Malaysia - Country Commercial Guide
Licensing Requirements for Professional Services

Includes license requirements for key professional services that are open to U.S. service providers.

Last published date: 2021-11-06

The Services sector has been a driver of Malaysia’s economic and job growth in recent years. Since 2009, Malaysia liberalized 45 service sub-sectors. Malaysia allows 100-percent foreign equity participation in private hospital services, medical specialist clinics, department, and specialty stores, incineration services, accounting and taxation services, courier services, private universities, vocational schools, dental specialist services, skills training centers, international schools, vocational schools for special needs, and quantity surveyors services.

Architectural and Engineering Services: In November 2014, the Lower House of the Parliament passed amendments to laws governing architectural services, quantity surveying services, and engineering services to ease restrictions on foreigners working in these professions in Malaysia. The amended legislation on architectural services came into force in June 2015. Under Malaysia’s registration system for architects and engineers, foreign architects and engineers may only seek temporary registration. Foreign architectural firms are eligible only for special projects, as agreed, between Malaysia and an interested foreign government. Unlike engineers, Malaysian architectural firms may not have foreign architectural firms as registered partners. Foreign architecture firms may only operate as affiliates of Malaysian companies. Foreign engineering companies must establish joint ventures with Malaysian firms and receive “temporary licensing”, which is granted only on a project-by-project basis and is subject to an economic needs test and other criteria imposed by the licensing board. 

Other Barriers: For businesses to operate in Malaysia, they are required to comply with some form of licensing. Business licenses are required by the legislation and administered by various government agencies, statutory bodies, and local authorities. Business licenses include registrations, approvals, licenses and permits. The compliance requirements vary by industry, business activity and location. Business licenses can be categorized into three different logical groups, namely: general, sector/industry-specific and activity-specific licenses.

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