Visa renewal delays cause misery for foreign students in Malaysia

PETALING JAYA - Many foreign students in Malaysia who face delays in renewing their visas said they have been without their passports for months.

The students claimed that the long delay caused their visas to expire and in the end, they had to pay extra - some as much as RM200 - for special passes.

Since February this year, they have been required to submit their passports to the Education Malaysia Global Services (EMGS), which was set up to streamline the processing of foreign student visas.

Chinese student Hai Tong, from a private university in Klang Valley, submitted her passport to the university in January and finally got it back last Friday.

"It was chaotic. My passport went missing during the process but was later found in the Immigration Department," said the 22-year-old in a telephone interview.

"I am shocked that I had to pay extra for a special pass. But it wasn't my fault," she said.

She has to re-submit her passport to the EMGS by next month as her special pass is valid only for a month.

Many of her friends also went to the department to check on the status of their documents but their efforts were in vain.

"I feel insecure without my passport for so long," said Hai Tong, adding that many students crowded the International Office over this and broke down as they desperately wanted their passports back.

Another Chinese national, Sophia Han, 22, said she had to pay RM200 for a special pass as she was considered to have overstayed, adding that her university's management office told her they could only help speed up the process if she paid for the special pass.

A 19-year-old Oman student, who wanted to be known as Rashi, said many students waited at the International Office every day to check on their visa status.

"I can't travel home despite the one-month semester break," he said. "I am also constantly at risk of getting detained by police."

According to 2011 statistics provided by Malaysia's Higher Education Institutions, the country housed more than a million students, of which about 93,000 were international students from over 100 countries.