How to Obtain Residency in Asian Countries (Part 2)

Last week we introduced you to Michael G. Hines, an educator living in Bangkok. As Michael noted, teaching English in Asia is a great way to get one's foot in the door, as nearly all the countries will issue a work visa. Then it becomes much easier to pursue residency. Today, Michael continues his tour of Southeast Asia as he covers the basic requirements needed to get residency in Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam.

[Click here to read Part 1]

How to Obtain Residency in Asian Countries (Part 2)


Malaysia offers quite a number of exotic delights to people who wish to work as ESL/EFL (English as a Second Language/English as a Foreign Language) educators in the country. Its urban settings are modern and cosmopolitan while its countryside contains some of the richest flora and fauna in the world. To become a permanent resident in Malaysia, a foreigner must meet the following qualifications:

  1.  At least five years of continuous residency in the country via a legal Entry Permit.
  2.  Foreign men who marry Malaysian citizens need to reside in Malaysia for at least 10 years before they can acquire permanent residency status.

The following documents are required for permanent residency applications, and must be submitted to the Visa, Permit and Pass Division for processing:

  1. Passport
  2. Form IMM 4
  3. Two ID photographs (3.5 cm x 5.0 cm)
  4. An ID photograph if there is a Malaysian sponsor (3.5 cm x 5.0 cm)
  5. Identity Card of spouse (if applicable)
  6. Marriage certificate (if applicable)
  7. Other supporting documents


Composed of more than 7,100 islands, the Philippine archipelago is an Asian paradise of beaches, mountains, and coral reefs. It is also home to a welcoming people, known for their warmth and hospitality. Any native English speaker who wishes to teach in the Philippines may apply for permanent residency status.

You may obtain residency if you are:

   1. Married to a Filipino citizen, or
   2. A Returning former Filipino citizen

Or, you may apply for one of the following visas:

  • Special Retiree's Visa (this is for Americans, 35 years and over, who wish to stay indefinitely in the country)
  • Special Investors Resident Visa (this is available to foreigners who invest in profitable economic activities in the country, including those related to tourism)
  • Quota Immigrant Visa (this is granted yearly to fifty Americans who seek permanent residence in the country but do not meet the basic criteria)


An economic and cultural powerhouse, South Korea is among the best countries to work in as an ESL educator. The pay is good and the fringe benefits - including a wide array of tourist spots and ultra-modern amenities - are quite compelling.

However, becoming a permanent resident is a steep climb over a mountain of strict immigration laws. Most foreigners are not eligible for Korean citizenship, or permanent residency, unless they are literally marrying into the culture or have invested quite a lot of money (at least US$ 4 to 5 million) in the local economy. Exceptions include foreigners who are recognized by the Justice Ministry for outstanding non-monetary contributions to Korean society, as well as business-visa-holding foreigners who have already invested more than US$ 500,000 in the economy.

The following people may apply for permanent residency:

  1. Overseas Koreans with F4 visas (Applicants belonging to this category have to meet specific salary and property tax requirements. They also need to reside in Korea for more than two years.)
  2. Ethnic Chinese born in Korea
  3. Foreign investors (these foreigners must invest at least US$500,000 and employ more than five Korean citizens)
  4. Foreign spouses of Korean nationals


Thailand is increasingly becoming a popular retirement haven or second home to many Westerners. This is because it offers a rich blend of culture, natural charm and highly affordable cost of living. As a result, its immigration laws are some of the most attractive anywhere in the region. If you intend to work and stay in Thailand indefinitely, it is best to secure permanent residency status. These are the qualifications you must meet:

  1. You must be a holder of a Thai non-immigrant visa for the last three years or more
  2. You must be a holder of a Thai non-immigrant visa at the time of the application
  3. You must belong to one of the following categories:
  • Foreign Investor who has invested a minimum of 3 to 10 million baht in the Thai economy (equivalent to US $100,000 - $350,000)
  • Worker or Business category
  • Closely related (as spouse, parent, or guardian) to a Thai citizen or a person with permanent resident status in Thailand
  • Professional or Expert category
  • Other categories established by the government

Once the application for permanent resident status is approved, a residence blue book will be issued to the applicant.


Vietnam is becoming one of the most interesting places to work as an English language instructor. Its thriving tourism industry, the increasing purchasing power of its urban populations and its more active involvement in global business are reinforcing the demand for ESL/EFL educators in the country.

Eligible foreigners may apply for permanent residency status at the Department of Immigration Control if they meet any of these criteria:

  1. A foreigner who is unrightfully oppressed for noble causes (people's freedom or independence, democracy, socialism, peace, or scientific causes)
  2. A foreigner who made outstanding contributions toward the building and protection of Vietnam
  3. The spouse, child, or parent of a Vietnamese citizen who is residing permanently in Vietnam


For native English speakers who are serious about having a career as language educators, Asia remains the best employment destination. However, acquiring permanent residency status is a must for ESL/EFL teachers who are in for the long haul. This will allow them to work for longer periods without constantly worrying about their immigration status, in addition to enjoying most of the rights and privileges of full citizens.

For others who simply want to do some globetrotting while seeking their own personal paradise, working as an ESL/EFL teacher may be a means of paying one's way around the world. Finally, for those who know they want to settle in an Asian country, entering as an ESL/EFL teacher can be the first step toward becoming a permanent resident. You decide which path is right for you.

The author, Michael G. Hines, is an educator living in Thailand with 10+ years teaching abroad experience. He is also the owner of Icon Group Thailand, a group of ESL websites offering a wealth of teaching abroad information for English teachers, schools and students around the world, with a focus on Asia: Total ESL, TEFL Jobs Overseas, ESL Articles, ESL Space, ESL Newsletter

For further information regarding the specific immigration rules of each country covered today, you may want to visit these sites:

Tags: vietnam, thailand, teach english, south korea, philippines, malaysia, foreign residency, asia,