PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia � Employers can save more than 90 per cent of the cost by recruiting foreign housemaids online from Jan 1.

Deputy Prime Minister Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said normally employers had to pay up to RM18,000 but now only pay RM1,635 to the government through the Malaysian Immigration Department.

Ahmad Zahid, who is also Minister of Home Affairs, said the amount was the cost of hiring a housemaid and did not include costs of flight and passport.

The government has taken reduction measures including reducing the collateral to RM500 from RM1,000, and processing free to RM250 from RM500.

This means the government takes proactive measure to reduce the cost of hiring a foreign maid via direct online hiring, he said after chairing a Cabinet Committee Meeting on Foreign Workers and Illegals here today.

Prime Minister Najib Razak, when tabling the 2018 Budget, announced that the government was now giving employers a choice to recruit foreign housemaids directly from nine source countries without going through agents.

At the meeting, Ahmad Zahid described a method, which was detailed, involving the hiring of foreign housemaids only from Indonesia and the Philippines following constraints and legislations of the two countries.

However, he said employers could take direct foreign housemaids from seven other source countries.

“As such, employers are not allowed to take foreign housemaids directly but need to go through companies registered with the Ministry of Manpower or Labour in the country concerned.

“We have to comply with the laws of Indonesia and the Philippines and hope employers will apply through the companies and obtain the names of potential foreign housemaids for submission of online applications,” he said.

Ahmad Zahid said the meeting also decided that foreign housemaids would have to undergo additional health screenings beginning Jan 1.

He said the health screenings would be carried out before the foreign housemaids left the country of origin, a month after arrival in Malaysia, at the end of the first year, the end of the second year and every two years as long as she was employed in Malaysia.

“This additional health screening is necessary to ensure that reports made in the home country are the same here to prevent fraud.

“Additional health screening fees is RM190 for women and RM180 for men,” he said. He said the number of legal foreign workers in the country had decreased to 1.785 million as of Nov 30 compared to 2.135 million in 2015.