The history of immigration and passports in Sarawak reflects a journey through colonial rule, post-war rehabilitation, and the dynamic changes accompanying Malaysia’s formation. Before World War II, the region’s entry points were surveyed by officers under British colonial administration. The post-war era saw the establishment of The Refugees and Disposal Persons Bureau, emphasizing repatriation. The evolution of immigration laws, from the early Aliens Ordinance to post-independence regulations, showcases the region’s commitment to effective border control. With the formation of Malaysia in 1963, immigration requirements extended to Sarawak, leading to administrative changes and the establishment of a dedicated immigration headquarters. The subsequent years witnessed legal refinements, administrative shifts, and headquarters relocations, culminating in the present-day Immigration Department headquartered in Putrajaya. This journey underscores Sarawak’s historical commitment to maintaining effective immigration policies within the broader context of Malaysia’s development. This historical overview provides insights into the evolution of immigration and passport-related laws and administration in Malaysia, including Sarawak:
Pre-World War II:
Before World War II, the Immigration Department conducted surveillance and inspection work at entry points.
The department was administered by a Senior Officer of the Malayan Civil Service, with the title of ‘Immigration Officer of the Straits Settlement and Federated Malay States.’
The administrative center was based in Singapore, with other entry points including Penang, Changloon, Padang Besar, Kroh, and Port Swettenham.
Post-World War II:
After World War II, the department was known as The Refugees and Disposal Persons Bureau, based in Kuala Lumpur, focusing on bringing people stranded due to the war back to Malaysia.
Introduction of Immigration Laws:
The first immigration law was the Passenger Restriction Ordinance 1922, followed by the Aliens Immigration Restriction Ordinance in 1930.
The Aliens Ordinance 1932 came into effect on April 1, 1933.
The formation of Federated Malay States and the Declaration of Emergency in 1948 led to new immigration and passport laws.
Emergency Period Laws:
Laws during the State of Emergency included The Immigration Ordinance 1952.
The Immigration Department was placed under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, responsible for controlling entry, issuing passports, visas, and citizenship applications.
After independence, The Immigration Ordinance 1959, The Immigration Regulations 1959, and The Passport Ordinance 1960 were introduced, replacing earlier laws.
Formation of Malaysia (1963):
The Immigration (Transitional Provisions) Act 1963 extended immigration requirements to Sabah and Sarawak.
Immigration matters were placed under the Ministry of Home Affairs in 1964, with the first National Immigration Controller appointed in 1967.
In 1971, immigration administrative matters for the Malay States came under the Malaysian Immigration Headquarters.
The Immigration Act 1959/63 and the Passport Act 1966 were used nationwide, with revisions and amendments over time.
The title “Immigration Controller” was replaced with “Director General of Immigration” in 1969.
The Immigration Headquarters moved from Penang to Jalan Tugu, Kuala Lumpur, in 1965.
Subsequent moves occurred in 1981 (BUKOTA Building, Jalan Pantai Baharu) and 1988 (Pusat Bandar Damansara, Kuala Lumpur).
The current headquarters of the Immigration Department is located in Putrajaya.
For more information you can go through the Department of Immigration History: