PETALING JAYA: A former immigration department enforcement chief has urged Putrajaya to tighten the process for locals marrying foreigners, amid reports of a crackdown on Pakistani men in Kelantan who wed locals in order to run businesses and stay longer in the country.
Ishak Mohamed told FMT there were existing conditions for foreigners who wished to marry locals. He added, however, that these could be further improved.
According to the Sisters in Islam website, Muslim couples where one is a foreigner need to seek permission from the religious department.
They must provide documentary evidence of their passport and conversion to Islam, if applicable; a valid visa, HIV test results, marriage course certificate, marital status and letters of consent from the state religious department for the Malaysian and the embassy for the foreign spouse.
Ishak said other measures could be taken, including barring foreigners from marrying locals for at least three years after their arrival in Malaysia, and when they are in the country on a social pass.
“We need a new standard operating procedure for all relevant parties so that there is proper screening of foreigners before they are allowed to marry locals,” he said.
This includes interviews by the relevant authorities and background checks by the police with the cooperation of the embassies in question.
“We do not want any extremists or those with a criminal past or criminal intentions to come here,” he said.
“We must protect our interests as we do not want foreigners to use our people to stay here or to run their businesses.”
Bina Ramanand, the coordinator of the Foreign Spouses Support Group, an NGO which assists foreign spouses in Malaysia, also urged the authorities to weed out sham marriages.
“The immigration department has very stringent policies in place,” she told FMT. “Why have these spouses in Kelantan slipped through the cracks?”
She said applications for spousal visas are quite thorough and include requirements for proof of residence and, at times, house inspections.
She said foreigners who marry locals require permission from the immigration department to work or start a business. Their visas to stay in the country are tied to their Malaysian spouses.
“At any time during the marriage, the Malaysian spouse can cancel the spouse visa. Renewals and endorsement to work require the presence of both spouses.
“With all this in place, it is quite shocking that many foreigners are reportedly doing business in Kelantan and not living with their wives.”
She added that sham marriages made it difficult for foreigners in genuine marriages as Malaysia’s stringent rules made it tough for them to work and contribute to the country.
It was previously reported that the immigration department in Kelantan had tracked down Pakistani nationals who married local women, some more than twice their age, so they could run businesses or stay here longer.
Its director Azhar Abdul Hamid said their presence had affected local traders, and that up to 15 travel permits were cancelled after it was discovered that the foreigners were not living with their wives.
Azhar added that the department was conducting regular visits to residential and business premises to check if the couples were legally married and living together.