arrival FOMEMA medical examination.
While SMO is recognised by the Malaysian government, the Philippine and Indonesian governments do not recognise it. This is due to the portal allowing Malaysian employers to hire helpers without requiring the registration of employment contracts with the source-country embassies. Consequently, the portal may be susceptible to abuse by freelance or illegal agents, as well as human traffickers, who can source and recruit workers without the necessary checks, balances, and monitoring by the embassies.
*Expatriate employers in Malaysia cannot access SMO for the purpose of hiring a domestic helper. SMO is only available to Malaysians.
In general, any employer that hires a Filipino or Indonesian worker in Malaysia must involve a licensed agency to perform the calling visa and work permit application with Malaysian Immigration AND the contract registration with the relevant source-country embassies (or the latter only, for certain cases)
If an expatriate or Malaysian employer intends to hire a worker who is currently residing in the Philippines or Indonesia, they must engage with a licensed Malaysian agency to be involved in the recruitment, processing and placement process of the worker. The licensed agency in Malaysia must be accredited by the Philippine and Indonesian embassies to facilitate the entry of their nationals into Malaysia. Workers who try to enter Malaysia under a tourist visa to be hired under SMO will be barred from exit in their home country airports.
Some workers may be eligible for legal transfer between employers in Malaysia.
If a Malaysian or expatriate employer has identified a Filipino domestic helper who can be legally transferred to them, they can choose to submit a work permit transfer application at Malaysian immigration without a licensed agency. However, they are still required to engage a licensed and accredited Malaysian agency for their first Philippine employment contract registration.
If an employer has identified an Indonesian domestic helper who can be legally transferred to them, they are required to engage a licensed and accredited Malaysian agency for BOTH the work permit transfer application at Malaysian immigration AND their first Indonesian employment contract registration
If an employer is currently hiring an Indonesian domestic helper, they are required to send their helper back to Indonesia first to process an entirely new work permit and contract registration from Indonesia. If they travel to Malaysia with their Indonesian domestic helper via a tourist visa, they will not be able to apply for a legal domestic work visa for their Indonesian helper because the SMO portal no longer permits Indonesian work permit applications.
If an employer is currently hiring a Filipino domestic helper, they are also required to send their helper back to the Philippines first to process an entirely new work permit and contract registration from the Philippines. However, if they were unaware of this requirement and have already travelled into Malaysia with their domestic helper, they will be able to apply for a legal domestic work visa for their Filipino helper on the SMO portal granted that they also perform the additional step of registering a Philippine employment contract with the Philippines Embassy in Malaysia.
Find any of this confusing?
Pinkcollar is licensed with the Malaysian Department of Labour and accredited with the Philippine and Indonesian embassies. Reach out to us for a complimentary consultation on hiring any worker you've already identified.