Permission for tourist entry will still be subject to existing immigration regulations, procedures and controls at the entry points, the Home Ministry said yesterday.
It said the notice of entry refusal would be issued should a tourist be listed on the Immigration Department's blacklist, suspect list or is categorised as a prohibited immigrant.
Although the government has granted visa exemption for tourists from China and India, visitors from both these countries are still required to complete the application form through the Electronic Travel Registration and Information (eNTRI) system.
"The Home Ministry and the Immigration Department will always ensure that national security is the top priority and will not compromise on matters that could jeopardise the nation’s peace and security," according to a statement issued by the ministry yesterday.
Commenting on an issue which has gone viral on social media pertaining to the government gazette dated Dec 23, granting visa exemption for tourists from China effective Jan 1, 2020, to Dec 31, 2020, KDN said the gazette was a normal procedure renewed yearly since the initiative was introduced in 2016.
The ministry clarified that the government gazette was issued according to the Passport Act 1966 to enable the visa-free facility or eNTRI system for Chinese nationals to enter Malaysia for the purpose of travelling or visiting for 15 days.
It said the main objective of introducing the initiative was to boost the tourism industry by providing a visa-free facility to tourists wishing to visit Malaysia.
“The move was first announced by the government for Chinese tourists on Jan 28, 2016, where they were exempted from visa requirements from March 1, 2016, to Dec 31, 2016 subject to certain conditions, for visits not exceeding 15 days.
"The visa exemption was later extended to Indian tourists on April 1, 2017, and the scheme was renewed yearly when necessary," it said.
Elaborating, the KDN said the eNTRI system was a control measure by the government as the Immigration Department would monitor and make verifications on tourists using the visa-free facility.
“In addition, the tourists are given the condition that they can only reapply through the eNTRI system to enter the country, after 45 days from the date of departure from Malaysia.
“The 45-day cooling-off period is one of the elements of control to prevent abuse of the facility," it said.
On claims by certain quarters that the visa exemption facility was to accommodate Chinese nationals who have overstayed in the country, the Home Ministry said the Immigration Department would continuously conduct operations to nab illegal immigrants, including overstaying tourists.
"Stern action will be taken against foreigners found to have breached immigration laws as they will be arrested, charged in court and deported to their country of origin,” the ministry added.