Singaporeans were worried when Malaysia first announced that foreigners travelling to the country would be required to fill up the Malaysia Digital Arrival Card (MDAC) from 8 December.
Given our need for convenience and speed, the MDAC would be another barrier to having a relaxing weekend in Johor Bahru (JB).
However, there’s some good news.
The new changes will not impact Singaporeans travelling to Malaysia.
Reasons Behind the Exemption
On 5 December, Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail announced that all Singaporean citizens will be exempted from filling up the MDAC.
The news was announced at a news conference held at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA).
When it was first announced that all foreign travellers to Malaysia would need to fill up the MDAC on 1 December, the Immigration Department’s MDAC website stated that exceptions were only given to Malaysia’s permanent residents, Malaysia Automated Clearance System pass holders and those transiting or transferring through Singapore without seeking immigration clearance.
Other travellers exempted include Brunei General Certificate of Identity holders and Thailand Border Pass holders.
So why have Singaporeans been exempted?
Datuk Seri Saifuddin explained that some Singaporeans enter Malaysia nearly every day, making it more “realistic” to exempt them.
Here’s another update on the MDAC.
Its formal implementation was initially scheduled to begin on 8 December.
However, foreign travellers have now been given a grace period of nearly one month.
The formal implementation of the MDAC will begin from 1 January 2024 for foreign travellers.
He clarified, “They [travellers] can still fill out the digital card once they get here because some visitors only knew about this implementation upon arrival, so flexibility is given.”
Elaborating further on the move to exempt Singapore citizens, Datuk Seri Saifuddin acknowledged that Malaysia’s two border crossings with Singapore see about 135,000,000 transits every year.
He added that this figure is expected to increase to a whopping 150,000,000 in 2026.
He also clarified that the exemption for Singaporeans applies at all entry points.
According to Malaysia’s Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Singapore is currently the highest contributor to tourist arrivals in Malaysia.
4,537,550 tourist arrivals were recorded up to July 2023.
The number of Singaporean tourists visiting Malaysia is expected to be 7,800,000 in 2023.
More On the MDAC
The MDAC is one of Malaysia’s initiatives to improve the Immigration Department’s services.
It is in line with the implementation of the visa liberalisation plan, which exempts tourists from China and India from requiring visas for 30 days.
The visa liberalisation plan was implemented on 1 December.
Currently, filling up the MDAC is voluntary.
According to the Immigration Department’s MDAC website, the MDAC should be completed within three days prior to a traveller arrival in Malaysia.
Using the MDAC website, travellers need to fill up their personal particulars.
Such information includes their name, nationality, passport details, arrival dates and departure dates.
Datuk Seri Saifuddin said, “Filling this MDAC is important to ensure that security control is not compromised even though we relax the conditions for the entry of tourists.
The Straits Times reported people facing confusion over whether those driving into Malaysia from Singapore would need to fill up the MDAC.
According to The Straits Times, a driver in a Telegram chat group said that he was advised by JB Customs to fill up the MDAC.
The driver said that an immigration officer explained that it was compulsory to fill up the MDAC, even if you’re driving into Malaysia.
The driver was also advised to do the MDAC beforehand in case the system could not capture the information immediately.
Another person said that his friend was made to do the MDAC at the Causeway, resulting in a queue of ten minutes.
However, some drivers said they could enter Malaysia without filling up the digital card.
At the time of writing, the MDAC website doesn’t state that Singapore citizens are exempted.
On 5 December, the Immigration Department updated its Facebook page with an infographic of the groups exempted from filling up the MDAC.
Notably, not everyone thinks that filling up the MDAC is a hassle.
Speaking to Shin Min Daily News, a saleswoman said it takes about two minutes to fill in the immigration card.
Other Initiatives to Improve the Immigration Department’s Services
From January 2023, Singaporeans have been allowed to use e-gate facilities at the two land entry points in JB.
However, they had to fill up the MDAC before arrival in order to use the facilities.
A month later, the initiative was expanded to allow Singaporeans and foreigners from nine “low-risk” countries to use the autogate facilities at KLIA Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 to clear immigration.
Besides Singapore, other countries allowed to use the facilities include Brunei, New Zealand, Australia, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom.
The move was made to ease congestion and is expected to benefit 855,000 travellers entering Malaysia.
Previously, the autogate facilities were limited to only Malaysians.
The New Straits Times reported that it took travellers less than 20 seconds to clear the autogate.
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